external arrow pointing right logo mark logo full version logo in single color arrow pointing down \ facebook logo instagram logo twitter logo flicker logo search icon navigation expand button close

Deacon Rick Birkel, Ph.D

Outgoing Executive Director



Deacon Richard Birkel, Ph.D., MPA has been a public health activist, researcher and non-profit leader for more than thirty years and a permanent Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church since 1996. He is known as an innovative and dynamic leader of major healthcare organizations and associations. Prior to becoming Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Oregon, he served as Senior Vice President for Health at the National Council on Aging, Executive Director of the Rosalynn Carter Institute on Caregiving, Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and President of the Joseph P. Kennedy Institute for Developmental Disabilities in Washington, DC.

Throughout his career, Birkel has been an active partner with diverse communities to address health disparities and achieve social justice. In Washington DC, he worked with African American and Latino leaders to address the challenge of HIV/AIDS and substance abuse. At NAMI, he established the Multicultural Action Center to address national disparities in mental health treatment and formed the Latino Leadership Council to lead NAMI’s efforts to develop culturally appropriate outreach and treatment strategies. At the National Council on Aging and the Rosalynn Carter Institute, he worked with diverse communities to adapt and disseminate proven programs to meet the needs of family caregivers.

Dr. Birkel has been a member of the faculty at the Pennsylvania State University, the University of Maryland, and Georgia Southwestern State University where he was the Pope Distinguished Chair in Caregiving. He has been principal investigator on more than a dozen major research and demonstration projects and speaks and consults frequently in the US and internationally. He received his B.A. from Yale University, his Masters and Doctoral degrees from the University of Virginia, and is a graduate of the UCLA/Johnson & Johnson Health Care Executive Leadership program.