Kelly Irwin, MD

Kelly Irwin, MD

Research Interests: Understanding health disparities for individuals with severe mental illness.



Dr. Irwin is an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a faculty psychiatrist at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center and MGH Schizophrenia Program where she founded the Cancer Prevention Program. Dr. Irwin graduated from Harvard University in 2001, worked with Doctors for Global Health in El Salvador, and then returned to Harvard Medical School, receiving her MD in 2008, and completing her residency in psychiatry at MGH and McLean in 2012. She received the Dupont-Warren Fellowship from Harvard Medical School in 2013 and the Program in Cancer Outcomes Research Training (PCORT) fellowship in 2015.

Dr. Irwin is the Director of the Collaborative Care and Community Engagement Program, a research and clinical program focused on improving cancer outcomes for people with severe mental illness. In collaboration with community partners, she is also establishing a 2nd opinion service for patients with severe mental illness and cancer.

Research Interests

Dr. Irwin’s research interests focus on understanding health disparities for individuals with severe mental illness (SMI). Dr. Irwin is interested in understanding why people with SMI including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are more likely to die from cancer and in developing interventions to improve cancer outcomes throughout the continuum of cancer care including prevention, early detection, treatment, and end-of-life care. She is investigating communication about smoking cessation, perceptions of cancer risk, and cancer screening in individuals with schizophrenia. She is also conducting a retrospective cohort study investigating inequities in cancer treatment for patients with severe mental illness and completing a qualitative study of oncology and mental health clinicians examining barriers to cancer care for people with schizophrenia. With support from the American Cancer Society, she is currently piloting an intervention incorporating proactive psychiatry consultation and case management for individuals with severe mental illness and cancer.


Selected Publications

  1. Edwards KE, Neville BA, Cook EF, Aldridge SH, Dussel V, Wolfe J. Understanding of Prognosis and Goals of Care Among Couples Whose Child Died of Cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2008; 26(8), 1310-15.
  2. Wolfe J, Hammel JF, Edwards KE et al. Easing of Suffering in Children with Cancer at the End of Life: Is Care Changing? J Clin Oncol 2008; 26(10), 1717-23.
  3. Irwin KE, Greer JA, Khatib J, Temel JS, Pirl WF. Early Palliative Care and Metastatic Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: Potential Mechanisms of Prolonged Survival. Chronic Respiratory Disease. 2012; 10(1), 35-47.
  4. Irwin KE, Henderson DC, Knight HP, Pirl WF. Cancer Care for Individuals with Schizophrenia. Cancer. 2014; Feb 1;120(3):323-34


Plenary: Bridging the Divide

Speaker: Kelly Irwin, MD, Director of Collaborative Care & Community Engagement, Mass General Cancer Center.

This video was taken May 5th, 2017 in Boston at the symposium, "Bridging the Divide: Mental Health and Cancer Care." View more videos from this event here.

View a summary of the 2017 symposium, and share your feedback with us. Open this google doc and add your comments to our working summary of the Bridging the Divide: Mental Health and Cancer Care Symposium.

Improving Cancer Outcomes for Individuals with Schizophrenia (2015)

View on Vimeo

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