Gerald Hickson

Gerald B. Hickson

Senior Vice President of Quality, Safety and Risk Prevention
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

About Gerald Hickson

Gerald Hickson is senior vice president of quality, safety and risk prevention and Joseph C. Ross chair of medical education and administration at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Hickson’s research has focused on why families choose to file suit, why certain physicians attract a disproportionate share of claims and how to identify and intervene with high-risk physicians. His work has resulted in over 150 peer review articles and chapters and the development of PARS® (Patient Advocacy Reporting System), a program that uses unsolicited patient complaint data as the basis for tiered interventions on high-risk peer colleagues and has been implemented in more than 70 hospitals and health systems nationwide. Not only has the PARS® process successfully identified and reduced risk for clinical practice areas and service units, but it also has been adapted to facilitate organization-wide quality improvement initiatives, such as hand hygiene compliance and central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI) rates. The VUMC hand hygiene initiative was recently awarded the 2014 Barry Farr Award from the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA). 

In 2013, Hickson was appointed senior vice president of quality, safety and risk prevention for Vanderbilt Health Systems. This newly created position consolidates oversight responsibilities from quality improvement, patient safety and risk prevention to bring greater strategic alignment to these intrinsically related missions. Through his expertise in identifying and addressing unreasonable variation in human performance, promoting human accountability and advancing major organization-wide improvement, Hickson focuses on leadership in the development, implementation and measurement of Vanderbilt’s approach to quality, patient safety and adverse-event reduction.

Areas of Expertise

  • Why families file suits
  • Who attracts disproportionate shares of claims
  • Identify and intervene with high-risk patients 
  • Identify and address unreasonable variation in human performance
  • Promote professionalism and human accountability


University of Georgia

Tulane University School of Medicine


  • Pediatric residency and fellowship in general academic pediatrics, Vanderbilt Children's Hospital


National Patient Safety Foundation, board of directors, chair
Certification Board for Professionals in Patient Safety, board of professionals in patient safety, chair