Message from the Director
A message from Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH
September 30, 2019 - I am incredibly excited to have taken the reins as the new Director of AHW this month! It is an honor to serve as AHW’s operational and strategic leader, guiding its mission to serve as a catalyst for positive change in the health of our Wisconsin communities. As an anesthesiologist, a researcher, and a champion for health equity, I am so inspired by the power that drives AHW—the combination of an extraordinary academic medical center and dedicated community partners across the state.
What drew me to the opportunity to lead AHW was the ability to influence a range of activities, from the molecular to the population level. The things we fund—from health workforce training opportunities that have immediate impact, to research projects that take years to influence treatment options—all help move us toward our vision of making Wisconsin the healthiest state in the nation. While the work of AHW has direct impact on our communities across Wisconsin, these discoveries and innovations also have the potential to reach far beyond state lines—further expanding our impact.
Just this past week, I had the opportunity to participate in a day-long effort at the White House to help develop a national strategy for veteran suicide prevention under the guise of the President’s PREVENTS Task Force. The PREVENTS effort seeks to engage Federal, state, and local governments, along with non-governmental organizations and the veteran community to create a broad-based national public health effort to prevent veteran suicide. Also this month, we have been asked to serve as a consultant to the World Health Organization (WHO) to provide technical expertise to the WHO Digital Health Technical Advisory Group. We, and the WHO, believe that evidence-based digital strategies can augment the quality and reach of healthcare—here in Wisconsin, and across the world. It’s clear that much work is needed to address today’s health challenges on both a local and global scale. Through our work and learnings in Wisconsin, AHW can help Wisconsin be a national leader in improving the health of our communities.
As we begin this new chapter at AHW, we remain squarely focused on our role as stewards of the generous gift given to the people of Wisconsin from the conversion of Blue Cross & Blue Shield United of Wisconsin from a nonprofit organization to a for-profit corporation. I look forward to working with the Consortium on Public and Community Health, Research and Education Advisory Committee, MCW Board of Trustees, and, under the guidance of the Order of the Insurance Commissioner, to ensure this stewardship remains central to all that we do.
I want to especially thank Dr. Cheryl Maurana for her work as founding director of AHW. Since 2004, AHW has invested more than $255 million in over 450 projects. Her vision and leadership over the last 20 years has formed AHW into what it is today, and her guidance and mentorship have been invaluable in this new role.
I look forward to bringing my own experiences as a physician scientist and public health advocate to AHW. As the current chair of the American Medical Association Board of Trustees, I see many opportunities to elevate the work of AHW in ways that align with ongoing transformation of our nation’s healthcare system. In my previous role at Vanderbilt University, I held teaching positions in anesthesiology, biomedical informatics, surgery, health policy, and served as Director of the Anesthesiology and Perioperative Informatics Research Division; Director of Education Research, Office of Health Sciences Education; and Director of the Program for LGBTQ Health. I’ve also held positions at Harvard Medical School, and continue to hold a teaching appointment at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Much of my work has been shaped by my own experiences as serving in combat as a former U.S. Navy Commander when I deployed to Afghanistan during both Operation Enduring Freedom and Resolute Support Mission.
Over the next few months, I plan to listen, learn, and connect with colleagues and community partners across Wisconsin. I invite you to stay in touch with us through our upcoming events and funding opportunities. You can also send me a note directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH
Senior Associate Dean and Director
Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment
Medical College of Wisconsin