Susan Blumenthal

Global & Women's Health

Self Exam

  • Occupation: Physician, public health champion, women's health pioneer, health policy expert, and educator. For over 20 years, served in senior Federal positions including as the first Deputy Assistant Secretary for Women's Health, U.S. Assistant Surgeon General, Rear Admiral, Global Health Advisor at HHS; Chief, Behavioral Medicine Research Branch at NIH; and White House Health Advisor. Currently, Director, Health Program, Center for the Study of the Presidency; Senior Medical Advisor, amfAR, Foundation for AIDS Research; and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Georgetown School of Medicine.
  • Alternative career choice: Poet, pianist and technology entrepreneur
  • What do rock stars and scienctists have in common: Rock stars and scientists share passion, creativity, and the thrill of discovery. Where musicians use their minds, instruments and voices to create new rhythms, researchers use science and technology to make the music of medicine: new discoveries that improve health and eradicate disease.
  • Musical Instrument I Play: None
  • I tend to approach life: As an incurable optimist. I always believe there's a solution.
  • Biggest misconceptions about me or my work: People approaching me when I was wearing my US Public Health Service Admiral's uniform and asking, "Are you an airline pilot?"
  • Worst part-time job ever: Cutting the heads off of mice during a high school summer research internship in a neuroscience lab
  • Longest med school study session: All-nighter memorizing the anatomy of the human body
  • Best moment in medicine/research: Working with First Lady Hillary Clinton to convince the CIA, Pentagon and NASA to make their advanced imaging technologies available to improve the early detection of breast and other cancers. And they did! This work helped stimulate the field of computer assisted diagnosis, 3D medical imaging, and additional applications

About My Research

Disease Area: Preventing disease with science and public health interventions; sex differences in disease; cancer; and mental illness including depression, PTSD and eating disorders

Research Area: Health policy and reform issues; women's health; disease, obesity and suicide prevention; mental illness: health diplomacy; and global health including HIV/AIDS

Science Impact/Accomplishments or Goal: A hallmark of Dr. Blumenthal's work has been bringing understudied health problems to increased scientific and public attention. She was an architect of major Federal initiatives including a national disease prevention strategy, obesity and breast cancer action plans, a new model for understanding and preventing suicide, the first national education campaign on depression as a medical illness and some of the earliest programs to fight AIDS. Dr. Blumenthal played a pioneering role in exposing the inequities in women's health and was a leader in moving the field of sex differences in disease to the forefront of our nation's health agenda. She was among the first in the government to apply information technology to improve health, building several award winning websites, and serving as a medical journalist. She has built health diplomacy programs including a Middle East initiative and has been a champion in advancing research, education and policy on global health issues and emerging disease threats.

Research Description: Dr. Blumenthal's work has made an indelible mark on improving women's health and the study of sex differences in the United States and internationally. The results of this work benefit men as well! Before 1990, most research and education programs targeted men only. She forged numerous innovative initiatives across Federal agencies, with the private sector and with other countries. Examples include establishing the National Centers of Excellence on Women's Health at academic health centers to serve as models for research, care, and education as well as the first of its kind, National Women's Health Information Center. She spearheaded the "From Missiles to Mammograms" research initiative which harnessed DOD, CIA, and NASA imaging technology to improve breast cancer detection. As a result of these and others' efforts, women's health is now a priority, funding has dramatically increased, a broad spectrum of research is underway, and prevention and service delivery programs are targeting women's unique needs.


“Rear Admiral Susan J. Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.A. (ret), an internationally recognized health expert, served for more than 20 years in senior health leadership positions in the US Federal government in the Administrations of four US Presidents. Dr. Blumenthal has been a major force in bringing important public health issues including women’s health, global health concerns such as AIDS, obesity, and mental illness, as well as disease, suicide and violence prevention to increased scientific and public attention, helping to place them at the top of our nation’s health care agenda. She served as Assistant Surgeon General of the United States and Senior Global and e-health Advisor in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), where her work focused on a broad range of public health and science issues facing the nation and world. She has also been a White House Advisor on Health and a Research Branch Chief at the National Institutes of Health. In the late 1980’s, Admiral Blumenthal was a leader in exposing the inequities in women’s health research and care and in recognition of her pioneering work was appointed the country’s first ever Deputy Assistant Secretary for Women’s Health, where she built national infrastructure for women’s health as well as stimulated and coordinated research, prevention and education initiatives across the Federal government. She established innovative, cross-cutting initiatives including the National Women’s Health Information Center, the “From Missiles to Mammograms” program that transferred DOD, NASA and CIA imaging technology used for space exploration and intelligence purposes to improve breast cancer detection, and the National Centers of Excellence on Women’s Health program. This initiative fosters multidisciplinary research and education on women’s health and sex differences in disease at academic health centers across the country as well as promotes the career development of women in science. Dr. Blumenthal has been involved in the nation’s public health response to emerging disease threats including obesity, pandemic flu and bioterrorism as well as health care reform efforts. In the 1980’s, she developed a new model for understanding suicide and preventing it, the first government national public education campaign on depression, and convened the first NIMH conference on women and AIDS. She also established and served as the Director of the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center and was an architect of the Healthier US prevention framework for the nation. Additionally, Dr. Blumenthal was among the first in the government to harness the Internet for health education establishing several awardwinning health websites.

Currently, Dr. Blumenthal serves as Director of the Health and Medicine Program at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, a non-partisan, non-profit organization where she co-chairs a Commission on Charting Future Directions in Health and Medicine. She also has led a Palestinian/Israeli health initiative to bring together medical experts in the region using health diplomacy as a bridge for peace. Dr. Blumenthal is Chair of the Global Health Program at the Meridian International Center and Senior Policy and Medical Advisor at amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research. She serves as a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown and Tufts Schools of Medicine.

As a leading advocate and national spokesperson on health, Dr. Blumenthal has briefed Heads of State and Health Ministers, testified before Congress, often appeared as a medical expert on national television and radio news programs, and served as the Host and Medical Director of an award winning television series on women’s health. She has chaired many important committees and conferences, published widely in the scientific literature, edited books, and been the health columnist for U.S. News and World Report and other magazines. Dr. Blumenthal has received numerous awards including honorary doctorates and has been decorated with the highest medals of the United States Public Health Service for her landmark scientific contributions and distinguished leadership in health. Admiral Blumenthal was awarded the Health Leader of 2009 by the Commissioned Officers Association and named by the New York Times, the National Library of Medicine and the Medical Herald as one of the most influential women in medicine. Dr. Blumenthal cares deeply about encouraging young people to pursue careers in science and health. She was the founding senior advisor for the Global Health Corps, an organization that provides college graduates with a year of experience in a developing nation. She is also a treasured mentor for the many young people that she takes on as fellows, inducting each of them into her Society of the Purple Stethoscope, the color of the medical instrument that she used as a student. Her fellows have gone on to assume leadership roles as physicians, government officials, scientists, and public health experts and practitioners.”