Obituary: Former California Hospital Association President Dauner

C. Duane Dauner, who led state hospital associations for more than 50 years — including serving as president and CEO of the California Hospital Association for three decades until 2017 — died yesterday in a car accident. He was 80.

Dauner received the AHA’s Distinguished Service Award — the association’s highest honor — in 2018 for his dedication to the health and well-being of all Americans and the establishment of a high-quality, efficient, patient- and community-centric hospital field.

“Few people have done as much as Duane Dauner in helping hospitals and health systems carry out their sacred mission in caring for patients and the communities they serve,” said AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack. “And, few people have helped mentor and develop the next generation of health care leaders, including me, as Duane has done.”

Dauner served as president and CEO of CHA, the statewide leader representing nearly 400 hospitals and health systems, from 1985-2017. Previously, he served as president and CEO of the Missouri Hospital Association from 1975-1985, and he was the CEO of the Kansas Hospital Association from 1965-1975.  

As the leader of CHA, Dauner distinguished himself as a consensus builder — playing a major role in the development of the Affordable Care Act and in unifying CHA membership around its implementation. He also participated in the development of the California Medicaid reform policy option and in building an agreement between CHA and the state’s three regional hospital associations.

Dauner’s leadership helped California hospitals and health systems implement quality health care for their patients while maintaining a slow rate of health expenditure growth. Dauner’s commitment to patient safety and quality of care led CHA and its affiliated regional associations in 2013 to create the statewide Hospital Quality Institute, whose mission is to advance California as a national leader in patient safety and quality improvement.

Dauner was very active in national hospital and health care issues during his time at CHA. He served on numerous AHA and American College of Healthcare Executives boards and committees, including the board of the Coalition to Protect America’s Health Care. He received ACHE’s highest honor, the Gold Medal Award, and also was recognized by the Partners in Care Foundation, National Health Foundation, UCLA and Health Care Executives of Southern California.

Dauner received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wichita State University. Prior to his hospital association career, he was an assistant professor at Washburn University of Topeka, Kan. His dedication to education continued throughout his career in health care. He authored numerous articles and a book and lectured at several California university graduate programs. Dauner was known for his work ethic and his willingness to mentor young professionals in the field.

Dauner’s AHA involvement went back to 1979 when he served on the Council on Federal Relations and then the AHA General Council. He served on numerous committees and task forces throughout his tenure.

See the AHA’s Distinguished Service Award video honoring Dauner. You also can watch a video of Dauner receiving the award at the AHA’s 2018 Annual Membership Meeting.