Susan J. Blumenthal, MD, MPA
Rear Admiral Susan J. Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.A. served for more than two decades as a top Federal government health official in the Administrations of four U.S Presidents where her work focused on a broad range of public health and science issues facing the Nation and world. She served as U.S. Assistant Surgeon General, the country’s first Deputy Assistant Secretary for Women’s Health, Director of the Office on Women’s Health, and as Senior Global Health Advisor in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). She is an internationally recognized medical expert and leader who has been a major force in bringing important public health issues including women’s health, global health, disease, obesity, and violence prevention, and mental illness to increased scientific and public attention, helping to place them at the top of our nation’s health care agenda.
Dr. Blumenthal has also been involved in the national public health response to terrorism, emergency preparedness, biotechnology issues, and emerging disease threats including pandemic flu and AIDS. She has established many international health collaborations including a Middle East Health Initiative.
She was a pioneer in applying information technology to improve health and was among the first in the government to use the Internet for health education, envisioning and establishing several award winning health websites. Dr. Blumenthal was decorated with the Distinguished Service Medal of the U.S. Public Health Service, its highest honor, “for distinguished and pioneering leadership, groundbreaking contributions and dedicated public service that has improved the health of women, our Nation, and the world.”
Dr. Blumenthal is currently a Senior Fellow in Health Policy at the New America Foundation where she is focused on a broad range of issues including health reform implementation, obesity, food insecurity, women’s health, and global health. Additionally, Dr. Blumenthal serves as Senior Policy and Medical Advisor to amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research and is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown and Tufts School of Medicine. From 2006-2011, she served as the Director of the Health and Medicine Program at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress (CSPC) where she co-chaired the Center’s Commission on Future Directions in Health Care. She also directed its health diplomacy programs including a Palestinian/Israeli Health Initiative supported by USAID that convened experts, developed recommendations for cooperative programs and used information technology to help foster information exchange in the region.
Dr. Blumenthal has also served as the Elizabeth Blackwell and Bundy Visiting Professor at the Mayo Clinic, the Lila Wallis Distinguished Professor of Women’s Health at Cornell School of Medicine, as a Visiting Professor at Stanford University in Washington, as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Women’s Studies at Brandeis University, and as a Visiting Fellow at the Harvard University School of Government. On a special assignment from the government, Dr. Blumenthal served as the Associate Vice President for Health Affairs at George Washington University and as a Visiting Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the GW School of Medicine.
In recognition of her pioneering leadership in women’s health, Dr. Blumenthal served from 1993-1997 as the country’s first ever Deputy Assistant Secretary for Women’s Health within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In this position, she developed innovative national initiatives, provided oversight and coordinated a $4 billion dollar budget of research, services, education programs and activities. She worked across the agencies and regional offices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including NIH, CDC, CMS, and the FDA, to ensure that our national health programs targeted the unique needs of women.
Dr. Blumenthal served as an advisor to the White House on women’s health and worked with governmental organizations, consumer and health care professional groups to advance women’s health in the United States and internationally. Her accomplishments include developing a coordinated national approach to women’s health that dramatically increased public and scientific attention to these issues, establishing National Centers of Excellence on Women’s Health at academic centers across the country to serve as models for women’s health care nationwide, forging international partnerships, launching a coalition of 80 groups on AIDS in women, and creating initiatives on osteoporosis, obesity, nutrition, physical activity, diabetes, and disease prevention that brought together federal agencies, private sector organizations and the media to respond to these public health problems. Additionally, Dr. Blumenthal made the fight against cancer in women a top priority. She served as the Co-Chair and was responsible for the coordination and implementation of a Presidential Initiative on Breast Cancer that catalyzed many new programs to accelerate progress in the fight against this disease. She also organized a major public/private sector initiative on ovarian cancer. Dr. Blumenthal initiated a unique collaboration with the CIA, NASA and DOD called “From Missiles to Mammograms” that transferred imaging technology used for military and space purposes to improve the early detection of breast cancer.
For the 12 years prior to this appointment, Dr. Blumenthal directed and served as a Branch Chief of major research programs (Chief of the Behavioral Medicine and Basic Prevention Research Branch and Head of the Suicide Research Unit) at the National Institutes of Health where her work focused on behavioral, biological, and psychosocial factors in disease, psychoneuroimmunology, disease prevention, obesity, nutrition, sleep disorders, and mental illness. She edited a book, Suicide over the Life Cycle, published in 1990, and developed a new model for understanding suicidal behavior as well as focused national attention on prevention strategies. During this period, she was a leader in exposing the inequities in women’s health research and in stimulating new initiatives on gender differences in health and disease.
Dr. Blumenthal has chaired numerous governmental and professional organization committees and national and international conferences and Commissions. She served as Chair of the NIH’s Health and Behavior Coordinating Committee and Chair of the Federal Coordinating Committees on Women’s Health and the Environment, Imaging Technology, Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence and was Director of the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center. She organized and chaired the “Healthy Women 2000” Capitol Hill Conference Series and hosted a groundbreaking, award winning 13 part television series on women’s health issues. Admiral Blumenthal also participated as a member of the President’s Interagency Council on Women, was the United States representative to the World Health Organization’s Global Commission on Women’s Health and to the US/Mexico Bi-national Commission on women’s health. She also served as Co-Chair of the US-Canada Conference on Women’s Health.
As a leading advocate and national spokesperson on health, Dr. Blumenthal has briefed Heads of States, Health Ministers, and testified before Congress. She has often appeared as a medical expert on national television and radio news programs, served as the Medical Director of a Discovery Channel/American Film Institute Global Health Documentary Festival and as Chief Medical Advisor to a PBS Health Outreach Initiative. She has been the Host and Medical Director for an award winning television series on health. Dr. Blumenthal has authored many scientific articles, and been the health columnist for U.S. News and World Report and Elle magazines. She has edited books on Behavioral Medicine: New Research Frontiers, suicide, psychoneuroimmunology, and on women’s health issues.
Admiral Blumenthal has served as a member of the Board of Directors of several philanthropic and educational institutions including Save the Children, Stanford University in Washington, Ford’s Theater, and the Meridian International Center. She is a member of the MIT Media Lab’s Advisory Council. She has received numerous awards including honorary doctorates and has been decorated with the highest medals of the United States Public Health Service for her global leadership and landmark contributions to improving health. She was named the 2009 Health Leader of the Year(its highest honor) by the Commissioned Officers Association for her “distinguished career and many contributions to the field of public health practice that positively affect…all Americans and people all over the planet…and for her work in applying technology to improve health education.”
She was also the recipient of the Dr. Rosalind Franklin Centennial Life and Discovery Award and delivered the Dr. Bernadine Healy Inaugural Distinguished Lectureship. Admiral Blumenthal has been named by The New York Times, the National Library of Medicine, and by the Medical Heraldas one of the most influential women in medicine and as a Rockstar of Science by the Geoffrey Beene Foundation.