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Thomas R Oliver, PhD, MHA

Research Area: Health policy, Health services research, Public health systems , Social and behavioral health sciences
Keywords: State health policy, Public health policy, Policy entrepreneurship, Philanthropy , Medicare, Health systems, Health politics, Health care reform

Professor of Population Health Sciences
Director, UW Master of Public Health Program



Thomas R. Oliver is Professor of Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. He serves as director of the UW Master of Public Health program and the Wisconsin Center for Public Health Education and Training and is a faculty affiliate with the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs. Professor Oliver graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology. He received a master’s degree in health administration from Duke University and received master’s and doctoral degrees in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Pew Health Policy Program at the University of California, San Francisco. Before coming to Wisconsin, he taught at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University. Professor Oliver's research examines critical issues in health policy, politics, and system reform. His current work includes studies of state and national health care reforms; the use of county health rankings and multi-sector partnerships to stimulate and guide population health improvement; strategies used by foundations to influence health policy; and comparative analysis of health policies in the US and European Union.


  • American Political Science Association
  • American Public Health Association
  • Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management
  • AcademyHealth

Select Publications:

Mayes R, and Oliver TR. 2012. “Chronic Disease and the Shifting Focus of Public Health: Is Prevention Still a Political Lightweight?” Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 37 (April): 181-200.

Oliver TR. 2011. “Medicare.” In Paul J. Quirk and William Cunion, eds. Governing America: Major Decisions of Federal, State, and Local Governments from 1789 to the Present. New York: Facts on File, pp. 651-61.

Oliver TR. 2011. “Health Care Reform as a Halfway Technology.” Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 36 (June): 603-9.

Trubek LC, Oliver TR, Liang C-M , Mokrohisky M, and Campbell T. 2011. “Improving Cancer Outcomes through Strong Networks and Regulatory Frameworks: Lessons from the United States and the European Union.” Journal of Health Care Law and Policy 14 (1): 119-51.

Woulfe J, Oliver TR, Zahner SJ, and Siemering KQ. 2010. “The Role of Multi-sector Partnerships in Population Health Improvement: Expectations and Evidence.” Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health Research, Practice, and Policy 7 (6), November 2010.

Oliver TR. 2010. “Population Health Rankings as Policy Indicators and Performance Measures.” Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health Research, Practice, and Policy 7 (5).

Oliver TR, and Lee PR. 2009. “The Medicare Modernization Act: Evolution or Revolution in Policy Development?” In Leah Rogne, Carroll L. Estes, Brian R. Grossman, Brooke A. Hollister, and Erica Solway. Social Insurance and Social Justice: Social Security, Medicare, and the Campaign Against Entitlements. New York: Springer Publishers, pp. 63-93.

Oliver TR, and Gerson J. 2009. “The Role of Foundations in Shaping Health Policy: Lessons from Efforts to Expand and Preserve Health Insurance Coverage.” In James Ferris, ed. Foundations and Public Policy: Leveraging Philanthropic Dollars, Knowledge, and Networks for Greater Impact. New York: The Foundation Center, pp. 119-70.

Rutkow L, Maggy B, Zablotsky J, and Oliver TR. 2007. “Balancing Consumer and Industry Interests in Public Health: The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and Its Influence During the Last Two Decades.” Penn State Law Review 111: 681-738.

Oliver TR, and Singer RF. 2006. “Health Services Research as a Source of Legislative Analysis and Input: The California Health Benefits Review Program.” Health Services Research 41 (June): 1124-58.

Oliver TR. 2006. “The Politics of Public Health Policy.” Annual Review of Public Health 27: 195-233.

Oliver TR. 2004. “Policy Entrepreneurship in the Social Transformation of American Medicine: The Rise of Managed Care and Managed Competition.” Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 29 (August-October): 701-33.

Oliver TR, Lee PR, and Lipton HL. 2004. “A Political History of Medicare and Prescription Drug Coverage.” Milbank Quarterly 82 (June): 283-354.

Dubay L, Moylan C, and Oliver TR. 2004. “Advancing Toward Universal Coverage: Are States Able to Take the Lead?” Journal of Health Care Law and Policy 7 (1): 1-41.

Oliver TR. 2001. “State Health Politics and Policy: Rhetoric, Reality, and the Challenges Ahead.” In Robert B. Hackey and David A. Rochefort, eds. The New Politics of State Health Policy. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, pp. 273-91.

Shi L, Oliver TR, and Huang V. 2000. “The State Children’s Health Insurance Program: Expanding the Framework for Evaluating State Goals and Performance.” Milbank Quarterly 78 (3): 403-46.

Oliver TR. 1999. “The Dilemmas of Incrementalism: Logical and Political Constraints in the Design of Health Insurance Reforms.” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 18 (Fall): 652-83.

Oliver TR. 1998. “The Collision of Economics and Politics in Medicaid Managed Care: Reflections on the Course of Reform in Maryland.” Milbank Quarterly 76 (1): 59-101.

Oliver TR, and Pamela Paul-Shaheen. 1997. “Translating Ideas into Actions: Entrepreneurial Leadership in State Health Care Reforms.” Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 22 (June): 721-88.

Oliver TR. 1996. “Conceptualizing the Challenges of Public Entrepreneurship.” In Chris E. Stout, ed. The Integration of Psychological Principles in Policy Development. Westport, CT: Praeger, pp. 5-31.

Oliver TR, and Emery B. Dowell. 1994. “Interest Groups and Health Reform: Lessons from California.” Health Affairs 13 (Spring II): 123-41.

Oliver TR. 1993. “Analysis, Advice, and Congressional Leadership: The Physician Payment Review Commission and the Politics of Medicare.” Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 18 (Spring): 113-74.

Oliver TR. 1991. “Ideas, Entrepreneurship, and the Politics of Health Care Reform.” Stanford Law & Policy Review 3 (Fall): 160-80.

Oliver TR. 1991. “Health Care Market Reform in Congress: The Uncertain Path from Proposal to Policy.” Political Science Quarterly 106 (Fall): 453-77.

Courses Taught:

  • PHS 785 Health Systems, Management, and Policy (course director)
  • PHS 810-915 International Health Systems and Policy
  • PHS 717 Population Medicine and Epidemiology (co-instructor)

Research Weblinks:

Contact Information:

610 Walnut Street
Room 760c, WARF Building
Madison, WI 53726

Phone: 608-262-6731
Fax: 608-262-6404


Updated On: 
Wed, 05/18/2011