Katherine McDonald

Associate Dean of Research
Professor of Public Health
Faculty Fellow, Burton Blatt Institute

Dr. Katherine (Katie) McDonald is a Professor of Public Health in the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics and a Faculty Fellow at the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University. Dr. McDonald received her B.S. with Distinction in Human Development and Family Studies with a minor in French from Cornell University and her Ph.D. in Community and Prevention Research Psychology with a minor in Statistics, Methods and Measurements from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Dr. McDonald is a Fellow of the AAIDD, Chair of Syracuse University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), and a Deputy Editor for Autism in Adulthood. Dr. McDonald previously lived in community with individuals with and without intellectual disability.


Ph.D. Community and Prevention Research Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL

M.A. Community and Prevention Research Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL

B.S. with Distinction, Human Development, Family Studies & French Studies, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY


Disability; health disparities; community-engaged research; ethical, legal, and social issues in research.

Research Projects

Dr. McDonald uses socioecological theory and action research to understand and promote the inclusion of individuals with disabilities. Her current research encompasses two core areas of inquiry:

Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues in Research with Adults with Intellectual Disability

Despite the urgent need for new knowledge to reduce the significant health disparities experienced by adults with intellectual disability, ethical, legal, and social dynamics present barriers to their inclusion in research. Dr. McDonald conducts mixed methods, community-engaged research with the goal of promoting the inclusion of adults with intellectual disability in research, and ultimately fostering advances to promote their health and well-being.

Community-Engaged Disability Disparities

People with disabilities experience disparities in social determinants of health, access to health services, and health outcomes. Dr. McDonald conducts collaborative research with community-based organizations and community members centered on understanding and remedying these disparities. Current examples include the Americans with Disabilities Act Participatory Action Research Consortium (ADA-PARC) which is examining the factors that influence the participation of people with disabilities in their communities and the Academic Autistic Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE) which conducts research focused on improving the lives of autistic adults through academic-autistic partnerships.

Recent Publications

  • Landes, S. D., Turk, M. A., McDonald, K. E., & Sabatello, M. (2020). Vaccination priorities reveal our values. Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion and the Center for Aging and Policy Studies. Population Health Research Brief Series. 43.
  • Landes, S. D., McDonald, K. E., Wilmoth, J. M., & Carter Grosso, E. (2020). Evidence of continued reduction in the age‐at‐death disparity between adults with and without intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities.
  • Bezyak, J. L., Sabella, S., Hammel, J., McDonald, K., Jones, R. A., & Barton, D. (2020). Community participation and public transportation barriers experienced by people with disabilities. Disability and rehabilitation, 42(23), 3275-3283.
  • Sabatello, M., Burke, T. B., McDonald, K. E., & Appelbaum, P. S. (2020). Disability, ethics, and health care in the COVID-19 pandemic. American journal of public health, 110(10), 1523-1527.
  • Landes, S. D., Turk, M. A., Formica, M. K., McDonald, K. E., & Stevens, J. D. (2020). COVID-19 outcomes among people with intellectual and developmental disability living in residential group homes in New York State. Disability and Health Journal, 13(4), 100969.
  • Landes, S. D., Turk, M. A., Formica, M. K., & McDonald, K. E. (2020). COVID-19 Trends Among Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) Living in Residential Group Homes in New York State through July 10, 2020. Syracuse, NY: Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion, Syracuse University.
  • Schwartz, A. E., Young Adult Mental Health/Peer Mentoring Research Team, Kramer, J. M., Rogers, E. S., McDonald, K. E., & Cohn, E. S. (2020). Stakeholder‐driven approach to developing a peer‐mentoring intervention for young adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities and co‐occurring mental health conditions. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 33(5), 992-1004.
  • Hughes, R. B., Robinson-Whelen, S., Goe, R., Schwartz, M., Cesal, L., Garner, K. B., ... & McDonald, K. E. (2020). “I really want people to use our work to be safe”… Using participatory research to develop a safety intervention for adults with intellectual disability. Journal of intellectual disabilities, 24(3), 309-325.
  • Sabatello, M., Landes, S. D., & McDonald, K. E. (2020). People with disabilities in COVID-19: Fixing our priorities. The American Journal of Bioethics, 20(7), 187-190.
  • Hughes, R. B., Robinson-Whelen, S., Davis, L. A., Meadours, J., Kincaid, O., Howard, L., ... & Safety Project Consortium. (2020). Evaluation of a safety awareness group program for adults with intellectual disability. American journal on intellectual and developmental disabilities, 125(4), 304-317.
  • Angell, A. M., Goodman, L., Walker, H. R., McDonald, K. E., Kraus, L. E., Elms, E. H., ... & Hammel, J. (2020). “Starting to Live a Life”: Understanding Full Participation for People With Disabilities After Institutionalization. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 74(4), 7404205030p1-7404205030p11.
  • Nicolaidis, C., Raymaker, D. M., McDonald, K. E., Lund, E. M., Leotti, S., Kapp, S. K., ... & Zhen, K. Y. (2020). Creating accessible survey instruments for use with autistic adults and people with intellectual disability: Lessons learned and recommendations. Autism in Adulthood, 2(1), 61-76.
  • Landes, S. D., Turk, M. A., McDonald, K. E., & Sabatello, M. (2020). Less Worthy Lives? We Must Prioritize People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation.
  • Schwartz, A. E., Kramer, J. M., Cohn, E. S., & McDonald, K. E. (2020). “That felt like real engagement”: Fostering and maintaining inclusive research collaborations with individuals with intellectual disability. Qualitative health research, 30(2), 236-249.