Stanford Health Policy

Interdisciplinary innovation, discovery, and education to improve health policy



The mission of Stanford Health Policy is to improve health through better health policy. We accomplish our mission through innovative, interdisciplinary research and training.

Stanford Health Policy is comprised of research groups within the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) and the Stanford University School of Medicine. FSI is a university-wide research and education institution at Stanford devoted to understanding the problems, policies, and processes that cross international borders and affect lives around the world. The School of Medicine (SOM) has long been a leader in biomedical innovation, research, and health care. Our affiliation with both FSI and the SOM provides access to a wide range of researchers who span the social sciences, engineering, and medicine — from pediatrics to geriatrics, law, economics and decision science.

The research groups in Stanford Health Policy include the Center for Health Policy, which is part of FSI; the Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research (PCOR), which is a division in the Department of Medicine; the Department of Health Research and Policy; and the Center for Policy, Outcomes, and Prevention in the Department of Pediatrics.

Training Tomorrow's Leaders in Health Policy

Stanford Health Policy trains students to be the next generation of leaders in the field of health policy. We offer a Scholarly Concentration in Health Services and Policy Research for medical students, and post-doctoral fellowships focused on health services research and development, medical informatics, and geriatrics.  We also offer a Master of Science degree in Health Services Research and a PhD in Health Policy. Our core and affiliated faculty members teach a variety of courses each year on a wide range of topics, such as outcomes research, cost-effectiveness analysis, health economics, decision science, health-care systems, analytic methodology, implementation science and health law. Stanford Health Policy holds weekly Research in Progress seminars, in which SHP researchers, faculty, affiliates and invited scholars present their research.

Improving Global Health

Stanford Health Policy studies critical global health problems with the goal of understanding how policies, programs and interventions can improve health. We study the determinants of health broadly, including health care, health economics, health and governance, and health and security. Examples of topics we’ve studied include defending against bioterrorism, preventing and treating infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, and the emerging non-communicable diseases that kill an estimated 38 million people a year. We evaluate systems of health-care financing and delivery globally to help bring medical advances to the world’s poorest communities. Our research in global health includes both faculty and trainees. Students have spent their summers in India, for example, gathering empirical data on the country’s pharmaceutical networks. The Children in Crisis project, led by Dr. Paul Wise, has provided the opportunity for students to work and study in rural Guatemala.

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Domestic Health Policy

Stanford Health Policy focuses on a wide range of important challenges that arise within the U.S. health-care system, including health care costs, access to care, and quality of care. Students and faculty study the underlying challenges in these areas, from economic, clinical, and legal perspectives. They conduct analyses of efforts to improve system efficiency and performance; design measures to better track system performance; evaluate new medical treatments; and participate in the development of new policies and approaches. Our work investigates many different components of the health-care system, including health-care providers, private insurers, government programs and the developers of new innovations and treatments. The underlying mission of all of our work at Stanford Health Policy is to make a difference in the health of the American people.

Our faculty members collaborate with a broad range of government policymakers and participate in influential health-care and policy and professional organizations,  such as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Our faculty and fellows collaborate with investigators throughout the University, including the School of Medicine, the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, the Stanford Center for Population Health Sciences, the Center for Innovation in Global Health, the Stanford Institute of Economic Policy Research and the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies. They also often work with colleagues at the Clinical Excellent Research Center and the School of Engineering.

Off campus, some of our faculty and fellows work in collaboration the Center for Innovation and Implementation (Ci2i) at the Palo Alto division of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The School of Medicine has long been a leader in biomedical innovation, research and health care. Stanford Medicine is a leader in precision health and aims to predict and prevent disease before it strikes — and cure it decisively if it does.

Our Leadership 


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Douglas K. Owens, MD, Director, CHP/PCOR, Professor of Medicine

Douglas K. Owens is the Henry J. Kaiser, Jr. Professor, and Director of the Center for Health Policy (CHP) in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) and of the Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research (PCOR) in the Department of Medicine and School of Medicine at Stanford.  He is a general internist and Associate Director of the Center for Innovation to Implementation, a health services research center of excellence, at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System.  Owens is a Professor of Medicine and, by courtesy, Professor of Health Research and Policy, and Professor of Management Science and Engineering, at Stanford University; he is also a Senior Fellow at FSI. His research focuses on technology assessment, cost-effectiveness analysis, evidence synthesis, and methods for clinical decision making and guideline development.


Laurence C. Baker, PhD, Chair, Dept. of Health Research and Policy, Professor of Health Research and Policy

Laurence Baker is Professor of Health Research and Policy, Chair of the Department of Health Research and Policy, and a CHP/PCOR fellow. He is an economist interested in the organization and economic performance of the U.S. health-care system, and his research has investigated a range of topics including financial incentives in health care, competition in health-care markets, health insurance and managed care, and health-care technology adoption. Baker is a past recipient of the ASHE medal from ASHEcon and the Alice Hersch Award from AcademyHealth. He received his BA from Calvin College, and his MA and PhD in economics from Princeton University.


Kathryn M. McDonald, MM, Executive Director, CHP/PCOR, Senior Scholar

Kathryn McDonald is the executive director of CHP/PCOR and a senior scholar at the centers. She is also associate director of the Stanford-UCSF Evidence-based Practice Center (under RAND). Her work focuses on measures and interventions to achieve evidence-based patient-centered healthcare quality and patient safety. McDonald has served as a project director and principal investigator on a number of research projects at the Stanford School of Medicine, including the development and ongoing enhancement of the Quality and Patient Safety Indicators for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. 


M. Kate Bundorf, MBA, MPH, PhD, Chief, Division of Health Services Research; Associate Professor, Health Research and Policy

M. Kate Bundorf is an Associate Professor of Health Research and Policy at the Stanford University School of Medicine, an Associate Professor, by Courtesy, at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and a Stanford Health Policy Fellow.  She is also a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research.  She received her M.B.A. and M.P.H. degrees from The University of California at Berkeley and her Ph.D. from The Wharton School.  She was a Fulbright Lecturer and Visiting Professor at Fudan School of Public Health in Shanghai, China in 2009 and 2010. 


Nancy Lonhart, MA, Associate Director & Division Manager, CHP/PCOR

Nancy Lonhart provides administrative and financial leadership, guidance and oversight for the centers’ operations, including strategic planning and development, finance and research administration, human resources, and faculty and student affairs. Nancy’s interests in health care research began at Stanford Hospital and Clinics where she worked under hospital administration to develop clinical and service performance programs and to establish hospital vs. national benchmarks for patient care. She was awarded the Amy J. Blue Award in 2016 for her outstanding dedication to Stanford University.


Martha Kessler, Executive Director, Finanance and Administration, Dept. of Health Research and Policy

Martha Kessler serves as the Executive Director of Finance and Administration for the Department of Health Research and Policy, Spectrum-Translational Research Program, Population Health Sciences, Basic Science Shared Services Consortium and the Department of Structural Biology. She received the Marsh O'Neill Research Award in 2015 for participating in the perfect NIH score on the Clinical Translational Science Award. She also is the Stanford coordinator for pet assisted therapy for pet visits to de-stress students, staff and faculty events around campus.