New Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Is The First Black Woman In Role

Dr. Olusimbo Ige has been named the Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GOLDSTAR COMMUNICATIONS.
Dr. Olusimbo Ige has been named the Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GOLDSTAR COMMUNICATIONS.

New Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Is The First Black Woman In Role

By Tia Carol Jones

Dr. Olumsmbo Ige has been appointed as the Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner, making her the first Black woman in the role.

Ige decided to become a doctor when she was growing up in Nigeria having experiences with premature mortality, losing her sister and friends. She knew she could contribute by going into medicine to help people heal and provide services to people who needed it, regardless of financial circumstances. Her journey has remained centered on not excluding people because they are not able to pay.

Ige previously served as the Assistant Commissioner for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and is currently the Managing Director of Programs at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Ige has been privileged to work in medicine on many different levels, state, national, international, with public and nonprofit organizations. In all of those, what she found was the need to center health equity.


“Many times we want to do good, but if we don’t take a moment to pause and reflect on who is being excluded, whose needs are we considering or not considering, default is that we will skew toward those who are more privileged and not those who are in the margins,” she said.
Ige wants all of her conversations around public health to consider who is being prioritized and who is going to be impacted by the decisions that are made. She also has the lived experience of not being seen and not being heard, so she wants marginalized people to be centered in decision making.


Ige is excited about her new role as the Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner. She acknowledges a lot of women blazed the trail for her in that role. But, a part of her is disappointed that it took so long for a Black woman to be appointed to the role, in a city like Chicago with the kind of diversity the city has.


“I feel a huge sense of responsibility in this role and I am very grateful for the privilege to be in this role, but I also acknowledge there is much more that needs to be done to make our city’s leadership reflect the demographics of the city,” Ige said.


Ige said she moved forward with the candidate process because she was drawn to the population of Chicago, the administration of the city and their focus on social justice. She thought an administration that was well-versed in social justice and health and why both matter provided a framework to advance priorities. The Chicago Department of Public Health’s priority to close the life expectancy gap also resonated with her. A lot of the work she has done is to advocate for other people, now she is in a position to work with other people and be part of the change.


Ige believes to close the life expectancy gap, you have to look at the root causes, and provide the same opportunities and resources in all parts of the city. She believes the policy makers and government have to take the responsibility to change the living conditions to promote a healthy life that can close the life expectancy gap. She said she hopes to make contributions that will elevate the policies, resources, environment and opportunities that are necessary to live a healthy life.


“Dr. Ige is a tremendous addition to not just our administration, but to the City of Chicago,” Mayor Brandon Johnson said in a press release. “Dr. Ige is someone who understands the balance between hard data and community interaction when assessing public health problems and solutions, and with decades of experience in public health, she brings a clear-eyed understanding of both the challenges and the opportunities that CDPH and our city face, and how we will collectively overcome them. She will lead with compassion, competency and collaboration in moving our public health department and our city forward.”

 
For more information about the Chicago Department of Public Health, visit https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/cdph.html.

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