Patricia ‘Polly’ Pittman Installed as Fitzhugh Mullan Professor of Health Workforce Equity

Dr. Pittman, a renowned expert in health workforce policy, co-founded the Mullan Institute with the late Fitzhugh Mullan.

From left: Provost M. Brian Blake, Patricia Pittman, President Thomas LeBlanc, Dean Lynn Goldman and Jean Johnson celebrate Dr. Pittman's installation as the inaugural Fitzhugh Mullan Professor of Health Workforce Equity. (Photos: Julia Rochelle)
March 25, 2020

Patricia “Polly” Pittman, professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, has been officially installed as the inaugural Fitzhugh Mullan Professor of Health Workforce Equity.

As a renowned expert on health workforce issues and policy, Dr. Pittman co-founded what is now known as the Fitzhugh Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity, which is a university-wide initiative to strengthen health workforce policies in the U.S. and around the world. Dr. Mullan, who committed his life toward social justice and health workforce equity, died last November.

Through this endowed professorship, Dr. Pittman plans to continue the work she started with Dr. Mullan in examining and challenging policies that impact the health care providers that all people depend on.

"Fitz used to call the health workforce an equity battleground,” Dr. Pittman said of Dr. Mullan. “What we brought to the table, and what everyone in the Mullan Institute shares, is a sense of indignation about lost opportunity to leverage the workforce to do the right thing."

The university honored Dr. Pittman during a ceremony in the Milken Institute SPH on March 12 as her family, friends and colleagues came to support her installation in a professorship that also honors Dr. Mullan. This inaugural professorship joins the seven others at Milken Institute SPH and was the result of a $3 million award from The Atlantic Philanthropies granted to the Mullan Institute in October 2019 to amplify its mission to advance and promote health equity issues on a global scale. The Atlantic Philanthropies also approved $10.1 million in additional support for the Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity and Beyond Flexner Alliance.

“Polly’s leadership of the Mullan Institute comes at a critical time as we see the impact of Covid-19 on our societies and our health workforce,” said Christopher G. Oechsli, president and CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies. “Advancing health equity through the health workforce is a necessary remedy for disparate and unequal health services and the health outcomes that ultimately affect us all.  Polly’s experience and commitment to this effort will be central to making a difference.”


Dr. Pittman spoke about her and the Mullan Institute's efforts toward a more equitable healthcare system.

Lynn Goldman, the Michael and Lori Milken Dean of Milken Institute SPH, said that while all endowed professorships are special to her, this one honoring her friend Dr. Mullan has particular personal important for her. While we have come far in the pursuit of equity, she said, we still have far to go, especially while the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic.

"During the current public health crisis, Polly's work and the work of our Fitzhugh Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity is ever more important as it shows the need to have a strong, equitable health workforce, not only in the U.S. but worldwide," Dr. Goldman said.

President Thomas LeBlanc said that public health education is an essential part of GW’s vision to become a preeminent research university that makes a positive impact on people around the globe. Health equity, he said, is a necessary part of that work.

No one was more qualified than Dr. Pittman to hold the inaugural professorship because she has shown through her leadership that the pathway to preeminence includes practitioners who make equity a priority in their work in medicine and public health, said Dr. LeBlanc.

“Every day through her work, Polly is leading the charge to build an equitable health system,” Dr. LeBlanc said. “Under Polly’s leadership, the institute bearing Fitz’s name is empowering a new generation of health care professionals who rebuild the health care landscape so that everyone may benefit.”

Jean Johnson, dean emerita and professor of nursing at the School of Nursing, said that Dr. Pittman works tirelessly for equity in the entire health workforce, especially for nurses around the world. She said that Dr. Pittman has never been afraid to ask the tough questions while advocating for the creation of an equitable and just health care system.

"The change that Polly sets out to create is not at the margins," Dr. Johnson said. "Polly sets out to create change that is at the heart of whatever problem it is that she's working out.

“It's clear to me that equity and fairness are part of her DNA."

Learning & Research


GW Announces Fitzhugh Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity

April 11, 2019

The Institute, formerly known as the GW Health Workforce Institute, will continue its work to strengthen the health workforce worldwide.