About Dr. Donelan

karen donelan

Karen Donelan, ScD, EdM
Senior Scientist, Health Policy Research Center
Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School


Dr. Donelan is a prominent survey and team scientist who has conducted numerous national and international surveys of the experiences of patients and health professionals in health care systems, nationally and locally.  At Mass General, she is the convener of MGH Health Policy Rounds, she leads the Survey Research and Implementation Unit for the Division of Clinical Research and is a member of the MGH/MGPO Diversity Committee.

Recognized for her skill in designing surveys to measure the experiences of diverse professional and patient/consumer populations, Dr. Donelan’s current and recent national projects include the health workforce changes needed to improve care for frail older adults, assessments of care management programs, evaluation of innovations in payment for dually eligible Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, understanding insurance coverage for cancer survivors, and a test of  a virtual clinic to improve evidence-based care for people with Down Syndrome.  She is interested in evaluating new forms of  human and technology support for diverse populations trying to access and navigate health systems.

Dr. Donelan has led primary research efforts at Mass. General Hospital to measure diversity culture from patient and workforce perspectives, assuring more robust inclusion of patients with disability, limited English proficiency and racial, ethnic and gender minorities. She has been a mentor to several clinician researchers on early stage career projects.  She was a member of a National Academy of Medicine Committee to evaluate progress on the 2010 Future of Nursing report.

Dr. Donelan joined the MIHPC faculty in 2003, following more than a decade at the Harvard School of Public Health as founding Managing Director of the Harvard Opinion Research Program, and 3 years as Co-Founder and Senior Vice President of a venture-financed company providing assistance to patients and families confronting complex and critical illnesses. She has received considerable external support for her survey research, including the Patient Centered Outcome Research Institute, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the American Cancer Society, the Commonwealth Fund, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and others. She has published extensively in major medical, nursing, and health policy journals, and is a peer reviewer for multiple journals. She is a member of Academy Health and the American Association of Public Opinion Research.

Current Projects

American Cancer Society

Development of the Thyroid Cancer Quality of Life Index (TCQOLI)

Goals: To develop a new index to measure the quality of life of patients with thyroid cancer.

National Institute on Aging

Effect of COVID-19 on Caregivers of Persons with Dementia

Goals: Survey paid staff and family caregivers of persons with dementia in community, assisted living and skilled nursing facilities.

The Retirement Research Foundation (RRF)

Caring for caregivers and people living with dementia under home-based primary care (HBPC CG-MemCare): a pilot study

Goals: The purpose of this study is to 1) develop the Dementia Care Quality at Home intervention, a dementia collaborative care intervention specifically for home-based primary care (HBPC) practices 2) train HBPC clinicians to implement the intervention to deliver more dementia-capable care; 3) test the intervention’s efficacy, acceptability, feasibility, barriers, and facilitators of the intervention to improve care of PLWD and reduce caregiver burden.

Dr. Donelan on PubMed

AB, Harvard College
EdM, Harvard Graduate School of Education
ScD, Harvard School of Public Health