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Dartmouth Puts Two From Research Institute on Leave Following Workplace Conduct Complaint

  • Elliott Fisher talks with the Valley News editorial board Wednesday, April 10, 2013. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Adam Keller of The Dartmouth Institute photographed in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. (Dartmouth College - Robert C. Strong II)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/1/2018 12:55:35 AM
Modified: 8/2/2018 9:57:46 AM

Hanover — Dartmouth College has barred a nationally known heath care policy researcher and another top official from its campus and office buildings pending an investigation into a complaint about “conduct in the workplace.”

The men at the center of the complaint — Elliott Fisher, director of The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, and Adam Keller, the institute’s chief of strategy and operations — have been placed on administrative leave, according to Duane Compton, dean of the Geisel School of Medicine, who announced the investigation in an email sent to medical school faculty members on Tuesday evening.

During the investigation, which is being conducted by an external investigator, both men, who are in their 60s, are “prohibited from entering Dartmouth property or attending Dartmouth-sponsored events,” Dartmouth spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said in an email on Wednesday.

They also are “excluded from teaching, research, and service responsibilities.”

Compton’s email did not provide any details about the source or the nature of the complaint against Fisher and Keller, other than to say the pair were on “administrative leave while an investigation proceeds into a complaint about conduct in the workplace. This is a confidential personnel matter and, out of respect for the privacy of all the parties involved, I am not able to provide further information at this time.”

Lawrence also declined to provide further information.

Compton said the school was working “as quickly as possible” to find an interim director for TDI, which offers master’s and doctoral degrees in health care policy.

Fisher is a health researcher perhaps best known for his work on the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care, a long-term study of patients that was influential in shaping the debate during President Barack Obama’s tenure that led to the passage of the Affordable Care Act. His work has helped to show that more care — including tests and treatment — may not mean better care, better access to care or increased satisfaction with that care.

“The most important thing about our research, and this really is a case I’m making as often as I can, is that we show where the waste is in medicine,” Fisher told the Valley News in 2009, as he was working to advocate for health care reform in Washington. “It’s not in the specific treatments that are beneficial. It’s not in the $100,000-a-year drug that offers you even a small potential to survive. The waste is in the physicians in Miami who see their patients for well-controlled blood pressure once a month, when physicians in Oregon are seeing them once a year.”

In a biography on the TDI website, which still was available on Wednesday, Fisher is described as “one of the originators of the concept of ‘accountable care organizations,’ ” which are designed to improve patient outcomes while lowering costs. He has “worked with colleagues to carry out the research that led to their inclusion in the Affordable Care Act. His current research is exploring the determinants of successful ACO formation and performance.”

Fisher has been director of TDI since 2013, and he has been associated with Dartmouth’s medical school for more than 30 years.

He graduated from Harvard College in 1974 and Harvard Medical School in 1981, according to his online resume. He also earned a master’s of public health from the University of Washington in 1985. A board-certified internist, he did his residency and fellowship at the University of Washington in the 1980s, worked as a staff physician at the White River Junction VA Medical Center from 1986 until 2004, and has held various academic positions at the medical school.

Keller, meanwhile, has “been associated with the faculty at TDI for over 20 years as an administrator, a faculty colleague and an advisor,” according to his biography on the institute’s website.

Keller — who as TDI’s chief of strategy earned $776,756 in 2011, according to a tax document made public in 2013 — previously held the position of executive vice president of finance and administration at Dartmouth College. During his tenure, which coincided with the financial crisis, the college faced layoffs and budget cuts, raised tuition and had its credit rating downgraded, according to Valley News reports at the time.

Keller left that post in December 2009, when then-Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim moved him to a new position of senior adviser to the president and provost, where he was responsible for working with TDI, according to previous Valley News reports.

“I’ve made no secret about my desire to expand the work of the Dartmouth Institute, and this is the first step in that direction,” Kim said at the time. “This is something that Adam and I will be working on very closely.”

Before serving as the college’s CFO, a post he took on a permanent basis beginning in 2003, Keller had been associate dean and chief operations officer for what was then Dartmouth Medical School (now Geisel). He previously was the medical school’s CFO. He has been a Dartmouth administrator since 1978.

He graduated from Harvard University in 1973 and earned a master’s of public health from the University of Minnesota in 1981.

This is the second high-profile investigation of workplace conduct by faculty members at Dartmouth in recent months. This summer, a trio of professors in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences chose to retire or resign after internal reviews recommended that all three be fired. In that case, the college, citing the confidentiality of all parties, released few details about the misconduct allegations, except to say they were sexual in nature.

The current investigation, however, is unrelated to those of the former professors, Lawrence said in an email on Wednesday.

Neither the Hanover nor the Lebanon police departments had complaints, pending charges or ongoing investigations against either Fisher or Keller.

The college has not been in touch with any law enforcement agency regarding this workplace complaint, Lawrence said in an email.

“If any potentially criminal activity comes to our notice, we will of course make prompt contact with the appropriate law enforcement agency,” Lawrence said.

Efforts to reach Fisher and Keller by email and phone on Wednesday were unsuccessful. Lawrence said she did not know if they had legal representation.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727-3213.

Valley News

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