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Professor of Medicine and Director of the Centre for Learning Healthcare, Duke University

Dr. Abernethy directs the Center for Learning Healthcare (CLHC) in the Duke Clinical Research Institute. She also directs the Duke Cancer Care Research Program (DCCRP), a part of the CLHC that connects to the Duke Cancer Institute. As Director of the CLHC, Dr. Abernethy spearheads the organization to develop and test practical solutions to facilitate learning health care delivery systems and evidence-based patient-centered care. The program brings together several existing programs at Duke and provides a platform for many new specialized cores, creating an innovation hub for investigators and academic entrepreneurs.

Dr. Abernethy is an internationally recognized expert in health services research and delivery in patient-centered cancer care, especially pain, symptom management and palliative care. Under her direction, the CLHC/DCCRP conducts patient-centered clinical trials, analyses, and policy studies, all of which simultaneously utilize and further the development of an integrated data system. This system coordinates diverse datasets, leverages novel information technology for patient-reporting of symptoms and other concerns, informs future studies, and facilitates patient education and patient-provider communication.

Dr. Abernethy is an appointee to the Institute of Medicine’s National Cancer Policy Forum, Co-Chair of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Palliative Care Research Cooperative Group, President-Elect of the American Academy of Hospice & Palliative Medicine, on the Board of Directors for the Personalized Medicine Coalition, on the Advisory Board for the Rapid Learning System for Cancer of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and Co-Principal Investigator of a NIH-funded faculty development (K01) program in comparative effectiveness research at Duke. Additionally, Dr. Abernethy currently participates in high-level national and international discussions about systemic reform of evidence development, presenting a model for a rapid learning cancer clinic which functions in a more evidence-driven, cost-effective, and patient-centered manner.

Clinically, Dr. Abernethy was previously responsible for the care of patients with melanoma, in conjunction with the surgeons and radiation oncologists of the Duke Melanoma Clinic. She is Principal Investigator on major international studies for metastatic melanoma, and has published in areas pertinent to the epidemiology of melanoma, longitudinal care patterns, and improving the melanoma patient experience. Dr. Abernethy also attends on Duke's palliative care service, with special focus on improving the quality of life for people with advanced cancer and their families. Dr. Abernethy completed medical training, residency, and a fellowship in hematology and oncology at Duke University.


  • –present
    Professor of Medicine and Director of the Centre for Learning Healthcare, Duke University