December 1, 2022

Health Policy Chair Buntin transitioning to create Center for Health Systems and Policy Modeling at Johns Hopkins

Vanderbilt’s Melinda Buntin, PhD, has been offered a Bloomberg Distinguished Professorship at Johns Hopkins University.

Melinda Buntin, PhD

by Jill Clendening

Melinda Buntin, PhD, Mike Curb Professor and chair of the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, is leaving June 30, 2023, to create a Center for Health Systems and Policy Modeling at Johns Hopkins University.

Buntin, who joined VUMC in 2013 as the founding chair of the Department of Health Policy, will relocate with her family to the Washington, D.C., area, where she will create the Center at a new university facility, set to open in fall 2023 at 555 Pennsylvania Ave., NW.

Through the Center, Buntin plans to focus on building health policy models related to health care supply and delivery to assist decision makers.

Her work at VUMC has focused on health care delivery and costs, with an emphasis on improving the value created by the health care system. She has co-led the Vanderbilt Policies for Action Research Hub which conducts investigations on ways to improve the health and education outcomes of low-income children.

In March 2018, Buntin was appointed the Mike Curb Professor of Health Policy. In 2022, she was named a University Distinguished Professor, Vanderbilt University’s highest faculty distinction.

“As the department’s founding chair, Dr. Buntin has placed Vanderbilt firmly on the national stage, recruiting and mentoring a number of distinguished faculty who are generating important scholarship that impacts not only the national discourse, but key policy decisions within the U.S. health system,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer for VUMC and Dean of Vanderbilt School of Medicine. “I want to express my deep appreciation for her many accomplishments and wish her the very best in this exciting new leadership opportunity.”

Under Buntin’s leadership, the Department of Health Policy has steadily added faculty members with multidisciplinary expertise, research initiatives and educational programs. The department now has 22 faculty members; 16 faculty members were hired by Buntin over the past nine years.

“Dr. Buntin’s time as chair of the Department of Health Policy has been remarkable. She was selected as the founding chair to build and establish a world-class setting for health policy research in a leading academic medical center, and she has succeeded beyond all measure,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, Chief Scientific and Strategy Officer for VUMC. “Through her recruitment of expert and talented faculty to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, she has led the department to a prominent national position, which is a testament to her vision, passion, and unwavering commitment to research that catalyzes and sustains improvements in health and health care.”

Of note, the department created a Health Policy track in Vanderbilt University’s Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program in 2015. In 2019, the department established a Health Policy PhD program to prepare individuals for careers in top academic, private sector and governmental settings. Buntin called the doctoral program’s launch the “final piece of a plan” to create a top-ranked health policy department.

“The job of a department chair is never done because you always have new people to recruit and mentor, educational programs to improve and research topics to pursue, but I could not be any prouder of where the Department of Health Policy is right now,” Buntin said. “In less than a decade, the department is a nationally recognized, full-fledged department. And that’s a testament to the hard work of a whole lot of talented people.”

Buntin also praised the efforts of Department of Health Policy members who quickly stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic to support the decision-making of public health officials and policymakers. An example is the COVID-19 Advisory Memos which were created for policymakers and fully accessible to media and the public through the department’s website beginning in March 2020.

“Our department was in a uniquely strong position to be of use to the Medical Center, the University, the city and the state during the pandemic,” she said. “We could offer deep expertise and help on all levels, and it was so gratifying to see how our people really jumped in to do just that.”

Buntin is the founding deputy editor of JAMA Health Forum, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of the American Medical Association focused on health policy and strategies affecting medicine, health and health care. Just one year after its creation as an online information channel, JAMA Health Forum became a full-fledged journal in January 2021, and it is now indexed in the National Library of Medicine bibliographic database MEDLINE and PubMed (a free online research resource).

Buntin is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and of the National Academy of Social Insurance. She also serves on the National Advisory Committee of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Board of the Harvard Medical Faculty Practice. In Nashville, she serves on the executive committee of the Board of the Centennial Park Conservancy.

Buntin has a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a PhD in health policy with a concentration in economics from Harvard.