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HL20: Karen Davis, Economist—Healthcare is More Than a Numbers Game

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media, January 10, 2014

Karen Davis, PhD, has paired her interest in statistics and economics with her desire to improve the healthcare system. A former president of the Commonwealth Fund, she has been able to influence many important pieces of healthcare legislation, including the landmark Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

This profile was published in the December, 2013 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Growing up on a wheat farm in Ponka City, Okla., a small town about 100 miles north of Oklahoma City, Karen Davis, PhD, was raised with "that basic Midwestern ideal value system that you try to help people out, and you use the talents you've been given to do that."

Davis, who is a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, and director of the Roger C. Lipitz Center for Integrated Health Care at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, was actively involved in 4-H as a girl, which she says rounded out her philosophy on life. That, combined with her early interest in statistics and economics, has led to desire to improve the healthcare system in this country and everyone's access to it.

"The first 'H' is for the heart, which represents that you have a commitment to justice. The second 'H' for the head represents a commitment to scientific approaches. Hands demonstrates a commitment to service and helping people, and the fourth 'H' is for health," says Davis.

Having worked in health policy and reform for more than 40 years, Davis is excited about where healthcare is headed today. She got her start in economics, eventually earning a PhD in economics from Rice University. While at college in 1960s, Davis was influenced by the social movements that were taking place.

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