Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan on Wednesday announced that a 30-year-old Columbia graduate has been appointed as the new executive director of Detroit Department of Health & Wellness Promotion.
Under the assignment, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed will oversee the department and other health-related issues, as well as the restructuring of the department and programs and public health services.
City health care services returned to the Detroit health department last fall, two years after the department was dismantled amid complaints it was bogged down in bureaucracy.
El-Sayed, a Michigan native who studied at the University of Michigan, is a Rhodes Scholar and internationally recognized expert in the social determinants of health, health disparities, preterm birth and infant mortality, and obesity.
“Dr. El-Sayed is a remarkably accomplished and talented public health administrator,” Duggan said in a statement released Wednesday. “He will lead the restructuring of our health department to start addressing overall community health in a holistic way that hasn’t been done in the past. We’re excited to have him back in Detroit as part of a team that blends the very best of talent from Detroit and around the country.”
Before returning to Detroit, El-Sayed served as a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University, where he directed the Columbia University Systems Science Program and Global Research Analytics for Population Health.
At Columbia, he managed a team of more than 20 researchers with a research budget of more than $1.2 million with funding from various sources, including the federal government and the Rockefeller Foundation, officials said.
El-Sayed earned a medical degree from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons and a doctorate in public health as a Rhodes Scholar. He obtained a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan with highest distinction in biology and political science, and delivered the senior commencement address alongside President Bill Clinton.
“It’s an honor to come back home and serve the citizens of Detroit,” El-Sayed said. “I look forward to building on current efforts by the city around immunization, maternal-child health, and HIV/AIDS, as well as working with organizations like Think Detroit PAL that positively impact children’s health and well-being. Harnessing community goodwill is a critical component to addressing Detroit’s health disparities.”