Karen DeSalvo

Karen DeSalvo is a physician who has focused her career on improving the health of all people, with a particular focus on vulnerable populations. She has done this through direct patient care, medical education, policy and administrative roles, research, and public service. Her commitment to improving the public’s health includes ensuring access to quality, affordable health care; strengthening the public health infrastructure; and leveraging public-private partnerships to address the social determinants of health through environmental, policy, and systems-level change. DeSalvo most recently served as acting assistant secretary for health at the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). During her tenure, she worked with the public and private sectors as well as local governmental public health officials to develop a blueprint for the future of public health called Public Health 3.0, which calls for the development of local public-private partnerships, strengthening of local governmental public health infrastructure, and attention to the social determinants of health. DeSalvo also served as the national coordinator for health information technology, where she set policy that focused national attention on the need to move beyond adoption and focus on interoperability. At HHS, she also co-led the department’s Delivery System Reform strategy. This work leveraged the resources of the department, states, and the private sector to build a more person-centered health system that encourages more coordinated care. She was previously the health commissioner for the City of New Orleans and professor of medicine and vice dean for community affairs and health policy at Tulane University School of Medicine. Modern Healthcare named her one of the 50 most influential physician executives and leaders and 100 most influential people in health care in 2014, 2015, and 2016. DeSalvo earned her medical doctorate and her master’s in public health from Tulane University, and master’s in clinical epidemiology from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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