Photo of Ellen McCarthy, PhD at the Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research in Boston, MA

Ellen P. McCarthy, PhD, MPH

  • Associate Scientist
  • Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
  • Associate Professor, Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Faculty

Dr. McCarthy is an associate scientist in palliative care at the Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and epidemiology at the T.H. Chan Harvard School of Public Health. She is also the executive director of the NIA U54 Imbedded Pragmatic AD/ADRD Clinical Trials (IMPACT) Collaboratory. In this role, she has led the design and integration of scientific and operational components for new research and career development funding mechanisms, investigator navigation, and faculty training initiatives.

For over 25 years Dr. McCarthy has led research aimed at improving care of older patients with advanced illness. Her research focuses on reducing disparities in end-of-life care among underserved, older populations. Dr. McCarthy collaborates widely, providing critical methodological expertise on studies examining health care delivery in these populations. She has extensive experience using large administrative and clinical databases including Medicare and Medicare-linked databases to address questions related to health outcomes in older adults. She was the co-site PI for ARCH network (Accessible Research Commons for Health, a PCORnet hub) at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and led the linkage for BIDMC electronic health records (EHR) with Medicare data. Her current work through IMPACT also focuses on validating algorithms to identify people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. She has also developed and validated claims-based algorithms using Medicare claims to identify medical and surgical complications of care and screening mammography.

Dr. McCarthy also directs two courses at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health that are designed to bridge students’ coursework in epidemiological methods and biostatistics by providing practical experience manipulating and analyzing large databases and complex surveys. She is on the Practicum Committee for the MPH in Epidemiology Program and involved in advising students.

From 2012-2016, Dr. McCarthy served as Assistant Dean for Development and Diversity at Harvard Medical School where she led strategic planning and implementation of faculty development programs. She has also been on the faculty of several Harvard fellowship programs and mentored many successful investigators in aging research. Dr. McCarthy was the recipient of the 2008 Young Mentor Award and 2012 A. Clifford Barger Award for Excellence in Mentoring at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. McCarthy’s key research focus on: 

  • Palliative care
  • Advanced dementia
  • Health disparities
  • Medicare data
  • Health services research
2008Young Mentor Award
Harvard Medical School
2012A. Clifford Barger Award for Excellence in Mentoring 
Harvard Medical School

Dr. McCarthy also serves on the Faculty of:

  • Department of Surgery, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
  • Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center


Research Areas

Learn more about the areas of research where Dr. McCarthy focuses.

A researcher at the Marcus Institute for Aging Research in Boston, MA studies MRI images of a human brain.

Brain Health

Through pioneering multidisciplinary research, the Marcus Institute is uncovering new answers to the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, delirium, and other changes to the brain.

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A scene of a hospital floor at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Boston, MA, with a nurse standing and working on a computer in the background and a blood pressure monitor in the foreground.

Health Care Services and Policy

The Marcus Institute seeks to effect change in policies that impact the care of older adults by identifying age-related conditions that have an outsized impact on health care utilization and costs, while developing interventions that mitigate the issues.

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A close-up shot at two hands holding a syringe that is inserted in a vial of medication.


Marcus Institute researchers are examining the relationship between medicine and adverse health outcomes such as falls, injuries, and treatment side effects among older people.

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A research subject at the Marcus Institute for Aging Research stands on a measuring platform with a computer read-out reflected on the wall behind.

Physical Health and Function

Through the Marcus Institute’s research we are learning how older adults can maintain independence and quality of life.

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Current Projects

View Dr. McCarthy's current projects. 

Assessment of Disparities and Variations for Alzheimer’s Disease in Nursing Home Care at End of Life (ADVANCE)

This research aims to conduct a comprehensive qualitative study to better understand the variations in intensity of care provided to residents with advanced dementia.

NIH R01AG058539

Principal Investigator

NIA AD/ADRD Health Care Systems Research Collaboratory (IMPACT)

The NIA AD/ADRD Collaboratory will provide the national infrastructure necessary to catalyze and support embedded pragmatic clinical trials of non-pharmacological interventions for persons with dementia. By convening national experts to provide consultation and guidance to Collaboratory-funded pilot projects and NIA-funded trials, the Collaboratory has the potential to transform care delivery, quality, and outcomes for millions of Americans suffering with AD/ADRD.

Principal Investigator