Dr. Abdul El-Sayed joins the Ford School faculty as Towsley Policymaker in Residence

April 26, 2021

Progressive political leader and public health policy expert Abdul El-Sayed, MD, PhD will join the Ford School faculty in fall 2021 as a Towsley Foundation Policymaker in Residence. Dr. El-Sayed is a public servant, Michigan politician, former public health professor at Columbia University, and a medical doctor. He brings to the Ford School deep expertise in understanding and addressing the factors that exacerbate health inequality.

“The Ford School is very fortunate that Dr. El-Sayed will be bringing his deep expertise and experience in public health, social policy, and politics to our community,” said Paula Lantz, the associate dean for academic affairs and James B. Hudak Professor of Health Policy.

Dr. El-Sayed will teach PubPol 750.007: Policy, Politics, and Public Health, a graduate seminar on how politics have shaped the policy choices that created and sustain modern systems of public health, air and water, education, food, and healthcare—and how those systems shape and drive health. The course will also examine the ways that structural racism, poverty, corporate power, and public advocacy shape public health and healthcare policy. 

Since 2002, the Towsley Policymaker in Residence Program has brought distinguished leaders to the Ford School to teach, advise, and mentor students, and to host public events in their areas of expertise. 

“The Ford School’s community of faculty, students, and staff has been at the forefront of advancing a more equitable, efficient, and effective public policy,” said Dr. El-Sayed. “I can think of no better place to spend time as a Policymaker in Residence. From building a new normal after COVID-19 to rethinking U.S. healthcare, this is a unique moment in the history and future of public policy. I look forward to learning alongside the colleagues and students at Ford, and sharing what I’ve garnered from my experiences as a public health physician, epidemiologist, former city health director, and public health communicator.”

Dr. El-Sayed was executive director of the Detroit Health Department and Health Officer for the city from 2015 to 2017. In 2017 he resigned as health director to run for governor of the State of Michigan. In September 2018 he founded Southpaw Michigan, a political action committee, to help elect other progressive candidates in Michigan. He was also formerly an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University. 

Dr. El-Sayed is a political contributor at CNN, the author of Healing Politics: A Doctor's Journey into the Heart of Our Political Epidemic, and Medicare for All: A Citizen's Guide (co-authored with Micah Johnson), and the host of America Dissected with Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a podcast about politics and public health. In 2020, he served on the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force on health care. Dr. El-Sayed received his undergraduate degrees in biology and political science from the University of Michigan, and his MD degree from Columbia University.  He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oriel College, Oxford where he completed a PhD in public health. 

About the Towsley Policymaker in Residence program

The Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation Policymaker in Residence Program was established at the Ford School in 2002 to bring individuals with significant national and international policymaking experience to campus to interact with students and faculty. The program enhances our curriculum and strengthens our ties to the policy community.