Karen B. DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc
Karen DeSalvo is focused on patient care, education, policy and administrative roles, research, and public service dedicated to improving the health of all people, particularly those in vulnerable populations. Her commitment to improving the public’s health goes beyond ensuring access to include quality, affordable medical care; strengthening public health infrastructure; and enabling public-private partnerships that can address the social determinants of health.
Prior to coming to Dell Medical School, DeSalvo served as Acting Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) during the Obama Administration. In that role, she oversaw 12 core public health offices and 10 regional health offices across the nation, in addition to the Office of the Surgeon General. Under 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.
DeSalvo also served as the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology from 2014-16, 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, DeSalvo 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. Immediately before joining HHS, DeSalvo served as New Orleans health commissioner, where she transformed the health department to one that is nationally accredited and recognized for addressing the broad determinants of health. As health commissioner, DeSalvo led a transformational and successful effort to address major health challenges in her community including violence, nutritional and physical fitness and mental health. She also led the re-establishment of a community public hospital.
DeSalvo was previously professor of medicine and vice dean for community affairs and health policy at the Tulane School of Medicine. She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Humana.
DeSalvo earned her medical degree and a master’s degree in public health from Tulane University, in addition to a master’s in clinical epidemiology from Harvard School of Public Health.