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Karen Davis

Professor Emerita in the Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health


Karen Davis is professor emerita in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She most recently served as director of the Roger C. Lipitz Center for Integrated Health Care at the school. She served as president of The Commonwealth Fund from 1995 through 2012.

Ms. Davis is a nationally recognized economist, with a distinguished career in public policy and research. Before joining the Fund, she served as chairman of the Department of Health Policy and Management at The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, where she also held an appointment as professor of economics. She served as deputy assistant secretary for health policy in the Department of Health and Human Services from 1977–1980, and was the first woman to head a U.S. Public Health Service agency.

Prior to her government career, Ms. Davis was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., a visiting lecturer at Harvard University, and an assistant professor of economics at Rice University. A native of Oklahoma, she received her Ph.D. in economics from Rice University, which recognized her achievements with a Distinguished Alumna Award in 1991. Ms. Davis is the recipient of the 2000 Baxter-Allegiance Foundation Prize for Health Services Research. In the spring of 2001, Ms. Davis received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from John Hopkins University. In 2006, she was selected for the AcademyHealth Distinguished Investigator Award for significant and lasting contributions to the field of health services research in addition to the Picker Award for Excellence in the Advancement of Patient Centered Care.

Ms. Davis has published a number of significant books, monographs, and articles on health and social policy issues, including the landmark books Health Care Cost Containment, Medicare Policy, National Health Insurance: Benefits, Costs, and Consequences, and Health and the War on Poverty.

She serves on the board of directors of the Henry Ford Hospital and Health Network in Detroit. She was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 1975, has served two terms on the IOM governing Council (1986–1990 and 1997–2000), was a member of the IOM Committee on Redesigning Health Insurance Benefits, Payment and Performance Improvement Programs, and was awarded the Adam Yarmolinsky medal in 2007 for her contributions to the mission of the Institute of Medicine. She is a past president of the AcademyHealth (formerly AHSRHP) and an AcademyHealth distinguished fellow. She is a member of the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured and a former member of the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research (AHRQ) National Advisory Committee. She also serves on the Panel of Health Advisors for the Congressional Budget Office and is an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.