Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dr. Eric Whitaker, MD, Believes in Health Care and the Community

Special Correspondent: CDW

Eric E. Whitaker, MD, MPH, a nationally recognized public health authority and expert on minority health issues; and in his own words, "country doc" for some of the city's poorest communities. As Executive Vice President for Strategic Affiliations and Associate Dean for Community-Based Research, a position created with him in mind at the University of Chicago Medical Center, and his challenge and role is vital to the growth of the communities his initiative is targeting.

Dr. Whitaker is one the most dynamic and concerned men, who not only understands the needs of the community which he lives, works and plays, but also knows that real and relevant programs are necessary to change outcomes. His commitment to underserved areas is recognized world - wide, and his leadership is unmatched, which is why the University secured him in 2007. Dr. Whitaker has free reign and total control of his vision to create the healthiest communities on the South Side of Chicago by 2025.

Whitaker came to the Medical Center from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), where he served as Director overseeing three state labs, seven regional offices, 200 programs, 1,200 employees and a $420 million budget. Under his direction, from 2003 to 2007, the agency brought a new level of commitment to public health, with special emphasis on emerging issues such as bioterrorism and emergency preparedness, as well as health disparities, patient safety and creation of the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute to support stem cell research.

Prior to that, Whitaker was senior physician at Cook County Hospital. He was founder and director of Project Brotherhood, an innovative and award-winning barbershop-based program designed to improve the often-neglected health of African-American men.

"Eric Whitaker has an unrivaled track record for understanding the broader health care needs of the underserved and finding imaginative and remarkably effective ways to meet those needs," said Jim Madara, M.D., Chief Executive Officer of the University of Chicago Medical Center and Dean of the Division of Biological Sciences and University Vice President for Medical Affairs.

Whitaker is a key player in implementing the Urban Health Initiative (UHI), the University of Chicago Medical Center's long-range plan to build and maintain a network of partnerships and mutually beneficial relationships and collaborations throughout the community to provide superior care for patients, advance community-based clinical research and broaden medical education. His role also is to set up strategic alliances to create and sustain the UHI. Under his leadership, UHI secures government and private financing, as well as build patient confidence in partnership with independent health care providers.

Eric, a graduate of Grinnell College and the University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine, masters degree in health policy and management from the Harvard School of Public Health. He studied health services management at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management and corporate strategy at the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business. He completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of California at San Francisco before serving a two-year fellowship in the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at the University of Chicago.

Whitaker has won many awards like the American College of Physicians, the Society of General Internal Medicine and the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Centers. He was awarded a Health Care Heroes Award from the Access Community Health Network, the Leonidas H. Berry Award from the Cook County Physician Association and the Pioneer Award from the Crossroads Coalition.

He lives on Chicago's south side with his committed and professional wife, and their two sons.

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