Debra Lerner, MS, PhD

Tufts CTSI Associate Director; Director, Organizational Impact
Tufts CTSI; Tufts Medical Center

Dr. Lerner is Associate Director of Organizational Impact for Tufts CTSI, Director and Founder of the Program on Health, Work and Productivity, Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, Tufts Medical Center, and Professor in the Departments of Medicine and Psychiatry of Tufts University School of Medicine and Tufts Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. She has dedicated her career to reducing the human and economic burden of illness and disability, and translating research results into evidence-based workplace policies and practices that enable all adults to remain productive throughout their lives. She is a national thought leader on health and work productivity improvement as well as workplace mental health. Her major accomplishments include developing the Be Well at Work program, which improves the functional performance and mental health of employees with depression, and the well-known Work Limitations Questionnaire, which is used in research and evaluation worldwide.

As an expert in workplace mental health, and employee health and work productivity she has been principal investigator on studies to develop employer and employee strategies to purchase high-value, patient-centered health care; improve workplace and community supports for family caregivers; leverage the workplace to improve employee and family mental health; and promote the labor market participation of persons with disabilities. She co-leads a large initiative for the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers, which is engaging employers to address the needs of their employee caregivers. She recently authored a widely-cited white paper, Invisible overtime: What employers need to know about caregivers (Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers, 2022).

Dr. Lerner has held several major roles in evaluation research for public, non-profit organizations, private-sector companies and academic research organizations, serving as an evaluator for the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences Committee to Review the Department of Defense’s Breast Cancer Research Program and the Board of the Health Project, which reviews corporate health and wellness programs to award the annual C. Everett Koop prize, the USDHHS Assistant Secretary’s Office for Planning and Evaluation to evaluate workplace mental health programs, and many other significant projects. Most recently for Tufts CTSI, she has organized and implemented a multi-institutional evaluation of broadly engaged team science and co-edited a book Broadly Engaged Team Science in Clinical and Translational Research (SpringerNature, 2022).

Dr. Lerner has authored more than 80 refereed publications, has been the recipient of numerous research grants and contracts, and received the prestigious Mark Dundon Research Award from the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) and President’s Award from the Institute of Health and Productivity Management (IHPM). She has consulted on employee health and productivity improvement for many organizations including the US Veterans Benefits Administration, Social Security Administration Disability Programs, the Assistant Secretary’s Office for Planning and Evaluation within the Department of Health and Human Services, One Mind, the World Economic Forum, and many private-sector health insurers and employers and government agencies.