Skip Navigation Celebrating America's Women Physicians
Changing the face of Medicine Home Visit Physicians
Resources Activities Share your Story

Biography
Return

 Return 

Dr. Risa J. Lavizzo-Mourey





Year of Birth / Death

b. 1954


Medical School

Harvard Medical School


Geography

LOCATION
Pennsylvania
LOCATION
New Jersey


Career Path

Internal medicine: Geriatrics
Administration
Dr. Risa J. Lavizzo-Mourey



Milestones

YEAR
2002
ACHIEVEMENT
Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey is the first woman and first African American to be president and chief executive officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


Inspiration

I became a doctor in order to provide high quality care to those previously denied such care.



Biography

Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey's career combines geriatric medicine and health policy, focusing on disease, disability prevention, and health care issues among minorities. As president and chief executive officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, she is the first woman and first African American to hold that post. Earning a master's degree in business administration from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business in 1986, she combines up-to-date business management skills with hands-on doctoring.

Born in Seattle, Washington, in 1954, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey earned her M.D. at Harvard Medical School and completed her internship and residency at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. In 1984 she was named a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, and received her master of business administration degree in health care administration from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business in 1986. She is master and former regent of the American College of Physicians, where she chaired its committees on ethics and human rights.

Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey served as deputy administrator of the federal Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR, now the Agency for Health Care Quality) from 1992 to 1994.

Her accomplishments include innovations in caring as well as administration. In 1998, as chief of geriatric medicine and director of the Institute on Aging at the University of Pennsylvania, she made house calls as part of a model team program to care for elders in Philadelphia. "If you never see how patients are functioning in their homes, you are in many ways treating them in the dark," she argued in 1999.

When Congress commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to assess minority health care, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey was the committee's co-vice chair. Their report, "Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities," found that minorities tend to receive lower-quality health care than white patients, even when insurance status, income, age, and severity of condition are comparable.

In 2002, Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey was named president and chief executive officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a large private foundation dedicated to improving health and health care for Americans, where she had served as senior vice president and director for the Health Care Group. She is the first woman and first African American to hold this position.



Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

My greatest obstacle was convincing my middle school and high school teachers that a career as a physician was appropriate for me.

How do I make a difference?

I believe I have made a difference by working to improve the health and health care of all Americans.

Who was my mentor?

My mentors were Blanche S. Lavizzo, M.D., M.Ph., my mother, as well as Samuel P. Marhn, M.D., and John M. Eisenberg, M.D., M.B.A.

How has my career evolved over time?

I have had the opportunity to work at the highest levels of government and to serve as the president and CEO of the largest health care philanthropy in the United States.


National Library of Medicine