As a resident of Metro Detroit, I hear and see the Detroit news on a daily basis. At times it is difficult to listen to the heartbreaking stories of crime and public health issues. However, within the poorest city of America, there is a luminous light, and that person is Dr. Abdul El-Sayed. He is truly an agent of change.
El-Sayed’s academic career is brilliant. The son of Egyptian immigrants, he graduated from a Metro Detroit high school. Upon graduation, he studied biology and political science at the University of Michigan.
He then became a Rhodes scholar, earned a doctorate in public health at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England, and obtained his medical degree at Columbia University in New York City.
From medical school, El-Sayed went on to spend time examining public health problems. He decided that the wanted to make an impact on public health, and decided to work in Detroit, Michigan.
In the September of 2015, Detroit Mayor Mike Dugan appointed the 31-year-old doctor as director of Detroit’s Department of Health and Wellness Promotion.
In an exclusive interview with EmpowHER, Dr. El-Sayed talked about his new role.
El-Sayed said that he tries to interact with folks at the Detroit clinics or in the community every few days.
He explained that public health is about context, “about the places in which people live, learn, work, play and pray. We have to build places that support health through access to healthy foods, walkability, access to friends, family, neighbors, parks, play spaces and community. That is the Detroit we’re trying to build, a healthier Detroit for all.”
Unfortunately, due to the age of Detroit homes, many children are exposed to lead paint. El-Sayed said that 93 percent of homes in Detroit were built before 1978, which means that they are likely to contain high levels of lead, both in the paint and pipes.
He believes the problem can be solved. “Our numbers of children with elevated blood lead levels have decreased 50 percent in the past six years. We have to keep that going,” El-Sayed said.
May 4, 2016 email interview with Kristin Meekhof
High lead found in fewer Detroit children. April 22, 2016. The Detroit News. Retrieved July 1, 2016.