Our Origins

Born in 1916, Daniel Francis Hanley, the youngest of 8 children, through both scholarship and grit, achieved academic and personal success, first at Bowdoin College and then Columbia Medical School.

Dr. Hanley served as a medical officer in WWII before returning to his Bowdoin roots where he served as the small college’s lead physician for 33 years.

Dan specialized in sports medicine, served as the chief physician of the United States Olympic team from 1964-1972, and was a member of the International Olympic Medical Commission, where he was a pioneer in identifying the medical dangers of steroid use and developing Olympic pre-competition drug testing programs.

During his time as Bowdoin’s physician, he collaborated with Bowdoin trainers to design, develop and study a new football shoe that reduced knee injuries. He took care of private patients, was pivotal in establishing the first physician directed malpractice company in Maine and served on many State boards. He started scholarship funds to enable Maine students to attend Bowdoin and go on to medical school.

Dan served as executive director of the Maine Medical Association and editor of its journal. In 1975, when other publishers rejected Dr. Jack Wennberg’s article describing wide variations in rates of common surgical procedures in different parts of Maine, Hanley published it. In his accompanying editorial, he challenged the medical profession to take positive action to address the variations in healthcare. But Dan was not content to let the matter rest with exhortation to his colleagues. He worked with physicians, in tandem with business and insurance industry leaders, to establish a statewide hospital discharge database, the Maine Health Information Center, and the Maine Medical Assessment Foundation, to engage physicians to study variations in care and patient outcomes.

“His leadership inspired many physicians and played an important role in convincing Senator Mitchell of the need for Congress to establish a new federal agency now known as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.”

“Dr. Hanley will be remembered for his good humor and his tenacity in his self-chosen task of inspiring his colleagues to deal with the sometimes unpleasant facts of practice variations,” Dr. Wennberg said. “But above all, he will be remembered for his integrity and the role model his life and work provides for today’s health care professionals who seek to make medical practice better for patients.”

Shortly after Dan Hanley’s death in 2001, the Hanley family invited a number of Dan’s friends and colleagues to gather at Bowdoin College to discuss how his legacy could be carried into the future.  The group identified the traits and values that made Dan so effective as one of Maine’s most prominent leaders.  These discussions led to a decision to form a new nonprofit organization.

In its earliest years, the Center established the annual Hanley Leadership Forum, which brought together key leaders to address a single health or healthcare issue that required a collaborative approach.  The Center also began recognizing exemplary leadership through its Hanley Leadership Award.

Over the years, the Hanley Center built its now main focus of training physicians and other healthcare professionals in leadership and management skills.  Seen as the “go-to” organization for healthcare leadership development in Northern New England, the Center boasts more than 700 alumni from its 4 core leadership courses.  The Center has also expanded its work into the areas of public health, health equity & implicit bias and training the next generation of healthcare leaders through its undergraduate internship program.