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10 Emerging Industry Leaders: Jesse M. Ehrenfeld

MHE PublicationMHE October 2020
Volume 30
Issue 10

Managed Healthcare Executive's October issue headlines 10 chosen healthcare leaders in its fourth annual "10 Emerging Industry Leaders" feature. MHE spotlights each leader individually with a video interview to accompany the Q&A between MHE and the emerging leader.

Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, M.D., M.P.H., FASA, FAMIA, senior associate dean and director of Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

Note: We asked all the winners to share some biographical information about where they grew up and their education.

I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware. I completed my undergraduate education at Haverford College, then earned a medical degree from the University of Chicago and a master’s of public health from Harvard. I completed my residency in anesthesiology at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Jesse M. Ehrenfeld

My career in academic medicine began at Harvard Medical School before I joined the faculty at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and became professor in the departments of anesthesiology, biomedical informatics, surgery and health policy.

Today I am the senior associate dean at the Medical College of Wisconsin, where I serve as director of college’s statewide health philanthropy, the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment, while continuing to practice as a physician anesthesiologist.

I have been active in the American Medical Association (AMA) since medical school and was elected to the board of trustees in 2014; I served as chair this past year.

Why did you choose your profession?

I’ve always been inspired to help others and to make an impact. That led me to medicine and continues to connect various aspects of my work. I’ve served my country in the U.S. Navy, deploying to Afghanistan. I’ve advocated for and built programs to promote LGBTQ health and equity.

My research has centered around how information technology can improve patient safety, outcomes and health equity. My efforts in these areas continue at the AMA, as well.

Now, at Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin, I’m fortunate to guide how we, as a $450 million statewide health philanthropy, can shape and support efforts to substantially improve our community’s health.

What has been your biggest learning experience in the industry? What did it teach you?

Paradoxically, many of our most meaningful wins seem to be the least acknowledged, while many of our less impactful successes garner more recognition. This has taught me that regardless of how you’re recognized for your work, take pride in yourself and your team for what you’ve accomplished.

How has COVID-19 affected your responsibilities and how your organization operates? How might your job and your organization change because of the pandemic?

COVID-19 has changed nearly every aspect of my work. As a statewide health funder, I immediately knew that Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin was uniquely positioned to respond. We shifted our grant infrastructure toward a rapid response, reducing our funding timeline to deploy funds in about three weeks, down from six months to a year. In early April, we announced $4.8 million in funding to 17 Wisconsin-based projects that have supported prevention, risk reduction and minimized transmission of COVID-19.

At the AMA, we’ve continued to respond to the urgent needs of physicians on the front lines by advocating for resources, protective equipment and supplies, as well as by providing trusted, evidence-based information and fast-tracking the tools and resources to sustain physician practices.

How has the current discussion of racism and healthcare inequity affected you, your outlook and your organization? What has been the short-term response, and what do you envision happening over the longer term to your organization and American healthcare?

Racism is a public health crisis. To do our part in healthcare and health philanthropy, we have to recognize that advancing equity needs to be at the center of our work.

At Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin, we’ve started the hard, uncomfortable work of defining how we can change our internal processes and structures to remove barriers and improve diversity in who we are and who we invest in.

At the AMA, we have recognized racism as an urgent threat to public health and the advancement of health equity, as well as a barrier to excellence in the delivery of medical care. To that end, we’re actively working to dismantle racism and discriminatory policies and practices across all of healthcare.

What other kinds of changes do you expect to see in healthcare in the next five to 10 years?

Telehealth and other digital technologies will accelerate in adoption and use. They have great potential to allow us to reimagine how care is delivered, how access to care can be broadened and how gaps in health equity can be lessened.

What have you enjoyed about social distancing and extra stay-at-home time during the past few months?

Spending more time with my husband and our 1-year-old son, Ethan, and working to perfect my challah recipe.

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