News Release

PHILADELPHIA – Elizabeth Howell, MD, MPP, an accomplished researcher of health inequities and a respected women’s health leader, has been named chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She will join Penn on Sept. 1, 2020, from her post as a professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She also serves as the director of the Blavatnik Family Women’s Health Research Institute at Mount Sinai, and holds additional appointments as a professor of Population Health Science and Policy, and Psychiatry.

A graduate of Harvard Medical School, Howell has served on the faculty at Mount Sinai since 1999. Her academic focus includes the study of racial and ethnic inequities in maternal and child health, postpartum depression, and maternal and infant morbidity and mortality. During her time at Mount Sinai, Howell has played an instrumental role in the department’s large body of research. 

“Dr. Howell’s research has played a crucial role in mapping strategies to reduce health care disparities, and has illuminated opportunities to improve care aimed at closing persistent gaps in maternal and infant mortality and morbidity among different racial and ethnic groups,” said J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, dean of the Perelman School of Medicine and executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania for the Health System. “She brings multifaceted talents as a leader, a researcher, and a mentor to her new post at the helm of our department of OB/GYN, a group whose work is foundational to ensuring the health of women and families across the lifespan.”

Howell succeeds Deborah Driscoll, MD, who in 2019 became vice dean for professional services in the Perelman School of Medicine and senior vice president of the Clinical Practices of the University of Pennsylvania, after serving as chair of OB-GYN for 14 years. Under her leadership, the department grew to become one of the most highly regarded OB/GYN departments in the country for research, clinical programs and teaching, and a hub for innovation in issues from pregnancy loss and family planning to premature birth and remote monitoring for new mothers.

“Penn Medicine’s department of OB/GYN has long been a renowned leader in programs and care that make a profound difference in getting new mothers and their babies the best start together,” said Kevin B. Mahoney, CEO of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. “Dr. Howell brings exceptional thought leadership that will support our faculty’s efforts to study and implement new approaches that ensure women of all ages and backgrounds have access to the same high-quality health care.”

Howell’s research, which is noted for its role in shaping national policy, is frequently published in top-tier academic medical journals like JAMA and has put a spotlight on how race and ethnicity can negatively impact the mental health of a mother and the physical health of a mother and child. She has served on committees for medical organizations like the National Institutes of Health and reviewed research for the New England Journal of Medicine, among others.

Howell received her bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Stanford University. After earning her medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1993, she received a Master’s of Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and completed her residency training at Cornell Medical Center. She also completed a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars fellowship at Yale University.

Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, excellence in patient care, and community service. The organization consists of the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Penn’s Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine, founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school.

The Perelman School of Medicine is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $550 million awarded in the 2022 fiscal year. Home to a proud history of “firsts” in medicine, Penn Medicine teams have pioneered discoveries and innovations that have shaped modern medicine, including recent breakthroughs such as CAR T cell therapy for cancer and the mRNA technology used in COVID-19 vaccines.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities stretch from the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania to the New Jersey shore. These include the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Chester County Hospital, Lancaster General Health, Penn Medicine Princeton Health, and Pennsylvania Hospital—the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.

Penn Medicine is an $11.1 billion enterprise powered by more than 49,000 talented faculty and staff.

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