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Karen Freund, MD, MPH Named Physician-In-Chief

January 25, 2021

Internationally esteemed clinician and health equity researcher, Karen Freund, MD, MPH has been named Physician-in-Chief and Chair of the Department of Medicine at Tufts Medical Center, effective February 1. She will also assume the role of Chair of the Department of Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, both effective February 1.

“Dr. Freund is an exceptional physician leader and renowned researcher, advisor and mentor,” said Michael Tarnoff, MD, FACS, Interim President and CEO of Tufts Medical Center and Tufts Medical Center. “She possesses deep institutional knowledge and critical understanding of the healthcare system as a whole, and is the ideal leader to guide the Department of Medicine moving forward.”

Continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for more than 30 years with over 180 publications, Dr. Freund’s research is focused on equity, following the trajectory of women in medicine and the health needs of underserved women. She and her colleagues conducted the only national longitudinal study of medical school faculty to understand the predictors of career development. The results of the 17-year study demonstrated that women continue to lag behind men in career advancement and leadership, even when accounting for their academic achievements. Importantly, the research also points to solutions that can promote the career advancement of women and underrepresented minority faculty.

“I am deeply committed to addressing all types of inequities, and I’m excited to continue this work as Physician-in-Chief,” said Dr. Freund who is also the Sara Murray Jordan Professor of Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. “I’m confident that our ongoing research, innovation and education will provide the groundwork to accelerate changes that benefit all patients, especially those who are most under-resourced.”

Using breast cancer as a disease model with significant health disparities, Dr. Freund has developed interventions that are now part of standard practice. She is currently a principal investigator of an NIH-funded grant focused on the elimination of breast cancer disparities across the city of Boston through the development of a city-wide collaboration to address social determinants of health. Central to the success of the collaboration is Dr. Freund’s innovative research showing that effective patient navigation can decrease delays, improve quality of care and reduce cancer disparities. Dr. Freund received the Clinical Research Professor Award from the American Cancer Society for this groundbreaking work.

“I am delighted that Dr. Freund will bring her innovative approaches to research in health disparities and in clinical and research mentorship to lead our Department of Medicine as the consummate clinician, researcher and educator,” said John Wong, MD, Interim Chief Scientific Officer, Tufts Medical Center and Tufts Medical Center.

Widely recognized for outstanding leadership and mentorship, Dr. Freund leads two NIH–funded career development award programs at Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute. She has been the recipient of the Milton O. and Natalie V. Zucker Prize for research at Tufts University School of Medicine, the BJ Magnani Leadership Award from the Tufts MC Physicians Organization and the Distinguished Professor in Women’s Health award given by the Society of General Internal Medicine. She serves on the editorial boards of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, the Journal of Cancer Survivorship, Women’s Health Issues, The Journal of Women’s Health and Women’s Health Reports.

Dr. Freund joined Tufts MC and the faculty of Tufts University School of Medicine in 2012. Trained as a primary care physician, she continues to see her own panel of patients, while also serving as Vice Chair of Medicine for Quality Improvement and Faculty Affairs at Tufts MC where she oversees a number patient safety and quality improvement programs. Additionally, she served for nine months as Interim Chair of Medicine at Tufts Medical Center. She now succeeds Deeb Salem, MD who is stepping down after more than 20 years as Physician-in-Chief to become the Wellforce Senior Vice President for Academic Integration. Dr. Freund, Dr. Salem and their predecessor, Dr. Sheldon Wolff all share the experience of having been first-generation college and medical students.

“I have had the good fortune to work closely with Dr. Salem for the past five years. In addition to being a great Chair of Medicine, he has been a wonderful mentor. I am so grateful to be entering this role well prepared with all the guidance and support I have received from him,” said Dr. Freund.

After earning her medical degree from Stanford University School of Medicine, Dr. Freund completed her Internship, Residency and Chief Residency at the Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance (formerly Cambridge City Hospital). She holds a Master of Public Health from Boston University School of Public Health and completed a Preventive Medicine Residency and General Internal Medicine Fellowship at Boston Medical Center and Boston University. Dr. Freund lives in Cambridge with her husband. They are the proud parents of three children, including a medical student, a law student and a software engineer developing COVID-19 prediction models.

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