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A headshot of James DeFontes III, MD

James DeFontes III, MD


Dr. James DeFontes III is an anesthesiologist who has held academic and leadership roles throughout his career. His background encompasses local, regional, and national leadership roles that have required vision, strategic planning, and execution. Through his work and research, Dr. DeFontes investigates ways to identify performance gaps as well as how to improve systems and processes, with an aim to increase operational efficiency and effectiveness.

Education and Training

  • BS, University of Texas, Austin
  • MD, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas
  • Internship, Flexible, University of California, Irvine Medical Center
  • Residency, Anesthesia, University of California, Irvine Medical Center
  • Fellowship, Critical Care Medicine, University of California, Irvine Medical Center
  • Advanced Leadership Program, University of Southern California School of Business Administration/Kaiser Permanente
  • Advanced Leadership Development Program, University of Southern California School of Business Administration
  • Middle Management Development Program, Kaiser Permanente
  • Executive Business Degree, Kenan-Flagler Business School


Selected Prior Positions

1984-2007 Chief of Anesthesia
Southern California Permanente Medical Group (SCPMG)
1986-1992 University of California, Irvine Medical Center
Assistant Clinical Professor, Anesthesia and Critical Care
1995-2002 Physician Director
Physician Enhancement Program, Orange County
1995-2009 Physician Director
Orange County Surgical Service Line
1999-2007 Regional Chief, Anesthesia
2007-2014 Regional Leader
National Surgical Care Improvement Project
2007-present Assistant Executive Medical Director, Patient Safety and Perioperative Services
Kaiser Permanente Southern California Region
2009-present Southern California Regional Surgical Chiefs and Perioperative Physician Leaders
Regional Leader


Selected Honors and Awards

1980 Upjohn Achievement Award (Outstanding Personal Qualities, Leadership, and Achievement)
2003 First David M. Lawrence MD Patient Safety Award for Preoperative Briefing
2010 Innovation Award for OR Benchmarks Collaborative

Selected Publications

Peer-reviewed research manuscripts

  • Landro L, DeFontes J. Bringing Surgeons Down to Earth. Wall Street Journal 2005 Nov 16;D.1+.
  • DeFontes J. Care quality: Hospitals use preoperative briefings to empower staff, stem errors. Clinical Advisory Board, Clinical Strategy Watch 2005 Dec 8;3:4+.
  • Bernard B, DeFontes J. Surgical Precision, Surgery: Checklist Deemed a Success. Orange County Register 2006 Apr 20;1+.
  • DeFontes J. Surgical Access. SCPMG Report on Clinical Quality 2010;16.
  • DeFontes J. Use National OR Benchmarks to Focus Your Improvement, An Unbiased View of Our OR Performance. McKesson Corporation, Performance Strategies for Healthcare Leaders 2010;4:3+.