Celebrating Women in Health Care Policy

Female faculty at Harvard Medical School (HMS) are on the rise, with their numbers reaching 46% in 2023. Within HMS, the Department of Health Care Policy (HCP) stands out for its high percentage of female faculty (38%), marking the department as a leader in gender representation.

HCP is currently one of three HMS departments with a female director, and four of HCP’s female professors have achieved the distinction of endowed chairs:

The story begins with Barbara McNeil, HCP’s founder, and director. In 1983, McNeil became the first female HMS graduate and the first woman from the Harvard Division of Medical Sciences (DMS) appointed to full professor at HMS.

McNeil founded HCP in 1988 and currently serves as Professor and Head of the Department. She holds the Ridley Watts professorship and has served as both interim and acting Dean of HMS. Her leadership at HCP has fostered a collaborative and multidisciplinary department with faculty representing the fields of economics, medicine, and statistics.

She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Blue Cross Technology Evaluation Commission, and the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute Board of Governors.  McNeil has been the chair or advisor of numerous health policy groups in the United States. Her most recent work has focused on quality of care and technology assessment.

Soon after the department’s inception, Sharon-Lise Normand joined as an assistant professor in 1992, was promoted to associate professor in 1998, and to professor in 2003. She was named S. James Adelstein Professor of Health Care Policy in 2018. Dr. Normand’s research focuses on the development of statistical methods for health services and outcomes research.  Her application areas include cardiovascular disease, severe mental illness, medical device safety and effectiveness, and medical technology diffusion. Dr. Normand is Director of the Medical Device Epidemiology Network’s (MDEpiNet) Methodology Center where statistical methodology for assessing medical device safety and effectiveness is developed and applied.

Next, Susan Ettner joined HCP as Assistant Professor in 1991, and has since become the Dean of Graduate Studies at UCLA.

Haiden Huskamp entered as an assistant professor in 1997. Huskamp was promoted to professor of health care policy in 2010 and was named the Henry J. Kaiser Professor of Health Care Policy in 2020. Huskamp is a health economist, and her primary areas of research are mental health and substance use disorder policy, prescription drug policy, the financing and utilization of end-of-life care services. She also serves as Director of Harvard’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) T32 Pre- and Post-doctoral Training Program in Mental Health Policy.

Mary Beth Landrum and Nancy Keating both came to HCP as post doctorate fellows; Landrum became an assistant professor in 1998, associate professor in 2005, and was named professor in 2012. Keating was promoted to assistant professor in 2003, associate professor in 2007, and named as a professor in 2014.

Mary Beth Landrum specializes in biostatistics and her primary research focus is on the development and application of statistical methodology for health services research. This research has several related themes, including estimating causal effects in non-randomized studies and the profiling of health care providers.

In addition to her role as professor at HCP, Keating is also a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Her research examines provider, patient, and health system factors that influence the delivery of high-quality care for individuals with cancer. Keating is currently evaluating the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service’s Oncology Care Model, a new payment and delivery model for oncology practices administering chemotherapy. She also serves as Director of Harvard’s Training in Oncology Population Sciences National Cancer Institute (NCI) T32 Training Program.

Ellen Meara joined HCP in 1999 as an Assistant Professor, and became an Associate Professor in 2008. Meara is currently a professor at the TH Chan School of Public Health.

Laura Hatfield joined the department in 2011 as an assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor in 2017. Hatfield’s research focuses on trade-offs and relationships among health outcomes. Through her methodological contributions, Hatfield has combined patient preferences and regulator loss functions with hierarchical outcome models to improve treatment and safety decision making. In applied collaborations within HCP and beyond, Dr. Hatfield has studied cardiac medical devices, cancer chemotherapy, physician behavior, health care spending, and delivery system reform.

Sherri Rose joined the department in 2013 as an assistant professor, promoted to associate in 2016. She is currently a professor at Stanford.

Nicole Maestas was appointed to professor and named the Margaret T. Morris Professor of Health Care Policy in 2023, having joined the department in 2015 as an associate professor. Maestas, is a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), where she directs the NBER’s Retirement and Disability Research Center. She studies the economics of disability insurance, labor markets, health care systems, and population aging. Her research studies how the health and disability insurance systems affect individual economic behaviors, such as labor supply and the use of medical care.

Leila Agha is one of the most recent faculty members, joining in 2022 and currently holds the title of associate professor. Agha’s research investigates microeconomic questions about how productivity is shaped by innovation, technology, and the organization of work, in the context of the US health care system. Her ongoing research studies how physicians adopt and realize value from new technology, in contexts with limited information about patient-specific risks and benefits. 

The story of HCP continues with the current accomplishments and future research of its faculty. During women’s history month, we celebrate the achievements of women who have consistently overcome challenges. Harvard Medical School (HMS) is witnessing a steadily rising tide of female faculty, and HCP is proud to be a part of the continued progress.