P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans


Abdul El-Sayed, 2012

Director, Wayne County’s Department of Health, Human & Veterans Services

Abdul El-Sayed is the child of immigrants from Egypt

Fellowship awarded to support work towards an MD/PhD in Medicine and Epidemiology at Columbia University

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed is a physician, epidemiologist, and public servant. He serves as director of Wayne County’s Department of Health, Human & Veterans Services and health officer for the county, serving 1.8 million residents of Michigan’s largest and most diverse county under Chief Executive Warren C. Evans. His three books include Healing Politics, calling for a politics of empathy to cure our epidemic of insecurity, and Medicare for All: A Citizen’s Guide with Dr. Micah Johnson, offering a no nonsense guide to the policy. He is the host of the podcast “America Dissected,” which goes beyond the headlines to explore what really matters for our health. He is a visiting scholar at the FXB Center for Health & Human Rights at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, teaching at the intersection of public health, public policy, and politics. In addition, he is a Scholar in Residence at Wayne State University and American University. He previously served as a Sanders appointee and one of eight members of Vice President Biden’s 2020 Unity Task Force for Healthcare.

In 2018, Abdul ran for governor of Michigan on an unapologetically progressive platform. Though he finished second of three earning over 340,000 votes in the Democratic primary, his bid was endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and The Nation. Prior, he served the city of Detroit as Health Director, appointed to rebuild Detroit's Health Department after it was privatized during the city's bankruptcy. He was the youngest health official in a major American city and was awarded “Public Official of the Year” by the Michigan League of Conservation Voters and "40 under 40” by Crain’s Detroit Business in view of his leadership. Prior to entering public service, he was Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health where he led Columbia’s Systems Science Program and Global Research Analytics for Population Health. He has previously served as the DeRoy Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan, a Sine Fellow at American University’s Sine Institute of Policy & Politics, and Pritzker Fellow at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics. His over 100 peer-reviewed scientific publications have been cited over 3,000 times.

Abdul earned a Doctorate in Public Health from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He also holds a Medical Degree from Columbia University where he was an NIH-funded Medical Scientist Training Program Fellow and Soros New Americans Fellow. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa with Highest Distinction from the University of Michigan, where he was chosen to deliver the student remarks alongside President Bill Clinton and was awarded the Bicentennial Alumni Award in 2017. He is a native Michigander who was born and raised in Metro Detroit, where he lives with his wife Sarah, a psychiatrist, and daughters Emmalee and Serene. He is a proud member of the National Writers Union, AFT Local 477 and 6244, SEIU Local 500, and the AAUP. He enjoys good people, good coffee, good food, and University of Michigan football.

  • MD Medicine | Columbia University 2014
  • DPhil Public Health | University of Oxford 2011
  • BS Biology, Political Science | University of Michigan - Ann Arbor 2007
  • PhD Epidemiology | Columbia University
  • Policy Innovator by the Carnegie Council
  • Rhodes Scholarship
Work History
  • Wayne County’s Department of Health, Human & Veterans Services, Director
  • Candidate for Governor of Michigan | February 2017
  • University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy, Policymaker in Residence
  • “America Dissected,” a podcast by Crooked Media, Host
  • City of Detroit, Executive Director of Public Health and Health Officer
  • Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University, Assistant Professor
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