Katherine McDonald

Senior Associate Dean for Research and Administration
Professor of Public Health
Faculty Fellow, Aging Studies Institute
Faculty Fellow, Burton Blatt Institute
Faculty Fellow, Consortium for Culture and Medicine
Faculty Fellow, Disability Studies

Professor Katherine (Katie) McDonald is the Associate Dean of Research and Professor of Public Health in the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics. Professor McDonald received a B.S. with Distinction in Human Development and Family Studies with a minor in French from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in Community and Prevention Research Psychology with a minor in Statistics, Methods and Measurements from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Professor McDonald is a Fellow of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), Chair of Syracuse University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), member of the Editorial Board for Autism in Adulthood. Professor 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

Professor McDonald uses socioecological theory and community-engaged 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 Developmental Disabilities

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

Her current projects include a 5-year research project to study the views of adults with intellectual disability on key issues in precision medicine research and address them by developing a disability accessible and protocol-adaptable precision medicine research consent toolkit (Including Adults with Intellectual Disability in Precision Medicine Research – Project ENGAGE) and a 2-year project to develop, evaluate, and disseminate an open-access capacity-building research ethics training for community researchers with developmental disabilities (Research Ethics for All: Research Ethics Training for Patient Stakeholders with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities).  

Community-Engaged Disability Disparities

People with disabilities experience disparities in social determinants of health, access to health services, and health outcomes. Professor 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

  • McDonald, K., Schwartz, A. & Sabatello, M. (online first). Eligibility Criteria in Clinical Trials Funded by the National Institutes of Health: Can Adults with Intellectual Disability Get In? Disability and Health Journal.
  • McDonald, K., Gibbons, C. Conroy, N., & Olick, R. (2022). Facilitating the inclusion of adults with intellectual disability as direct respondents in research: Strategies for fostering trust, respect, accessibility, and engagement. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 35, 170-178.
  • Landes, S., Wilmoth, J., McDonald, K., & Smith, A. (2022). Racial/ethnic Inequities in Age at Death Among Adults with/without Intellectual and Developmental Disability. Preventive Medicine, 156.
  • Sabatello, M., Blankmayer-Burke, T., McDonald, K., & Appelbaum, P. (2020). Disability, ethics and health care in the Covid-19 pandemic. American Journal of Public Health, 110, 1523- 1527.
  • Nicolaidis, C. Raymaker, D., McDonald, K., Lund, E., Leotti, S., Kapp, S., Katz, M., Beers, L., Kripke, C., Maslak, J., Hunter, M., & Zhen, K. (2020). Creating accessible survey instruments for use with autistic adults and people with intellectual disability: lessons learned and recommendations. Autism in Adulthood, 2, 61-76
  • Landes, S., Turk, M., Formica, M., McDonald, K. & Stevens, 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, 100969.
  • Nicolaidis, Raymaker, Kapp, Baggs, Ashkenazy, McDonald, Weiner, Maslak, Hunter, & Joyce (2019). The AASPIRE practice-based guidelines for the inclusion of autistic adults in research as co-researchers and study participants. Autism, 23(8), 2007-2019.