P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans


Abdul El-Sayed, 2012

Policymaker in Residence, University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy

Abdul El-Sayed is the child of immigrants from Egypt

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

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed is a physician, epidemiologist, public health expert, and progressive activist. He is the host of “America Dissected,” a podcast by Crooked Media, which goes beyond the headlines to explore what really matters for our health and author of "The Incision", a newsletter that cuts into the social, scientific, and political trends shaping our moment. His three books include “Healing Politics” diagnosing our country’s epidemic of insecurity and the empathy politics we will need to treat it, and “Medicare for All: A Citizen’s Guide,” which is the definitive guide to the policy. He is the Towsley Policymaker in Residence at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy and a Political Contributor at CNN. 

In 2018, Abdul ran for Governor of Michigan on an unapologetically progressive platform, advocating for universal healthcare, clean water for all, debt-free and tuition-free higher education, a pathway to 100% renewable energy, and to rebuild the barrier between corporations and government. His bid was endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Nation, and Current Affairs. And though he earned over 340,000 votes, he finished second of three in the Democratic Primary.

Prior, he served as Health Commissioner in the City of Detroit, appointed to rebuild the City’s health department after it was privatized during municipal bankruptcy. He was the youngest health official in a major US city. Responsible for the health and safety of over 670,000 Detroiters, the Detroit Health Department became a state and national leader in public health innovation and environmental justice, in one of the fastest municipal public health turnarounds in American history. He was awarded “Public Official of the Year” by the Michigan League of Conservation Voters and “40 under 40” by Crain’s Detroit Business.

As a professor at Columbia University's Department of Epidemiology, Abdul became an internationally recognized expert in health policy and health inequalities. He was Director of the Columbia University Systems Science Program and Global Research Analytics for Population Health. He has over 100 peer-reviewed publications that have earned over 1600 citations, including a foundational textbook on Systems Science & Population Health (Oxford University Press, 2016).

Abdul holds a doctorate in Public Health from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, as well as a medical degree from Columbia University, where he was a Medical Scientist Training Program Fellow and a 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 commencement speech alongside President Bill Clinton.

He is a native Michigander who was born and raised in Metro Detroit, where he lives with his wife, Sarah, a mental health doctor, and daughter Emmalee. He enjoys good people, good coffee, good food, sports, and University of Michigan Football. He is a proud member of UAW Local 1981 AFT Local 477, and SEIU Local 500.

You can keep up with Abdul on YouTube here and via his Substack, which you can find here.

  • MD Medicine | Columbia University 2014
  • DPhil Public Health | Oxford University 2011
  • BS Biology, Political Science | University of Michigan - Ann Arbor 2007
  • PhD Epidemiology | Columbia University
  • Rhodes Scholarship
  • Policy Innovator by the Carnegie Council
Work History
  • University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy, Policymaker in Residence
  • Candidate for Governor of Michigan | February 2017
  • “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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