Photo of Karen Donelan,  Sc.D., Ed.M.

Karen Donelan, Sc.D., Ed.M.

Massachusetts General Hospital

Massachusetts General Hospital
Phone: (617) 726-0681

Karen Donelan, Sc.D., Ed.M.

Massachusetts General Hospital


  • Associate Professor, Medicine, Harvard Medical School
  • Senior Scientist, MGH Cancer Center, Massachusetts General Hospital


Research Abstract

I am a health services survey researcher with experience leading institutional, local, regional, national and international surveys on a range of health and health policy topics. I collaborate widely within the DF/HCC, MGH Cancer Center, Mongah Institute Health Policy Center and MGH Institute for Technology Assessment.

Within the DF/HCC I am best known for novel approaches to surveying diverse patients and have led scientific surveys in more than 10 languages, using complex sampling strategies and electronic data repositories to effectively reach minority and underserved populations using mixed survey modes and culturally competent research teams.

I have a special interest in new approaches to breaking down barriers to cancer screening and cancer care to enhance equal treatment. My recent work includes evaluations of telehealth, patient navigation, care plans, referral and scheduling systems, electronic order entry and other human and technology programs at the interface of patients and health professionals. I have done extensive research with the health workforce and collaborate with nurses, physicians, social workers and study the experience and scope of work in interprofessional teams.

Publications from Harvard Catalyst Profiles

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  • Jimenez RB, Johnson AE, Horick NK, Hlubocky FJ, Lei Y, Matsen CB, Mayer EL, Collyar DE, LeBlanc TW, Donelan K, Mello MM, Peppercorn JM. Do you mind if I record?: Perceptions and practice regarding patient requests to record clinic visits in oncology. Cancer 2021. PubMed
  • Lee JM, Lowry KP, Cott Chubiz JE, Swan JS, Motazedi T, Halpern EF, Tosteson ANA, Gazelle GS, Donelan K. Breast cancer risk, worry, and anxiety: Effect on patient perceptions of false-positive screening results. Breast 2020; 50:104-112. PubMed
  • Pandharipande PV, Mercaldo ND, Lietz AP, Seguin CL, Neal CD, Deville C, Parikh JR, Sadigh G, Sepulveda KA, Maturen KE, Cox J, Bansal S, Macura KJ, Donelan K. Identifying Barriers to Building a Diverse Physician Workforce: A National Survey of the ACR Membership. J Am Coll Radiol 2019. PubMed
  • Lee LK, Reisner AT, Binder WD, Zaheer A, Gunn ML, Linnau KF, Miller CM, Herring MS, Tramontano AC, Kambadakone A, Catalano OA, Harisinghani M, Halpern EF, Donelan K, Gazelle GS, Pandharipande PV. Repeat CT Performed Within One Month of CT Conducted in the Emergency Department for Abdominal Pain: A Secondary Analysis of Data From a Prospective Multicenter Study. AJR Am J Roentgenol 2018. PubMed
  • Mueller EL, Park ER, Kirchhoff AC, Kuhlthau K, Nathan PC, Perez GK, Rabin J, Hutchinson R, Oeffinger KC, Robison LL, Armstrong GT, Leisenring WM, Donelan K. Insurance, chronic health conditions, and utilization of primary and specialty outpatient services: a Childhood Cancer Survivor Study report. J Cancer Surviv 2018. PubMed
  • Carter J, Ward C, Wexler D, Donelan K. The association between patient experience factors and likelihood of 30-day readmission: a prospective cohort study. BMJ Qual Saf 2017. PubMed
  • Kirchhoff AC, Nipp R, Warner EL, Kuhlthau K, Leisenring WM, Donelan K, Rabin J, Perez GK, Oeffinger KC, Nathan PC, Robison LL, Armstrong GT, Park ER. "Job Lock" Among Long-term Survivors of Childhood Cancer: A Report From the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. JAMA Oncol 2017. PubMed
  • Park ER, Kirchhoff AC, Nipp RD, Donelan K, Leisenring WM, Armstrong GT, Kuhlthau KA. Assessing Health Insurance Coverage Characteristics and Impact on Health Care Cost, Worry, and Access: A Report From the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. JAMA Intern Med 2017. PubMed
  • Lubitz CC, De Gregorio L, Fingeret AL, Economopoulos KP, Termezawi D, Hassan M, Parangi S, Stephen AE, Halpern EF, Donelan K, Swan JS. Measurement and Variation in Estimation of Quality of Life Effects of Patients Undergoing Treatment for Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma. Thyroid 2016. PubMed
  • Pandharipande PV, Alabre CI, Coy DL, Zaheer A, Miller CM, Herring MS, Tramontano AC, Dowling EC, Eisenberg JD, Ashar BH, Halpern EF, Donelan K, Gazelle GS. Changes in Physician Decision Making after CT: A Prospective Multicenter Study in Primary Care Settings. Radiology 2016. PubMed
  • Park ER, Mutchler JE, Perez G, Goldman RE, Niles H, Haime V, Tree-McGrath CF, Yang MS, Woolridge D, Suarez J, Donelan K, Pirl WF. Coping and resiliency enhancement program (CARE): a pilot study for interpreters in cancer care. 2016. PubMed
  • Pandharipande PV, Reisner AT, Binder WD, Zaheer A, Gunn ML, Linnau KF, Miller CM, Avery LL, Herring MS, Tramontano AC, Dowling EC, Abujudeh HH, Eisenberg JD, Halpern EF, Donelan K, Gazelle GS. CT in the Emergency Department: A Real-Time Study of Changes in Physician Decision Making. Radiology 2015. PubMed
  • Kirchhoff AC, Parsons HM, Kuhlthau KA, Leisenring W, Donelan K, Warner EL, Armstrong GT, Robison LL, Oeffinger KC, Park ER. Supplemental security income and social security disability insurance coverage among long-term childhood cancer survivors. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2015; 107:djv057. PubMed
  • Park ER, Kirchhoff AC, Perez GK, Leisenring W, Weissman JS, Donelan K, Mertens AC, Reschovsky JD, Armstrong GT, Robison LL, Franklin M, Hyland KA, Diller LR, Recklitis CJ, Kuhlthau KA. Childhood Cancer Survivor Study participants' perceptions and understanding of the Affordable Care Act. J Clin Oncol 2015; 33:764-72. PubMed
  • Iezzoni LI, Barreto EA, Wint AJ, Hong CS, Donelan K. Development and preliminary testing of the health in community survey. J Health Care Poor Underserved 2015; 26:134-53. PubMed
  • DesRoches CM, Buerhaus P, Dittus RS, Donelan K. Primary Care Workforce Shortages and Career Recommendations From Practicing Clinicians. Acad Med 2014. PubMed
  • Buerhaus PI, DesRoches CM, Dittus R, Donelan K. Practice characteristics of primary care nurse practitioners and physicians. Nurs Outlook 2014. PubMed
  • Humphrey KL, Lee JM, Donelan K, Kong CY, Williams O, Itauma O, Halpern EF, Gerade BJ, Rafferty EA, Swan JS. Percutaneous breast biopsy: effect on short-term quality of life. Radiology 2014; 270:362-8. PubMed
  • Brown SD, Donelan K, Martins Y, Sayeed SA, Mitchell C, Buchmiller TL, Burmeister K, Ecker JL. Does professional orientation predict ethical sensitivities? Attitudes of paediatric and obstetric specialists toward fetuses, pregnant women and pregnancy termination. J Med Ethics 2014. PubMed
  • Swan JS, Kong CY, Lee JM, Itauma O, Halpern EF, Lee PA, Vavinskiy S, Williams O, Zoltick ES, Donelan K. Patient and societal value functions for the testing morbidities index. Med Decis Making 2013; 33:819-38. PubMed
  • DesRoches CM, Audet AM, Painter M, Donelan K. Meeting meaningful use criteria and managing patient populations: a national survey of practicing physicians. Ann Intern Med 2013; 158:791-9. PubMed
  • Pandharipande PV, Eisenberg JD, Avery LL, Gunn ML, Kang SK, Megibow AJ, Turan EA, Harvey HB, Kong CY, Dowling EC, Halpern EF, Donelan K, Gazelle GS. Journal club: How radiation exposure histories influence physician imaging decisions: a multicenter radiologist survey study. AJR Am J Roentgenol 2013; 200:1275-83. PubMed
  • Donelan K, DesRoches CM, Dittus RS, Buerhaus P. Perspectives of physicians and nurse practitioners on primary care practice. N Engl J Med 2013; 368:1898-906. PubMed
  • Vassy JL, Donelan K, Hivert MF, Green RC, Grant RW. Genetic susceptibility testing for chronic disease and intention for behavior change in healthy young adults. J Community Genet 2013; 4:263-71. PubMed
  • Brown SD, Donelan K, Martins Y, Burmeister K, Buchmiller TL, Sayeed SA, Mitchell C, Ecker JL. Differing attitudes toward fetal care by pediatric and maternal-fetal medicine specialists. Pediatrics 2012. PubMed
  • Gupta S, Vij A, Cafiero E, Bloom D, Agarwal S, Donelan K, Kopans D, Saini S. Retail venue based screening mammography: assessment of women's preferences. Acad Radiol 2012; 19:1268-72. PubMed
  • Park ER, Kirchhoff AC, Zallen JP, Weissman JS, Pajolek H, Mertens AC, Armstrong GT, Robison LL, Donelan K, Recklitis CJ, Diller LR, Kuhlthau KA. Childhood Cancer Survivor Study participants' perceptions and knowledge of health insurance coverage: implications for the Affordable Care Act. J Cancer Surviv 2012; 6:251-9. PubMed
  • Zuckerman KE, Perrin JM, Hobrecker K, Donelan K. Barriers to Specialty Care and Specialty Referral Completion in the Community Health Center Setting. J Pediatr 2012. PubMed
  • Zuckerman KE, Cai X, Perrin JM, Donelan K. Incomplete Specialty Referral among Children in Community Health Centers. J Pediatr 2010. PubMed
  • Ho W, Broughton DE, Donelan K, Gazelle GS, Hur C. Analysis of barriers to and patients' preferences for CT colonography for colorectal cancer screening in a nonadherent urban population. AJR Am J Roentgenol 2010; 195:393-7. PubMed
  • Donelan K, Mailhot JR, Dutwin D, Barnicle K, Oo SA, Hobrecker K, Percac-Lima S, Chabner BA. Patient Perspectives of Clinical Care and Patient Navigation in Follow-up of Abnormal Mammography. J Gen Intern Med 2010. PubMed
  • Donelan K,Hobrecker K,Schapira L,Mailhot JR,Goulart BH,Chabner BA. Medical interpreter knowledge of cancer and cancer clinical trials. Cancer 2009; 115:3283-92. PubMed
  • Jha AK, DesRoches CM, Campbell EG, Donelan K, Rao SR, Ferris TG, Shields A, Rosenbaum S, Blumenthal D. Use of electronic health records in U.S. hospitals. N Engl J Med 2009; 360:1628-38. PubMed
  • DesRoches CM,Campbell EG,Rao SR,Donelan K,Ferris TG,Jha A,Kaushal R,Levy DE,Rosenbaum S,Shields AE,Blumenthal D. Electronic health records in ambulatory care--a national survey of physicians. N Engl J Med 2008; 359:50-60. PubMed
  • Cashavelly BJ, Donelan K, Binda KD, Mailhot JR, Clair-Hayes KA, Maramaldi P. The forgotten team member: meeting the needs of oncology support staff. Oncologist 2008; 13:530-8. PubMed
  • Donelan K. Time to heal? Medscape J Med 2008; 10:3. PubMed
  • Donelan K. Navigating in the sea of healthcare. Medscape J Med 2008; 10:40. PubMed
  • Pirl WF, Muriel A, Hwang V, Kornblith A, Greer J, Donelan K, Greenberg DB, Temel J, Schapira L. Screening for psychosocial distress: a national survey of oncologists. J Support Oncol 2007; 5:499-504. PubMed
  • Buerhaus PI, Donelan K, Ulrich BT, Norman L, DesRoches C, Dittus R. Impact of the nurse shortage on hospital patient care: comparative perspectives. Health Aff (Millwood) 2007; 26:853-62. PubMed
  • Ulrich BT, Buerhaus PI, Donelan K, Norman L, Dittus R. Magnet status and registered nurse views of the work environment and nursing as a career. J Nurs Adm 2007; 37:212-20. PubMed
  • Buerhaus PI, Donelan K, Ulrich BT, DesRoches C, Dittus R. Trends in the experiences of hospital-employed registered nurses: results from three national surveys. Nurs Econ 2007; 25:69-79, 55; quiz 80. PubMed
  • Jha AK, Ferris TG, Donelan K, DesRoches C, Shields A, Rosenbaum S, Blumenthal D. How common are electronic health records in the United States? A summary of the evidence. Health Aff (Millwood) 2006; 25:w496-507. PubMed
  • Jagsi R, DeLaney TF, Donelan K, Tarbell NJ. Real-time rationing of scarce resources: the Northeast Proton Therapy Center experience. J Clin Oncol 2004; 22:2246-50. PubMed
  • Donelan K, Hill CA, Hoffman C, Scoles K, Feldman PH, Levine C, Gould D. Challenged to care: informal caregivers in a changing health system. Health Aff (Millwood) 2002; 21:222-31. PubMed
  • Navaie-Waliser M, Feldman PH, Gould DA, Levine C, Kuerbis AN, Donelan K. When the caregiver needs care: the plight of vulnerable caregivers. Am J Public Health 2002; 92:409-13. PubMed
  • Park ER, Sylvia LG, Streck JM, Luberto CM, Stanton AM, Perez GK, Baim M, Bliss CC, Convery MS, Crute S, Denninger JW, Donelan K, Dossett ML, Fava M, Fredriksson S, Fricchione G, George N, Hall DL, Hart BR, Herman J, Hirschberg A, Holt D, Looby SE, Malloy L, Meek J, Mehta DH, Millstein RA, Mizrach H, Rosa K, Slawsby E, Stupinski AC, Traeger L, Vanderkruik R, Vogeli C, Wilhelm S. Launching a resiliency group program to assist frontline clinicians in meeting the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic: Results of a hospital-based systems trial. Gen Hosp Psychiatry ; 68:111-112. PubMed
  • Ulrich BT, Buerhaus PI, Donelan K, Norman L, Dittus R. Magnet status and registered nurse views of the work environment and nursing as a career. J Nurs Adm ; 39:S54-62. PubMed
  • Swan JS, Hur C, Lee P, Motazedi T, Donelan K. Responsiveness of the testing morbidities index in colonoscopy. Value Health ; 16:1046-53. PubMed
  • Zuckerman KE, Nelson K, Bryant TK, Hobrecker K, Perrin JM, Donelan K. Specialty referral communication and completion in the community health center setting. Acad Pediatr ; 11:288-96. PubMed