Profile: David Grabowski

Share this content:
David Grabowski, professor in healthcare policy, Harvard Medical School
David Grabowski, professor in healthcare policy, Harvard Medical School

David Grabowski

Professor in Health Care Policy

Harvard Medical School

David Grabowski freely admits that he's a "long-term care geek."

The professor of healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School also acknowledges that this “isn't always the sexiest topic for young health policy researchers.” Thankfully, he's in a position to influence those future generations, and the country's demographics are making the argument even easier.

In Grabowski's 20 or so years as an economics-of-aging researcher, he's seen more and more students' ears perk up at mention of the topic.

“As we see this aging baby boom generation, I don't think we can ignore this issue any longer,” he says. “We're all going to need long-term care. Our families are going to need long-term care. We're going to need more research on good models.”

Grabowski, 47, says his obsession with health policy was almost inherited at birth. Raised in Chapel Hill, NC, his mom was a registered nurse (now retired) while his dad was (and still is, as an emeritus) a professor of economics at Duke University.

He decided to study public policy and psychology for his undergrad degree at Duke. It was an internship after his junior year with the National Council of Senior Citizens, along with encouragement from a professor — to write his senior thesis about private long-term care insurance — that really fueled his interest in this field.

After earning both his master's and doctorate degrees in public policy at the University of Chicago, he taught for five years at the University of Alabama at Birmingham before making his way up to Boston in 2004, where he's taught ever since. Despite growing up in North Carolina and spending five years in Alabama, he speaks with no semblance of a Southern accent, which he attributes to the melting pot of cultures in Chapel Hill, and his parents being from Pennsylvania.

While at UAB, he met his wife of 16 years, Erin, who at the time was working in the department of health behavior at the school, but nowadays is a stay-at-home mom. Grabowski admits that he doesn't have much time for hobbies, as his four kids — Jeff, 14; Grace, 13; Kate, 11; and Emma, 5 — keep him plenty busy.

“He is quite the dad. He's completely committed and works all the time. No wasted moments,” says Vincent Mor, a friend and fellow LTC researcher at Brown University. David Stevenson, a former Harvard colleague and now a professor at Vanderbilt, calls Grabowski driven, yet a “regular guy” who's down-to-earth and easy to talk to.

When Grabowski does find a few spare moments, he enjoys running, listening to music (he caught James Taylor at Fenway Park last summer) and traveling (recently having visited Scotland and Ireland with his children, wife and parents).

He's also an avid Duke basketball fan and has attended some of their Final Four appearances.

If all that isn't enough, about a year ago, he was named a member of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.

“As a health policy/post-acute care/long-term care geek, there isn't anything better than going to a MedPAC meeting and spending a day and a half kind of getting into the weeds on these issues,” he says.

He adds that he doesn't identify with neighbors who might bemoan the fact they have to go back to work on Mondays.

“It's so much fun to get to do this, and when I talk to younger people, most directly my kids, I say find something you love, because if that's the case, you're going to have that same sort of enthusiasm for getting up every day and getting the opportunity to work on issues that you're really passionate about, issues that are really important.”

— Marty Stempniak

Resume

1993
Earns bachelor's degree in public policy and psychology from Duke University; starts as research assistant for the Office of Technology Assessment, U.S. Congress
 
1996
Earns master's degree from the University of Chicago
 
1999
Earns doctorate degree from the University of Chicago
 
1999
Hired as assistant professor, Health Care Organization and Policy, University of Alabama at Birmingham
 
2002, 2005
Most Outstanding Abstract, AcademyHealth, Annual Research Conference
 
2004
Starts career at Harvard Medical School as assistant professor, Health Care Policy
 
2004

Earns John D. Thompson Prize for Young Investigators, Association of University Programs in Health Administration
 
2006
Becomes associate professor at Harvard Medical School
 
2008

Co-chairs Building Bridges: Making a Difference in Long-Term Care initiative
 
2012
Named Harvard full professor

2017
Becomes MedPAC member