AUSTIN, Texas — Public health and information technology expert Karen B. DeSalvo, M.D., M.P.H., MSc, has received one of the nation’s highest honors in health and medicine by being inducted as a member of the National Academy of Medicine at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
In addition to being a professor in the departments of Internal Medicine and Population Health at Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin, DeSalvo has had a rich career in public service including time as national coordinator for health information technology and assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“This is an extraordinary recognition that reflects Karen’s broad achievements in advancing health nationally, as well as her expertise that spans technology and population health,” said Clay Johnston, M.D., dean of Dell Med.
The academy elects individuals who have shown outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service and have made major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care and public health. This year the academy inducted 80 new members including DeSalvo.
DeSalvo’s work at Dell Med leverages technology and care models to improve the public’s health.
Before coming to Dell Med, DeSalvo built an accomplished career in public service, with special emphasis on caring for the most vulnerable populations. In 2014, she was appointed by President Barack Obama to the role of national coordinator for health information technology, charged with setting the country’s strategy and policy on health IT.
As acting assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), she oversaw a dozen core public health offices and 10 regional health offices across the nation, in addition to the Office of the Surgeon General. Under her leadership, HHS set and met historic goals in payment reform, supported care delivery transformation models and changed how information is delivered within health systems.
Much of DeSalvo’s time caring for historically underserved populations was spent in New Orleans, where she served as the city’s health commissioner. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, she was a leader in rebuilding New Orleans, drawing on the strength of community partners to weave together an award-winning model of neighborhood-based community health services for low-income and uninsured populations. DeSalvo used a platform of digital health and information technology to transform the city’s health system infrastructure based on the principles of population health and patient-centered care.
An Austin native, DeSalvo is a former professor and vice dean for community affairs and health policy at Tulane University School of Medicine, where she also earned a medical degree and completed a medical residency and fellowship.
Other Dell Med faculty members who are members of the National Academy of Medicine are Mark McClellan, M.D., Ph.D.; Charles Nemeroff, M.D., Ph.D.; William Sage, M.D., J.D.; Kenneth Shine, M.D. (professor emeritus); and William Tierney, M.D.; as well as University of Texas at Austin faculty members George Georgiou, Ph.D., and Nicholas Peppas, Sc.D.