Medical Decision Making

The University of Pennsylvania has an extensive program in medical decision making involving faculty and students from the School of Medicine, the Wharton School, and other Schools and Centers around the campus. Faculty strength is broad, deep, and interdisciplinary. As evidence of this, many faculty have joint appointments across schools.

One area of interest centers on normative studies of medical decision making, including decision analysis, cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis, and health economics. Another area of interest centers on descriptive studies of judgment and decision processes--specifically, how patients, physicians, and other health care providers make medical decisions under conditions of risk.

Ongoing projects include studies of the appropriate allocation of transplantable organs and other scare resources; the decisions made near the end of life; clinician-patient communication and informed consent; and the financing, delivery, and organization of health care systems. Investigators with these interests benefit from affiliation with several nationally renowned university centers, including the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, the Center for Bioethics, the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and the Center for Risk and Decision Processes.

A particular strength of the program in medical decision making is its emphasis on post-doctoral training. A variety of post-doctoral fellowship programs are available, largely supported through the affiliated Veterans Affairs Medical Center located on campus. These programs include:

Post-Doctoral Program in Health Services Research. This program supports one to two-year post-doctoral fellowships for U.S. citizens who have completed their Ph.D. in economics, psychology, sociology, or a related field. The goal of the program is to help these individuals develop expertise in health services research. While most of the post-doctoral trainees in this program concentrate on medical decision processes, some have used the time to develop skills and expertise in clinical economics or medical sociology. Contact Martha Trudeau (

Fellowships in General Internal Medicine. These programs support one to two-year fellowships for physicians who have completed residency training in internal medicine and plan careers in academic internal medicine. Many fellows use the program to develop skills in medical decision making, medical ethics, health care management, or medical education. Contact Ms. Beryl Miller (215) 662-3797.

Maintained by Jon Baron

Last modified 09/16/09