Rear Admiral Susan Blumenthal, M.D. (born 1951) is an American physician, global health expert, psychiatrist and public health advocate. With more than two decades of service as a senior government health leader in the administrations of four U.S. presidents, Rear Admiral Blumenthal served as the first Deputy Assistant Secretary for Women’s Health and Director of the Office on Women’s Health within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as well as Assistant Surgeon General of the United States and Senior Global Health Advisor within the HHS. She also was a Research Branch Chief at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Chair of the NIH Health and Behavior Coordinating Committee. Dr. Blumenthal is currently the Senior Medical and Policy Advisor at amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, a Senior Fellow in Health Policy at New America, and a Clinical Professor at Tufts and Georgetown Schools of Medicine. Blumenthal is the Public Health Editor of the Huffington Post.
Blumenthal received a master's degree in Public Administration (MPA) from Harvard University School of Government. She completed a residency program at Stanford University School of Medicine and a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Institute of Mental Health. Blumenthal attended medical school at the University of Tennessee School of Medicine, completing clinical clerkships at Stanford University School of Medicine.
For more than two decades, Dr. Blumenthal served as a national leader and senior government health official, researcher, and policymaker in the administrations of four U.S. presidents. Dr. Blumenthal served as Assistant Surgeon General of the United States, as well as Rear Admiral and Senior Science and E-Health Advisor in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In the 1980s she played a pioneering role in exposing the inequities in women’s health care and the lack of attention to sex differences in diseases. In 1993, she was appointed and served as the country’s first Deputy Assistant Secretary for Women's Health and Director of the HHS Office on Women’s Health. In this position, she oversaw a $4 billion budget of women’s health research, services and education programs across HHS agencies including NIH, CDC and FDA and worked with other government departments and private sector organizations to improve women’s health. Admiral Blumenthal established new initiatives to advance women’s health and the study of sex differences, including the National Centers of Excellence in Women’s Health Program at major academic health centers across the country, the National Women’s Health Information Center, a resource hub available on the internet and through a toll free telephone number, and appointed regional women’s health coordinators. During this time, Dr. Blumenthal served as a White House Health Advisor. During her tenure, funding and attention to women’s health significantly increased and women's health care became a national priority.
She organized and chaired the “Healthy Women 2000” Capitol Hill Conference Series and hosted an award winning 13-part television series on women’s health issues. Admiral Blumenthal also participated as a member of the President’s Interagency Council on Women, and was the United States representative to the World Health Organization’s Global Commission on Women’s Health and to the US/Mexico Bi-national Commission on Women’s Health. She served as co-chair of the US-Canada Conference on Women’s Health and Chair of the Federal Women’s Health and the Environment Coordinating Committee. A critical focus of Dr. Blumenthal’s work has been defeating breast cancer. She established many innovative, cross-cutting Federal agency programs, including the “Missiles to Mammograms” initiative, partnering with the CIA, NASA, and U.S. Department of Defense to focus missile, space and intelligence imaging technology on the improvement of early detection of breast and other cancers. This work served as a foundation for the development of computer assisted diagnosis, 3D imaging of tumors and other advancements in the field.
Dr. Blumenthal also served as U.S. Assistant Surgeon General. Her work focused on advancing global health, addressing health disparities, improving mental health, preventing violence and suicide, and emphasizing the importance of disease prevention. Throughout her career, Dr. Blumenthal has worked to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic since it first emerged in 1981 and is currently Senior Medical Advisor at amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research. She was among the first in the government to address this disease’s impact on women. She has chaired major conferences, established research initiatives, and written articles to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS in America and worldwide. Additionally, Dr. Blumenthal has been involved in the national response to bioterrorism and in advancing health care reform efforts.
Admiral Blumenthal was a pioneer in applying information technology to improve health, establishing some of the first health internet sites in the government. Health education and mentoring of students has also been a focus of her work. She has served as the Elizabeth Blackwell Lecturer and Bundy Visiting Professor at the Mayo Clinic, the Lila Wallis Distinguished Professor of Women’s Health at Weill Cornell Medical College, as a Visiting Professor at Stanford University in Washington, as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Women’s Studies at Brandeis University, and as a Visiting Fellow at the Harvard University School of Government.
Prior to these positions, Dr. Blumenthal was Head of the Suicide Research Unit and Coordinator of Project Depression, the first major public awareness campaign on this disease at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). She served as a national spokesperson, increased scientific and public attention, and stimulated research and prevention efforts to address these public health problems. She also was a Senior Advisor to the White House Council on Youth Violence and established and served as the Director of the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center at HHS and launched its website, safeyouth.org. Dr. Blumenthal edited a book, Suicide over the Life Cycle and was the Editor of the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Suicide. In 1984, she was commissioned as a medical officer in the United States Public Health Service, rising to the rank of two-star Admiral. In 1985, Blumenthal was appointed as the Chief of the Basic Prevention and Behavioral Medicine Research Branch at NIMH. During her tenure at NIH, she worked with other colleagues and advocates to expose the inequities in women’s health research and the lack of focus on sex differences in disease.
Dr. Blumenthal was the founding Director of the Health and Medicine Program at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. She served as Chair of the Global Health Program at the Meridian International Center. Dr. Blumenthal was Co-Chair of the Commission on U.S. Federal Leadership in Health and Medicine: Charting Future Directions and also directed an initiative to promote peace through health in the Middle East.
Currently, Dr. Blumenthal is Public Health Editor at The Huffington Post, the Senior Policy and Medical Advisor at amfAR, and a Clinical Professor at Tufts and Georgetown Schools of Medicine. She is also a Senior Fellow in Health Policy at New America, where she directs the SNAP to Health initiative that promotes nutrition and obesity prevention in Federal Food Assistance Programs and explores ways to apply information technology to advance health. Additionally, Blumenthal serves on the Board of Directors of several philanthropic and educational organizations and is an Advisory Council member of the MIT Media Lab.
Dr. Blumenthal’s career spans decades of service in the public, non-profit, and academic health sectors, marked by contributions to a broad range of health policy issues, research areas, and educational and media outreach activities. She has been a national health policy leader and spokesperson in the Administrations of four U.S. Presidents. Her work has been a major force in increasing awareness, research, and funding for understudied and overlooked public health issues in the past including women’s health, HIV/AIDS, obesity, and suicide, violence and disease prevention. Dr. Blumenthal was among the first in the government to use the internet for health education, directing the establishment and launch of Federal web portals on women’s health, youth violence prevention, global health, and nutrition. She has appeared often in the media as an expert in the news, as Host and Medical Director of an award winning television series on women’s health and as a health columnist for Elle Magazine, U.S News and World Report, and the Huffington Post. Blumenthal has chaired numerous national and international committees, conferences, and commissions and written many scientific articles and edited books on health issues.
During her career, Dr. Blumenthal has made important contributions to raising the profile of women’s health issues and the study of sex differences in diseases from breast and lung cancer, to autoimmune disorders, Alzheimer’s Disease, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. She also has played a major role in increasing national public and scientific attention to mental illness and suicide prevention. She has been involved in health reform efforts. At the global level, Admiral Blumenthal has provided leadership in the global response to AIDS, bioterrorism, emergency preparedness and obesity prevention. She has established and directed global health diplomacy efforts including a Middle East Health initiative. Admiral Blumenthal has been named a top doctor by the National Library of Medicine, the New York Times, the Ladies Home Journal, and the Medical Herald.
Dr. Blumenthal has received numerous honorary doctorates and medals, and has been named a top doctor by the New York Times, Ladies Home Journal, and the Medical Herald. In 2006, Admiral Blumenthal was decorated with the Distinguished Service Medal of the United States Public Health Service, its highest honor “for distinguished and pioneering leadership, groundbreaking contributions, and dedicated public service that has improved the health of women, our Nation, and the world”. She has been awarded other medals for her contributions to advancing health, including the Meritorious Service Medal, the Outstanding Service Medal, the Surgeon General’s Exemplary Service Medal, and the Commendation Medal. In 2009, she received the Health Leader of the Year Award from the Commissioned Officers Association, its highest honor. Additionally, Admiral Blumenthal was the recipient of the Abram Sachar Silver Medallion from Brandeis University, in recognition of her pioneering leadership in women’s health. She is the recipient of the Dr. Rosalind Franklin Centennial Life in Discovery Award and the Women’s Leadership Award from Save the Children. She was honored as a Woman of Distinction by the Association of American University Women, and named a “Rock Star of Science” by the Geoffrey Beene Foundation. Dr. Blumenthal has served as the commencement speaker and received honorary degrees and doctorates from universities in the United States and around the world in recognition of her contributions to improving national and global health, and for “her innovative work in identifying and championing understudied public health problems, and marshaling the resources of the government to address them."