Dr. Karen B. DeSalvo was selected by Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu to serve as New Orleans Health Commissioner and his Senior Health Policy Advisor in January 2011. Under her leadership, the New Orleans Health Department has rapidly transformed in to a modern, effective health department capable of improving the public’s health by its ability to focus on evidence-based policy and programmatic actions including those addressing the social determinants of health. The focus of efforts are grounded in using innovative solutions to address major local public health challenges including violence and murder reduction, access to primary care, mental health/substance abuse, family health and nutritional and physical fitness. She has also led the re-establishment of a hospital-based health system in Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans East.
Dr. DeSalvo is a physician who has dedicated her 20 year career to improving access to quality, affordable care for all with a focus on vulnerable populations through direct care, medical education, and administrative roles. Prior to joining Mayor Landrieu’s administration, Dr. DeSalvo was professor of medicine and Vice Dean for Community Affairs and Health Policy at the Tulane University School of Medicine. While at Tulane, she envisioned and led the effort to create the innovative model of neighborhood-based primary care and mental health services for low income, uninsured and other vulnerable populations in the New Orleans area following Hurricane Katrina. This network has been hailed as a national model and recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance. She also shepherded the School’s receipt of the American Association of Medical Colleges Spencer Foreman Award recognizing them as the outstanding School of Medicine for Community Service.
Dr. DeSalvo has served on numerous professional boards, including serving as President of the Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum and the National Association of Chiefs of General Internal Medicine; and earned the distinct recognition of “Woman of Excellence in Health Care” by the Louisiana Legislative Women’s Caucus and outstanding Alumni for Suffolk University. She is the founder and current President of 504Healthnet, a consortium of safety net providers in the New Orleans region.
She received her Medical Doctorate and Masters in Public Health at Tulane University, a Masters in Clinical Epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health, and her B.A. from Suffolk University. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from Suffolk University in 2010.
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