Our weekly guide to healthcare's most influential people

Published: 10/04/2003, Volume II3, No. 5850 Page 18 19

Name: Dr Kate Lorig

Job: Director of Stanford University's Patient Education Research Center and 'inventor'of the expert patient programme.

Style: US academic of the gentle West Coast variety who seems equally comfortable in the company of ministers and ordinary folk.Manages to make the target of 'making patients and professionals happier' seem more than just nice words.

Background: Holder of a doctorate in public health ('please get it right, no-one ever does, ' she chides politely), Dr Lorig developed the concept of patients learning to take control of their own chronic illness in the mid '80s.The Challenging Arthritis programme was part of a bid to counter the 'patient as victim'ethos that had spread through the US.She imported self-management to the UK in the mid-'90s, but it really caught fire thanks to the championing of chief medical officer Professor Sir Liam Donaldson three years ago - patients, not professionals or managers, would modernise the NHS, was his slogan.The promise to transform the treatment of long-term illness, moving from an acute to a primary focus, found a wider audience in the UK than in the rest of Europe.The 'living with long-term illness'pilot programme is now being rolled out to all primary care trusts.

Future prospects: Sir Liam and public health minister Hazel Blears are both well on side - the latter praises expert patient programmes in her cherished Salford.The challenge is to take the 8,000 EPs signed up and get the concept into the mainstream. Ironically, she will know she has 'won'when the 'expert' tag fades and selfmanagement becomes an integral part of health and social care.