Michele Heisler, MD, MPA

Michele Heisler, MD, MPA is the medical director at Physicians for Human Rights and a professor of internal medicine and of public health at the University of Michigan. Before assuming the role of medical director, she served on PHR’s board of directors from 2010 to 2019. She has participated in multiple PHR field investigations and co-authored PHR reports since she was a medical student in the mid-1990s. Before medical training, Dr. Heisler was in charge of human rights and poverty programs in Latin America and the Caribbean as a program officer at the Ford Foundation.

Dr. Heisler’s research has applied rigorous health services research approaches to investigate and promote health equity and human rights among vulnerable populations. She has designed, evaluated, and implemented novel cross-sectoral programs that have improved health and health equity in populations experiencing health disparities. She has also applied rigorous research methods to investigate health impacts of human rights violations and advocate for remedies. An expert in the Istanbul Protocol (IP), she has conducted hundreds of IP-based medico-legal evaluations of survivors of torture and trainings for clinicians. She has authored more than 300 peer-reviewed studies in medical and public health journals in high-impact journals such as NEJM, JAMA, Annals of Internal Medicine, American Journal of Public Health, BMJ, and The Lancet ( She is an elected member of the Association of American Physicians and of the National Academy of Medicine.

Dr. Heisler received her MD degree from Harvard University and MPA degree from Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs. She completed residency training in internal medicine and health services research training as a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at the University of Michigan.

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