James H. Cavanaugh
61MA, 64PhD

Achievement 2000

James H. Cavanaugh

James H. Cavanaugh, 61MA, 64PhD, is president and a general partner of HealthCare Ventures, LLC in Princeton, New Jersey, which manages the largest venture capital fund devoted exclusively to health care. The firm funds research in leading-edge health care products, creating and managing health science companies with a strong focus on genetics, immunology, and transplant medicine.

A leading figure in the U.S. pharmaceutical industry and recent US health policy, Cavanaugh's farsightedness and candor have made him a top corporate and governmental executive and a valued advisor to three US presidents.

Cavanaugh came to the University of Iowa as a graduate student, earning his master's and Ph.D. degrees in the College of Medicine's graduate program in hospital and health administration, then serving as a faculty member in the program from 1962 to 1966. While at Iowa, he became interested in health system economic issues and collected substantial data on the potential national implications of the planned Medicare program. His research caught the eye of officials in President Lyndon B. Johnson's administration, and Cavanaugh was appointed a special assistant to the US Surgeon General in 1966.

This post led to more than a decade of service in Washington, D.C., as director of the Comprehensive Health Planning Office and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare for Health and Scientific Affairs. He also served for five years on the immediate staff of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Cavanaugh's influence on national health care policy during these years, and later as a special consultant to President Ronald Reagan, was substantial and far-reaching.

In the late 1970s, Cavanaugh entered the private sector as vice president of corporate development for Allergan Pharmaceuticals in Irvine, California. He subsequently became president of Allergan International. When Allergan was acquired by the pharmaceutical giant SmithKline Beckman, Cavanaugh became president of SmithKline's Bio-Science Laboratories and later SmithKline and French Laboratories-U.S.

Currently, Cavanaugh serves on the boards of directors of three publicly traded companies. Cavanaugh has also shown dedication and leadership in supporting organizations that advance the cause of health care and other public welfare issues. These include the American Refugee Committee, the Society for Women's Health Research, the American College of Healthcare Executives, the American Hospital Association, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, and the President's Export Council.

Despite being an easterner by birth and spending much of his career on the east and west coasts, Cavanaugh has remained committed to the University of Iowa. He served as a national committee member of the Iowa Endowment 2000 campaign that raised more than $250 million, and his outstanding financial support for the College of Medicine and other UI programs has earned him membership in the UI Foundation's Presidents Club. He is also a life member of the UI Alumni Association.

One of Cavanaugh's favorite sayings is that "Man and the turtle have some unique characteristics. One is that neither gets ahead without sticking its neck out." Taking risks and making bold advances have been hallmarks of his own successful career.