by Jill Clending
David Stephenson Jr., Ph.D., MA, Professor of Health Policy, has been appointed interim chair of the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He succeeds Melinda Buntin, PhD, the Mike Curb Professor and founding chair of the department, who joined with Johns Hopkins University to create the Center for Health Systems and Policy Modeling.
Stephenson has been a member of the Department of Health Policy since its inception in 2013. The department includes an interdisciplinary group of scientists who conduct research to inform improvements in health care delivery and population health.
“The health policy department is important to our mission. It continues to play a vital role on national issues, providing valuable insights that help drive state and national health policy development, along with providing key research findings that shape our understanding of public health issues such as prescription drug pricing medical and health insurance coverage,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, president and CEO of VUMC and dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “Dr. Stephenson’s career as a national leader in health policy and his tenure within the department made him a good candidate for this new role. I want to thank him for his service as interim chief.”
In 2018, Stephenson was promoted to Professor of Health Policy, and in 2019 he was honored with the position of Senior Director in Public Health Research and Education. Prior to joining VUMC, he served on the faculty of the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School.
Stephenson holds a bachelor’s degree in religion from Oberlin College, and a master’s degree in health policy and management from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. He holds a PhD in Health Policy from Harvard University. He has worked on various research and policy issues, including for the US Department of Public Health, The Urban Institute, and Medstat.
Stephenson’s work focuses on educational activities, including mentoring and teaching medical students, residents, and fellows. He serves as Vice Chair of Education in the Department of Health Policy, as Director of Health Policy Education and directs the Health Policy track in the School of Medicine’s Master of Public Health program. He also serves as Co-Chair of the Faculty of the Medical College Admissions Committee.
Stephenson is a national expert on long-term care research and end-of-life care policy, and was a member of the consensus panel that produced the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s 2022 Report on Nursing Home Quality. He now serves as co-chair of the Advancing Nursing Home Quality Alliance Committee, a national initiative to achieve this report’s vision.
He has presented on this and other work before the US Senate Committee on Aging and various federal agencies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the US Government Accountability Office, the Department of Justice, and the Medicare Payments Advisory Committee.
Stephenson also serves on the National Nursing Homes Five Star Rating System Technical Expert Panel and previously served on a similar Technical Expert Panel for Hospice Compare. Stevenson’s research was cited and factored directly into the Biden administration’s recommendations on transparency and accountability in nursing homes.
Stephenson is the author of more than 100 peer-reviewed and peer-reviewed articles, books, and chapters. Serves on the editorial board of a magazine Health services researchthe Journal of Pain and Symptom Management and the Journal of the American Medical Director’s Association.
“The chief’s primary role, temporarily or not, is to support and enhance the work of the department as a whole,” Stephenson said. “This is made much easier by the fact that we do high-quality, impactful research and are incredibly supportive of each other. Frankly, many people in the department were willing and able to serve in this role. And every single one of us would have benefited from the insight and momentum that was there. already in the department, due in large part to the efforts of Dr. Pontin, the support of Dr. Balser and the leadership of VUMC, and the dedication of our faculty and staff.
“My role is to keep the department moving forward and ensure that our next chair builds on the commitment to excellence and goodwill that defined our first decade as a department. Perhaps most of all, I’m excited to help serve as a bridge to our next decade as a department and to the opportunities and insights that the new chair will help us define and follow it.”
A 14-member panel, led by Stephen Weber, MBChB, MRCP, Chief of Pediatrics, James C. Professor General and Pediatrician at Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital in Vanderbilt, to conduct a national examination to determine the department’s permanent leader.