Every day, nurses and nurse practitioners encounter the socioeconomic and racial disparities inherent to health care systems—diseases that disproportionately impact many vulnerable populations, expensive treatments that not all patients can afford, and co-pays that can be burdensome even for the insured.

These are the kinds of challenges that Diana Bowser, the Connell School’s new associate dean for research and integrated science, has spent her career working to address.

Diana Bowser

Diana Bowser

As a leading health economist who comes to Boston College after directing the Ph.D. in Social Policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis, Bowser has worked in 23 countries, including the United States, evaluating their health systems to determine how policies impact patients and populations—and where needs go unmet. Now, as one of the first health economists to join the faculty of a U.S. school of nursing, she will work with CSON’s nurse researchers to blaze new paths toward more equitable and sustainable health care systems.

“Nurses are ideal clinical partners for studying health systems in various forms,” Bowser said. “They understand the symptoms at the bedside, and they know why patients are being readmitted, or why they aren’t taking their medication. With their clinical knowledge, we can think collaboratively about how to make solutions work for entire systems.”



Bowser started thinking about the big picture of health care in high school, when a church trip to Honduras made plain the gulf between the resources available to her in Massachusetts and the care that most Hondurans could access. “That experience sparked my interest in public health,” she said, “though I didn’t think of it in those terms until later, since programs in public health were still rare.”

She went on to earn a master’s in international public health at Yale and a doctorate in health economics from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In the two decades since, she has worked with governments on five continents and organizations ranging from the World Health Organization to the World Bank. Her economics training enables her to bring a particular, data-driven perspective to issues such as health financing, resource allocation, income inequality, and evaluation.

“If public health teaches you how to build good systems, economics can help you pinpoint why they are failing.”

—Diana Bowser, associate dean for research and integrated science 

“Most health care systems—not all, but most—are based on economic principles of supply and demand, on profits and margins,” Bowser explained. “If public health teaches you how to build good systems, economics can help you pinpoint why they are failing.”

Bowser has turned this lens onto some of today’s most urgent health challenges, including the opioid epidemic, COVID-19, and respiratory syntactical virus (RSV) cases among young children. By laying out the financial costs of treating these issues—and the often-starker costs of not treating them—her findings have informed important policy decisions, including the U.S. government and CDC’s recent decision to fund and prioritize RSV vaccinations for pregnant women.

At CSON, Bowser is excited to continue this work alongside clinicians and researchers who bring expertise across a spectrum of key clinical service areas, including preventive care.

“To solve the problems we’re facing, I think the way of the future—and the most cost-effective way—is through prevention and primary care, where nurses play a major role. By marrying population public health to clinical experience, we can have a major impact on society.”


Graphic of two runners

Outside of work, Bowser is an avid—and fast—runner. In high school, she was the Massachusetts champion in the two-mile run, and she has competed in three Olympic Marathon Trials. 

“Running has helped form who I am as an individual,” Bowser said. “As a runner, you learn to set goals and do a lot of preparation to get to the finish line. You can apply those skills in anything you do.”