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SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

School of Public Health


photo of Florence Kavaler

Florence Kavaler, MD, MS, MPH

Professor Emeritus

Department of Health Policy and Management

Academic Qualifications:
  • MD: SUNY Downstate Medical Center
  • MS: Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
  • MPH: Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
Background and Expertise:

Dr. Florence Kavaler is a leader in public health and a pioneer in quality assurance and health risk-management. Over her long career, she has launched initiatives to improve quality and access to care; implemented programs to root our fraud in health care; and trained large numbers of health professionals who have gone on to become leaders in public health.

Dr. Kavaler received her MD degree from the SUNY Downstate College of Medicine in 1961. Her father, Samuel Kavaler, MD, was a graduate of the Class of 1922. She also holds an MS in Biostatistics, and an MPH in Administration from Columbia University.

Dr. Kavaler began her career at the New York City Department of Health as Director of the Narcotics Register Project. The Register was a key participant with Columbia University and The Rockefeller University in their basic research on methadone to treat addiction, which ultimately led to a nationwide, publicly-funded system of treatment programs for opioid addiction.

In 1968, Dr. Kavaler took on a new challenge at the Department of Health as Deputy Executive Director of the Medicaid Program. With 2.4 million enrollees, larger than the total enrollment of almost every state, management of New York City’s Medicaid Program had national implications. Dr. Kavaler focused on standards of care and quality in the program, including fraud detection. Later, as Assistant Commissioner of Health, her pursuit of quality was not limited to Medicaid; it extended to multiple sectors of the health care industry. Dr. Kavaler assisted the New York State Mooreland Act Commission that rooted out corruption in the nursing home industry.

Dr. Kavaler left the New York City Department of Health to become Study Director of the Milbank Memorial Fund Commission for the Study of Higher Education for Public Health. In 1975, she joined the United States Public Health Service as Captain and Director of the USPHS Hospital at Staten Island. She advanced to Assistant Surgeon General (two-star rear admiral), and had an illustrious career in the service.

In 1982, Dr. Kavaler became Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health in Downstate’s College of Medicine. In addition to teaching, she authored several books, including Cost Containment and DRGs, and Risk Management in Health Care Institutions: Limiting Liability and Enhancing Care.

In 2008, she was appointed Associate Dean for Research Administration in Downstate’s new School of Public Health, sequentially serving as chair of two departments: Health Policy and Management, and Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences. Dr. Kavaler formally retired from Downstate in July 2013.Dr. Florence Kavaler received an honorary Doctor of Science degree at the 2014 commencement.