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Health Segregation in Chicago: Speaker Bios

Register today and join us Thursday, April 7th to hear from the following speakers:

David Ansell, MD, MPH, Senior Vice President and Associate Provost, Community Health Equity, Rush University Medical Center and Author of The Death Gap

David Ansell, MD, MPH is the Michael E Kelly Presidential Professor of Internal Medicine and Senior Vice President/Associate Provost for Community Health Equity at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. He is a 1978 graduate of SUNY Upstate Medical College. He did his medical training at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. He spent 13 years at Cook County as an attending physician and ultimately was appointed Chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine at Cook County Hospital. ?From 1995 to 2005 he was Chairman of Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai Chicago. He was recruited to Rush University Medical Center as its inaugural Chief Medical Officer in 2005, a position he held until 2015. His research and advocacy has been focused on eliminating health inequities.

In 2011 he published a memoir of his times at County Hospital, County: Life, Death and Politics at Chicago’s Public Hospital. His latest book is The Death Gap: How Inequality Kills was published in 2017.? 

Darlene Hightower, CEO & President of Metropolitan Planning Council (moderator)

Darlene Oliver Hightower, J.D., began her tenure as President & Chief Executive Officer of Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), an independent nonpartisan regional planning organization, in January 2022. Darlene leads the organization’s strategic vision, shaping ambitious goals that will strengthen the impact of MPC’s work within the region.  Throughout her career, Darlene has been a tireless advocate for equity. Previously, Darlene served as Vice President, Community Health Equity at Rush University Medical Center. In that capacity, she oversaw the Office of Community Health Equity and Engagement, which included 3 school-based health clinics; Rush University community outreach programs, community benefit reporting, and Rush’s cradle to career healthcare pipeline programs. Darlene also led the development of West Side United, a cross-sector, collaborative aimed at improving health and economic vitality on Chicago’s West Side. 

Her leadership in health equity throughout the COVID-19 pandemic was nationally recognized, as Darlene was honored in 2020 with the U.S. News and World Report Health Care Hero and Marquis Who’s Who in America. A thoughtful contributor to many publications and speaker at well-renowned conference events, Darlene has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, TriplePundit, and Crain’s Chicago Business. Darlene is a Chicago Community Trust Leadership Fellow, a University of Chicago Civic Leadership Academy Fellow, and an Administrative Law Judge for the Chicago Department of Human Relations. Darlene attended Bradley University and received her law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington D.C.    

Debra Wesley, Founder, CEO, & President of Sinai Community Institute 

Debra G. Wesley serves as the founding President of Sinai Community Institute established in 1993. Ms. Wesley also serves as Executive Vice President for Community Outreach on behalf of Sinai Health System. Sinai Community Institute is a health system-based human and health services organization that has touched over 565,000 individuals through its 70+ programs since its creation. She is a social entrepreneur, leader and community builder. Ms. Wesley, a masters-trained social worker, has a deep understanding and appreciation of “community” at micro-and macro-levels. As a 4th-generation “preacher’s daughter” and resident of Chicago’s West side as a child, she can feel the pride and pain of neighborhoods that faced social economic and environmental challenges that impact ones overall state of wellness.

Ms. Wesley has developed innovative, community-based programs that have received national recognition. These programs have helped to: Develop the potential ofchildren and youth; Build strong community partnerships; Support strong healthy families; Improve community health outcomes; and Enhance economic opportunities.