Transition of Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, PhD, as Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy

May 18, 2021

To:Perelman School of Medicine Faculty and Staff

From:J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD
Jonathan A. Epstein, MD

We are writing to share the news that following a two-year leave of absence as Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, PhD, has decided to step down from that position, in order to focus on new research and educational initiatives and his national and international leadership roles.

Since September 2011, Dr. Emanuel has been an outstanding chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy. As the Department’s founding Chair, he developed a vision that has led it to national eminence. The Department’s academic success and research impact over the past decade have established it as home to one of the top health policy programs in the nation, and its medical ethics program is widely recognized as one of the world’s best.

Under Dr. Emanuel’s leadership, the Department aligned two divisions – Medical Ethics and Health Policy. He recruited Dr. Kevin Volpp to chair the Division of Health Ppolicy and Dr. Steve Joffe from Harvard Medical School to chair Medical Ethics. In addition, he recruited prominent leaders and promising junior scholars in these fields, expanding the faculty from four members in medical ethics to more than two dozen primary and 35 affiliated faculty today. With a donation from Bill Gates, Dr. Emanuel also created and co-directs the Healthcare Transformation Institute, which focuses on developing and evaluating interventions, mainly in the area of physician payment and behavior change.

Simultaneously, Dr. Emanuel has developed and implemented many successful curricular innovations. Beginning in 2014, he spearheaded the Department’s Master’s of Health Care Innovation, an online master’s program that has informed much of the University’s online efforts, inlcuding those during the pandemic. In September, this Master’s program will matriculate its fifth class. Under his leadership, the Department also launched a prestigious post-doctoral fellowship program in bioethics that included a Master’s of Science in Medical Ethics. In addition, its Master’s in Bioethics (MBE) program remains one of the best in the country. In collaboration with four departments in the School of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Emanuel also created a minor in bioethics for undergraduates.

While launching and growing the Department, Dr. Emanuel has continued his prolific and high-impact research record. Since 2011, he has authored four books and co-edited four books. In addition, Dr. Emanuel has published over 125 articles in biomedical journals and became the world’s most cited bioethicist.

Dr. Emanuel will continue to serve as the Diane v.S. and Robert M. Levy University Professor and the Vice-Provost for Global Initiatives, two key areas of focus that are closely aligned with the research and teaching he pursued during his leave. He will also continue to teach in the Department, at Wharton, and in the College, and lead the Healthcare Transformation Institute in the Department.

Over the past year, Dr. Emanuel has been a leading voice on pandemic response. He served as a member of President Biden’s COVID-19 Transition Advisory Board, as a Senior Advisor to the Director General of the World Health Organization, and has represented Penn as a presence on numerous national media outlets, including NPR, CNN, and The New York Times. We thank him for his transformational leadership and impact as Department Chair and in these many roles.

We are also grateful to Steve Joffe, MD, MPH, who has served as Interim Department Chair during Dr. Emanuel’s leave. Dr. Joffe ensured the continuation of its excellent research and education programs during the challenging coronavirus crisis. He has agreed to extend his interim appointment as we launch a national search for Dr. Emanuel’s successor.