Professor of Medicine, Professor of Health Services, Policy and Practice


Richard W. Besdine, MD, has devoted his career to development and advancement of geriatrics through university-based and public health care policy work; he has developed and managed research, health care delivery systems and educational programs on aging at a university base, and served as a senior healthcare executive in the Federal government.  He is currently Professor of Medicine and Professor of Health Services Policy and Practice at Brown.  In the fall of 2019, he stepped down after 20 years as Director of the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine in the Department of Medicine, Chief of Geriatrics for Lifespan, and first Greer Professor of Geriatric Medicine at Alpert Medical School; and as Director of the Center for Gerontology and Healthcare Research at the Brown School of Public Health.  Dr. Besdine served as Interim Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences of Brown Medical School (2002-2005). He also serves on the Board of Directors of Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island – the State’s Medicaid plan.

His most relevant honors and awards are 1) Best Doctors in America for academic internal medicine and geriatrics 1990-2019; 2)Top Doctors in Rhode Island, Rhode Island Monthly (Geriatrics) – every year through 2019; 3) Milton Hamolsky Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding contributions to the field of Internal Medicine (American College of Physicians, RI Chapter); and 4) Beckwith Family Award for Outstanding Teaching, Department of Medicine, Alpert Medical School.

Dr. Besdine has authored more than 125 scholarly publications on aging, and edits widely in medicine.  Before coming to Brown in 2000, he was Professor of Medicine, founding Director of the UConn Center on Aging and first Travelers Professor of Geriatrics and Gerontology at the U of CT Medical School. He was also PI of a NIH Older Americans Independence Center, and oversaw studies of interventions to prolong vitality in older persons.  He began his academic career at Harvard Medical School, where he co-founded Harvard's Division on Aging and developed one of the first academic Geriatrics programs.

Dr. Besdine spent 1995-1997 in Federal service; he was first Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Health Standards and Quality Bureau for the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA, now CMS), responsible for setting standards, inspection, enforcement and improvement of health care quality for the nation’s then-70 million Medicare beneficiaries and Medicaid recipients.  

A graduate of Haverford College (cum laude) and of U of PA School of Medicine, he trained in Internal Medicine, Infectious Diseases and Immunology at Boston's Beth Israel Hospital and Harvard Medical School.  Dr. Besdine trained in Geriatrics at the University of Glasgow in 1972 with Sir Ferguson Anderson.  He is board certified in internal medicine, geriatrics and infectious disease.

Brown Affiliations

Research Areas