Fulton native and University of Mississippi School of Engineering alumni, Dr. Karen Comer Matthews (BS ’85), president and CEO of Delta Health Alliance was honored with the University of Mississippi Engineer of Distinction award on Thursday (April 20) during the 2017 Honors Banquet.
This award was presented by Dean Alex Cheng at the Inn at Ole Miss.
“You have honored me today with this recognition, one in which I accept with both humility and gratitude,” Matthews said. “I truly hope that I have been true to my quest that I have created some positive forward motion in Mississippi (however slight it may be in the grand scheme of life) and, most importantly, lived a life that validates the love and respect of my family, my divine guidance and the desire to return the respect that we all have for this institution.”
Matthews serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of Delta Health Alliance, a non-profit organization that funds and operates more than fifty five health care and education initiatives throughout the Mississippi Delta. In its work to overcome health and education disparities in rural communities, Delta Health Alliance has been a leader in using information technologies to improve delivery of services, nurturing collaborations among professional disciplines and community organizations, and applying quantitative assessment and evaluation to guide the development and improvement of programs.
“Engineers, regardless of discipline, are people who contrive and derive from cleverness, and we are this little secret group of problem solvers that the rest of the world sees as nerds. But we know better,” said Matthews, a Fulton native who also earned a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Memphis, and her Ph.D. in Health Science Administration from the University of Tennessee.
Prior to joining Delta Health Alliance, Karen served as Vice Chancellor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, where she was responsible for promoting, establishing and supporting interdisciplinary and inter-organizational collaborations in the areas of research, education, and patient care. Under her direction, Tennessee Health Science Center was an early leader in establishing telemedicine networks as a way of bringing health care specialists to underserved communities. The Tennessee system ultimately grew to more than 110 sites throughout the Mid-South region and was named the third largest network in the country in 2005.
She has served as Principal Investigator on numerous state and federal contracts, authored more than fifty articles for academic journals, and written successful grant applications for more than $250 million in research support for the state of Mississippi. She is also serving as a member of the National Steering Committee of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Karen’s community and public service includes Council Member of the American Lung Association-Memphis Council, American Diabetes Association, Mississippi Children’s Justice Center Advisory Council, , Memphis Library Foundation Board, and the Tennessee Governor’s appointee as Commissioner of The Goodwyn Institute.
Currently, Matthews resides in Memphis, with her husband. They have four children. She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Comer of Fulton.