Skip Navigation Celebrating America's Women Physicians
Changing the face of Medicine Home Physicians
Resources Activities



Dr. LindaRosenstock

Year of Birth / Death

b. 1950

Medical School

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine



Career Path

Administration: Medical school deans
Administration: Government
Internal medicine: Occupational
Dr. LindaRosenstock


I basically stumbled into it; but at the core medicine was a commitment to work in a field where I could help effect social change. I knew that through medicine, I could work to improve the disparities in health and the social inequities rampant in our society.


As a new graduate with degrees in both medicine and public health, Linda Rosenstock, M.D., chose public health over clinical practice to reach as many people as she could. In her academic and public service careers, Dr. Rosenstock has shaped health care policy and delivery for literally millions of Americans, saying simply "...who wouldn't want to improve health for thousands or millions at a time?"

Linda Rosenstock was born in New York City in 1950. Following her undergraduate work in psychology at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, she studied medicine and public health simultaneously at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1977 she received degrees in both medicine and public health, then headed west for post-graduate training at the University of Washington, completing her residency in 1980. In Seattle she served as chief resident in primary care internal medicine and was a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar from 1980 to 1982. Dr. Rosenstock became a member of the faculty at the University of Washington after her residency, and in 1993 she earned the rank of full professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Washington, and professor in the Department of Environmental Health in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine. During this time she also conducted research and published extensively in both medicine and public health.

In 1994 Dr. Rosenstock was named director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in Washington, D.C. She led a staff of 1,500 at the only federal agency with a mandate to undertake research and prevention activities in occupational safety and health. Just six months after entering the position, Congress made an attempt to aggressively dismantle NIOSH. By the end of her tenure in 2000, Dr. Rosenstock had expanded the NIOSH considerably. At NIOSH Dr. Rosenstock's major accomplishment in public health policy was the creation of the National Occupational Research Agenda. She led a team of more than 500 external partners to develop a framework for guiding occupational safety and health research. For these efforts, in 2000 Dr. Rosenstock received the Presidential Distinguished Executive Rank Award, the government's highest executive service award.

Since 2000 Dr. Rosenstock has been dean of the University of California, Los Angeles School of Public Health. In this position she oversees 180 faculty, more than 200 staff members and 600 students; she also serves as associate dean of the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine and professor in both the departments of medicine and environmental health sciences.

Internationally, Dr. Rosenstock has been active in teaching and research in occupational health. She has served as an advisor to the World Health Organization, taught in many developing countries, and conducted health studies in Latin America. A member of the Institute of Medicine and an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Dr. Rosenstock serves on the editorial boards of close to a dozen national and international journals devoted to occupational, environmental, and public health, and has published three books on occupational and environmental medicine.

Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

After only six months on the job as the director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, following the November 2000 elections, Congress aggressively tried to dismantle NIOSH—the only agency with a federal mandate to conduct research and prevention activities in occupational safety and health. It was clear that to survive, NIOSH needed to make its contributions visible and reach out to old and new stakeholders. Weathering this storm positioned me well for success at NIOSH, including creating the National Occupational Research Agenda (a framework for guiding occupational safety and health research, which was developed in collaboration with 500 external partners), and doubling the Institute's annual appropriations.

How do I make a difference?

I continue to work for those who often don't have a voice in decisions that have an impact on their health. For a large portion of my career, that was workers. Now I'm focusing more broadly on the underserved, including the uninsured and underinsured. Since I received my M.P.H. while in medical school, I have always taken the broad population-based approach to dealing with health. Satisfying as it has been to make a difference in individual patients' lives, who wouldn't want to improve health thousands or millions at a time?

Who was my mentor?

There are many, from my grandmother who taught me to think I could do anything as a woman, to my first medical school advisor, Dr. Barbara Starfield, to my mentor in medical and post-doctoral training, Dr. Jim LoGerfo, to one of the most dynamic bosses a person could have, former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala.

How has my career evolved over time?

Although often by serendipity, there is a theme of commitment to the focus of my work (e.g. patients, workers, and the community) coupled with my enjoyment of management and leadership roles. I made the difficult decision to move from caring for patients (a job I loved), to working to effect change on a national and international level. Because of the demands of both career paths, it is very difficult to do both successfully. In this phase of my career, I am working to shape and implement policies that will improve health for all including shaping the future of the public health workforce.