Joneigh Khaldun

40 Under 40 Class of 2019

Detroit, Michigan

Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy Director for Health

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
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My goal is to create a sustainable, strengths-based public health system that supports and protects the health of all Michiganders. Understanding that no state or local health department can do this alone, I want to leverage policy and non-traditional partnerships to create environments and systems that improve health.

BOLD SOLUTION: Dr. Khaldun developed a collaborative coalition composed of 25 organizational members from social service organizations, foundations, clinics, hospitals, and business partners to develop a comprehensive community health assessment. This assessment engaged over 1,200 Detroiters and will serve as a roadmap for collaborative public health efforts in Detroit.

Five Questions for Joneigh

Dr. Khaldun sets an example by getting her flu shot in the ER where she works. She’s both a practicing ER doctor and a staunch public health advocate.

1. Who or what inspired you to enter the field of public health?

As a little girl, I remember knowing my grandmother had a heart condition, and trying to figure out ways to get her to stop smoking. At the time, that meant hiding her cigarettes! Of course, that didn’t work, but I think I early on realized there were so many things we could do as a society to keep people healthy. As an ER doctor, I treat so many people who are victims of unnecessary violence, who have strokes because they cannot afford their medications, or who have uncontrolled asthma because of unhealthy housing. We can have such a broad impact in public health, and that is why I have devoted my career to it.

2. What is one of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on in public health?

I loved my work at the Detroit Health Department developing a strategy to address unintended teen pregnancy. We really nailed it with community engagement — youth were involved in the design of our new clinical network, developed the public messages, and were the face of our public campaign. Our role in public health is to elevate the voices of and listen to community members, and that’s what we did in Detroit with our iDecide project.

3. What would success in public health look like to you?

A society where there are no health inequities and every person has a chance to lead a healthy and productive life.

4. What did you want to be when you grew up?

A doctor, lawyer, and astronaut.

5. Describe yourself in three words.

Passionate, persistent, empathetic.

Joneigh Khaldun's Recent Writing