City Turns to Tulane for Top Health Post

December 15, 2010 5:43 AM

Keith Brannon

Dr. Karen DeSalvo, a driving force in helping Tulane University create a thriving network of nationally recognized community health centers, will soon help the city of New Orleans change the way it approaches community health care and public health.


New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu introduces Dr. Karen DeSalvo, right, as the city’s first health commissioner and senior adviser to the mayor for health policy. She is taking a one-year leave from her position at Tulane. (Photo by Ryan Rivet)

DeSalvo, vice dean for community affairs and health policy, will take a one-year leave to serve as the city’s first health commissioner and senior adviser to the mayor for health policy. She also will oversee public health initiatives and coordinate a citywide healthcare master plan.

“Dr. DeSalvo’s broad background in hospital and clinic administration, public health policy, population research and medical education is unmatched,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “Her work post-Katrina has led to better, neighborhood-based care for low-income, uninsured and other vulnerable populations.”

She plans to modernize the health department and work on its response to community needs. The new master plan will include an inventory of the existing healthcare infrastructure and areas where services are needed, as well as a roadmap for improving access to care.

DeSalvo also hopes to transform the city’s approach from thinking about health care in terms of clinics to a culture that incorporates public health in all aspects of policy — more “health-focused and less healthcare-focused,” she said.

“Community health is much more than getting people to a doctor,” DeSalvo said, mentioning access to healthy foods, more physically active citizens and safer neighborhoods as examples.

Dr. Benjamin Sachs, dean of the Tulane School of Medicine, said DeSalvo is following a tradition of Tulane academics serving the public sector. “Karen has a deep love for this city, which has led her to step out of the academic world to help the city build a different kind of public health system.”

DeSalvo will return to Tulane in January 2012. During DeSalvo's absence, Leah Berger, director of community affairs programs, planning and development, will run Tulane’s Office of Community Affairs and Health Policy and work with Dr. Eboni Price, chief medical officer of community health, to oversee the university’s community health centers.



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Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000