Karen Donelan to join Heller School faculty as inaugural Stuart H. Altman Chair in U.S. Health Policy

June 25, 2020

Karen Donelan
Karen Donelan

Brandeis University is pleased to announce the appointment of Professor Karen Donelan as the Stuart H. Altman Chair in U.S. Health Policy. Donelan will be a senior member of the Schneider Institutes for Health Policy at the University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management. 

“Karen Donelan is an extremely talented survey researcher with deep roots in issues that are central to Heller’s mission,” says Heller Dean David Weil. “Her impressive research portfolio centers on improving the experiences of health care professionals and patients, with a particular focus on including diverse voices and increasing equity and inclusion. Her work will intersect with those of researchers across the school. I am thrilled for her to join our community.”

Donelan, who holds an ScD from the Harvard School of Public Health, is currently a senior scientist and associate professor of medicine at the Mongan Institute’s Health Policy Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School. She will join the Heller School faculty on September 1, 2020.

This new endowed chair position was founded in honor of celebrated health economist and health policy expert Stuart Altman, a former Heller dean and the current Sol C. Chaikin Professor of National Health Policy. 

“I am extremely proud to have Karen Donelan as the first recipient of the Stuart H. Altman Chair in U.S. Health Policy,” says Altman. “Karen's path-finding research in health workforce issues dovetails so nicely with my own early studies on the recruitment and training of registered nurses. This is a special moment for me and my entire family.”

Donelan likewise expressed feeling “honored and humbled that after so many years of knowing Dr. Altman and admiring his work, I am now going to hold the professorship and chair bearing his name.” 

The Heller School’s long history of conducting impactful health policy research was driven in large part by Altman’s leadership in the field as a researcher, academic, and advisor to state and federal government. “The Heller School, and the Schneider Institutes for Healthcare Policy in particular, are giants in this field,” notes Brandeis Provost Lisa Lynch. “This appointment recognizes Stuart Altman’s decades of leadership and reinforces our resolve to continue breaking new ground in critical health policy research. I am so pleased that Professor Donelan will join the university and I look forward to her many contributions to Brandeis and to the field.” 

In her research at MGH, Donelan is recognized for her skill in designing surveys to measure the experiences, well-being, and work roles of health professionals. Her current and recent national projects include studies of:

  • Gender and race equity and inclusion in science and health
  • Optimal staffing to improve health care for frail older adults and their caregivers
  • The roles of health teams in emergency, intensive and critical care
  • The integration of nursing and social work in care management for complex populations
  • Systems of care for people with mental illnesses and people with disabilities

Professor Jon Chilingerian, chair of the search committee, says, "Dr. Donelan’s scholarly research has made intellectual and practical contributions on health workforce, labor market shortages, and employment that amplify diverse voices and perspectives in health policy and health care. Her fit with the values and mission of the Heller School is clear—as she has expressed a strong desire to build and sustain a diverse and vibrant community. She brings an inspiring vision to create new initiatives including a future center on workforce research. Finding policy solutions to healthcare workforce problems such as labor shortages and burnout are timely and critical to maintaining a healthy population."

Donelan’s recent work in patient and clinician perceptions of telehealth visits, and previous work measuring adoption of electronic health records, is widely cited. She is interested in evaluating new forms of human and technology support for diverse populations trying to access and navigate health systems. Donelan will continue to be affiliated with the Mongan Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“The Heller School faculty and students have remarkable strength in areas about which I am passionate,” says Donelan. “We need to foster collaboration to reshape and equip our healthcare workforce to meet the needs of the diverse and aging population it serves. The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the urgency to address systemic and structural racism and other forms of bias make this work more urgent. I am eager to begin.”