Ala Stanford, National Leader in Health Equity, Joins Penn

Ala Stanford, M.D., Professor of Practice in Biology

Ala Stanford, M.D., a national leader in health equity, a healthcare policy advisor, and former regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of the mid-Atlantic, has joined the University of Pennsylvania as a Professor of Practice in the Department of Biology in the School of Arts & Sciences, with additional appointments as Director of Community Outreach for research activities in the Penn Institute for RNA Innovation, and as a Research Associate in the Annenberg School for Communication.

A practicing physician for more than 20 years and founder of R.E.A.L. Concierge Medicine, Stanford is board-certified by the American Board of Surgery in both pediatric and adult general surgery. She is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Stanford gained international recognition during the COVID-19 pandemic when she used the infrastructure of her pediatric surgery practice to create a grassroots organization, the Black Doctors Consortium, focused on education, testing, contact tracing, and vaccination in communities lacking access to care and resources. She and her team provided direct care for hundreds of thousands, and her organization’s message went nationwide.

She subsequently opened a multidisciplinary ambulatory care center bearing her name in a neighborhood in Philadelphia with one of the lowest life expectancies in the city. Soon thereafter, Stanford was appointed regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of the mid-Atlantic by President Biden, where she served for a year before resuming her role at her care center.

As a Professor of Practice in the Department of Biology, Stanford will teach undergraduates about the intersection of health, equity, and biology. “Dr. Stanford has led a life of remarkable accomplishments,” says Steven J. Fluharty, School of Arts and Sciences Dean and Thomas S. Gates, Jr. Professor of Psychology, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience. “She is a force for innovation and improvement, and she will share her knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm with our students, connecting their studies in the lab and lecture hall to the world they will be working in and making better.”

Nobel Laureate Drew Weissman, Roberts Family Professor of Vaccine Research in the Perelman School of Medicine and Director of the Penn Institute for RNA Innovation, says, “I have worked with Ala for quite a while and having her as part of the Penn community will greatly enhance the effectiveness of the various projects we work on. She will also be an incredible resource for teaching our future leaders.” As Director of Community Outreach for research activities in Institute, Stanford will research the barriers that exist for vaccine uptake.

In addition, as a Research Associate in the Annenberg School for Communication, Stanford will use information gained from this research to create messaging that promotes vaccinations and health. “We are so fortunate to have Dr. Stanford join our intellectual community here at Penn,” says Sarah Banet-Weiser, Walter H. Annenberg Dean and Lauren Berlant Professor of Communication. “Working at the vital intersections of health equality and social justice, her tireless efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic and her continued important work in addressing health disparities in Black communities have been nothing short of remarkable. At Annenberg, we are particularly excited to work with her on a variety of communication practices regarding health, community, and equity, and we look forward to a longstanding partnership.”

Stanford’s awards and honors include being named a Top 10 CNN Hero, one of Fortune magazine’s “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders,” and one of Forbes’ Most Influential Women. She has also received the American College of Surgeons 2023 Domestic Surgical Volunteerism Award and the George H.W. Bush Points of Light Award.

She is a medical and health correspondent for national media outlets. Her book, Take Care of Them Like My Own: Faith, Fortitude, and a Surgeon’s Fight for Health Justice, will be published in August by Simon & Schuster. Part memoir and part manifesto for health equality and justice, it offers urgent lessons about the power of communities working together to take care of one another and the importance of fighting for a healthcare system that truly fulfills its promise to all Americans.

 

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