Professor of Medicine and Population Health @ University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School
Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc is a physician dedicated to improving the health of all people, with a particular focus on vulnerable populations, through patient care, education, policy and administrative roles, research, and public service. Her commitment to improving the public’s health includes work beyond ensuring access to quality, affordable medical care, to strengthening the public health infrastructure, and enabling public-private partnerships that can address the social determinants of health. She is currently Professor of Medicine and Population Health at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School.
Dr. DeSalvo served as Acting Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the Obama Administration. In that role, she oversaw 12 core public health offices and 10 regional health offices across the nation, and the Office of the Surgeon General. Under Dr. DeSalvo’s leadership as Delivery System Reform strategy co-lead, HHS set and met historic goals in payment reform, supported transformed models of care delivery including in primary care, and changed the approach to information distribution in the health system.
She also served as the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology from 2014 to 2016, a role in which she was responsible for setting national strategy and policy on health IT and focused interoperability in the health setting. She marshaled public and private stakeholders to create and execute on a revised national strategy for health IT that shifts focus from electronic health records to standardized data, freed through requiring published APIs (application programmable interfaces) and supports a culture and business environment for information flow to support better health for individuals and communities.
Following Hurricane Katrina, she was a community leader in building an innovative and award-winning model of neighborhood-based community health services for low-income, uninsured and other vulnerable people in the New Orleans area. Just prior to joining HHS, Dr. DeSalvo served as New Orleans Health Commissioner where she transformed the Health Department in to one that is nationally accredited and recognized for addressing the broad determinants of health. Dr. DeSalvo led a transformational and successful effort to restore health care to devastated areas of the city including the establishment of a community health network and a public hospital.
She was previously professor of medicine and vice dean for community affairs and health policy at the Tulane School of Medicine. Her accomplishments have earned her numerous leadership awards and accolades, including the “Surgeon General’s Medallion”, the highest honor bestowed by the United States Public Health Service, for actions of exceptional achievement for the cause of public health and medicine and she is a member of the National Academy of Medicine. Dr. DeSalvo earned her Medical Doctorate and Master’s in Public Health from Tulane University, and Master’s in Clinical Epidemiology from Harvard School of Public Health. She has an honorary doctorate from her alma mater Suffolk University.