Newswise — New Brunswick, NJ—Safety, quality, and patient-centric care have long been a passion for Dr. Keith Lewis. After more than 30 years in the Boston area, he brings that passion and an enthusiasm for new program development, collaboration and team-building, and interprofessional education to Rutgers. 

“The patient comes first,” stresses Dr. Lewis, who, in September, took the reins as professor and chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and chief of anesthesiology at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH), an RWJBarnabas Health facility. “My focus on patient safety began the first day I arrived and will never end, as patient safety is a journey, not a destination.”

Dr. Lewis, who also serves as RWJUH’s director of perioperative quality and safety, has a solid history of implementing effective safety and quality initiatives in academic medical centers. He designed and rolled out the official universal protocol as well as multiple safety checklists throughout Boston Medical Center, where he served for more than two decades as chief of anesthesiology. Under his guidance, the department received multiple national awards for patient safety, and he and his team spearheaded BMC’s recently released book, OK to Proceed? What Every Healthcare Provider Should Know About Patient Safety, an educational tool with leading-edge instructional techniques. 

Anesthesiologists are natural leaders for patient safety initiatives, Dr. Lewis says, noting that the profession has led the movement, championing patient safety as a specific focus and establishing the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation in 1985. On-site multidisciplinary team training in the New Brunswick–based simulation center, creation of multimedia materials, and emphasis on effective communication skills are just a few of the initiatives he has planned to help reinforce the patient-safety focus at Rutgers Health and RWJBarnabas Health. 

“Dr. Lewis’ vision, leadership and energy gives us great confidence that he will spearhead a world-class anesthesiology team here that epitomizes a focus on safety and highest-quality care,” says Dr. Sherine E. Gabriel, distinguished professor and dean, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “His philosophy of care is a perfect complement to our ‘Patients First!’ commitment, and his strong background in academic medicine, as well as experience in revitalizing residency programs, demonstrates his dedication to a robust and vibrant academic program that will enhance our students’ and learners’ experience and their ability to provide the best care to patients in the future.”  

Dr. Lewis envisions working in conjunction with nursing and surgical leadership to create an Integrated Procedural Platform (IPP) where all procedural-based specialties work in an interprofessional and collaborative manner “to develop the best overall treatment plan for every patient, every time.” He was instrumental in creating an IPP at Boston Medical Center, which consolidated all procedural-based specialties to one floor of the hospital. 

At Rutgers/RWJBarnabas Health, the IPP will focus on developing expert teams, as opposed to teams of experts with siloed care, Dr. Lewis explains: “Within each procedural area, high-performance teams will be established to assure the highest level of consistent and safe care through multiple synergies and enhanced teamwork, beginning the ultimate journey of moving toward creating a High Reliability Organization [HRO].”

HROs are organizations that are in industries with typically high risk of accidents due to a variety of risk factors and complexity of services, but that have managed to avoid errors or catastrophes. Dedicated to the concept of “chasing zero”—that is, zero infections, medication errors, falls, wrong-site surgeries, etc.; in short, no medical errors—Dr. Lewis says HROs are the key to achieving that goal, and anesthesiology serves as a model for moving toward an HRO and chasing zero. “This will be a major focus in everything I do as chair. Working toward an HRO is a major priority, as no patient should ever be harmed as a result of medical intervention,” he says. His new book, OK to Proceed?, will help to achieve this important goal. 

Dr. Lewis received his medical degree from the University of Connecticut, and a BS/RPh from the University of Rhode Island. He completed an internship in surgery at New England Deaconess Hospital in Boston, followed by residency training in anesthesia, as well as specialized training in cardiac anesthesia, at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, a major teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, where he served on the faculty for 14 years prior to joining Boston University School of Medicine, where he served since 1998 as professor and chair of its Department of Anesthesiology. He also served for 20 years as the senior anesthesiologist and a past president of Anesthesia Associates of Massachusetts, one of the largest academic/private practice anesthesia groups providing the highest quality comprehensive anesthesia services in Boston and surrounding areas.




About Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

As one of the nation’s leading comprehensive medical schools, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in education, research, health care delivery, and the promotion of community health. Part of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School encompasses 20 basic science and clinical departments, and hosts centers and institutes including The Cardiovascular Institute, the Child Health Institute of New Jersey, and the Women’s Health Institute. The medical school has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as among the top 100 medical schools in the nation and No. 1 in the state for research and primary care.

Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, an RWJBarnabas Health facility and the medical school’s principal affiliate, comprise one of the nation’s premier academic medical centers. Clinical services are provided by more than 500 faculty physicians in 200+ specialties and subspecialties as part of Rutgers Health, the clinical arm of Rutgers University. To learn more about Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, visit


About Rutgers Health

Rutgers Health is the most comprehensive academic health care provider in New Jersey, offering a breadth of accessible clinical care throughout the state, supported by the latest in medical research and education. Rutgers Health connects health care providers across disciplines, including doctors, nurses, dentists, physician assistants, pharmacists, social workers, and behavioral health and addiction professionals with a single focus: helping people and populations get well and stay well by delivering consistent, coordinated, value-based health care. To learn more, visit


About Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) New Brunswick, an RWJBarnabas Health Facility, is a 600-bed academic medical center that serves as the principal teaching hospital of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the flagship Cancer Hospital of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. RWJUH's Centers of Excellence include cardiovascular care from minimally invasive heart surgery to transplantation, cancer care, stroke care, neuroscience, orthopedics, bariatric surgery and women’s and children’s care, including The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital ( A Level 1 Trauma Center and the first designated Pediatric Trauma Center in the state, RWJUH’s New Brunswick campus serves as a national resource in its groundbreaking approaches to emergency preparedness. RWJUH has been ranked among the best hospitals in America by U.S. News & World Report seven times and has been selected by the publication as a high-performing hospital in numerous specialties. The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital has been ranked among the best hospitals in America by U.S. News and World Report five times. RWJUH New Brunswick has earned significant national recognition for clinical quality and patient safety, including the prestigious Magnet®Award for Nursing Excellence and “Most Wired”‚Äądesignation by Hospitals and Health Networks Magazine. The American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer has rated RWJUH New Brunswick among the nation’s best comprehensive cancer centers. For more information: