Karen E. Steinhauser, PhD

Professor in Population Health Sciences
Professor in Medicine
Member of the Duke Cancer Institute
Campus mail 152 VA Med Ctr, Durham, NC 27708
Phone (919) 286-0411
Email address karen.steinhauser@duke.edu

Dr. Steinhauser's primary interests are end-of-life care, medical sociology and patient-provider relationships. Specifically, she investigates the composition and measurement of the quality of life for patients and their families at the end of life. Dr. Steinhauser is a Health Scientist with the Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care, VA Medical Center, Durham; Professor, Department of Population Health Science and Medicine; Senior Fellow with the Duke University Center for Aging; Associate Chief for Research, Duke Palliative Care, and Director, Duke Residency Professional Development Coaching Program. 

Karen E. Steinhauser, PhD is a social scientist dedicated to improving quality of life of patients, families, and providers during serious illness.  She is a Health Scientist with the Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care, VA Medical Center, Durham and Associate Research Professor, Department of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Senior Fellow with the Duke University Center for Aging, and a former VA Career Development Awardee.  She has conducted cross-sectional and longitudinal observational and interventional, and qualitative and quantitative studies in pursuit of improve understanding of factors that influence quality of life and how they may be addressed in care.  For example, Dr. Steinhauser was Project Director and Co- Investigator of an NIH five-year study, “Trajectories of Serious Illness: Patients and Caregivers,” Principal Investigator of studies to develop measures of quality of life for patients (the QUAL-E ) and families (the QUAL-E fam) in palliative care settings and Principal Investigator of a VA and NIH randomized controlled trials examining the impact of a psychosocial intervention symptoms and quality of life in patients with advanced life limiting illness among (called OUTLOOK).  She is Principal Investigator of an RCT of a caregiver version of the intervention, called Caregiver Outlook, for families of veterans with life-limiting illness.  She piloted tested a chaplains-delivered version of Caregiver Outlook to families of those with cancer and ALS. She conducts work with the VA Mental Health and Chaplaincy program focused on veteran spirituality and health and recently co-led a state of the science conference on spirituality and palliative care research.  Dr. Steinhauser is a member of the scientific review committee for the National Center for Palliative Care Research.  She is the recipient of the American Association of Hospice and Palliative Medicine’s 2015 Award for Scientific Excellence. She is the Director of Duke’s Residency Professional Development Coaching Program and Associate Director of Research for Palliative Care.

Area of expertise: Palliative Care, Qualitative Research

Education and Training

  • Ph.D., Duke University, 1996


Maddox, G. L., D. O. Clark, and K. Steinhauser. “Dynamics of functional impairment in late adulthood..” Soc Sci Med 38, no. 7 (April 1994): 925–36. https://doi.org/10.1016/0277-9536(94)90425-1.

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