Newswise — Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI, associate professor of Medicine and executive director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance, has been named to the newly created positions of Vice President for Health Equity at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Associate Dean for Health Equity with the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
As Wilkins assumes these new roles, the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance will continue to report to her. A new executive director will be recruited to lead the Alliance.
In the role overseeing the newly established Office of Health Equity, Wilkins will connect existing community health and health equity initiatives from across the organization while scaling system-wide efforts to identify and address disparities in health.
Wilkins’ expertise on how socioeconomic disparities impact health will be an asset as VUMC and VUSM reach beyond the Vanderbilt campus to partner with community organizations and pursue new opportunities to advance research and change clinical practice.
“Through Dr. Wilkins’ vision and leadership, the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance has flourished, and she has become the Medical Center’s leader in health equity and community health — both are areas of great importance to the future of Vanderbilt and the people it serves,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer for VUMC, and Dean of VUSM. “Her work with the Recruitment Innovation Center, Trial Innovation Network and the All of Us program has contributed in important ways to our position as a national leader in the research community. I am confident that under Consuelo’s guidance the Medical Center will also play a national and global role in health equity.”
The model for the new office of Health Equity stems from an initiative of the Association of American Medical Colleges in which VUMC was one of eight institutions selected to understand how academic medical centers can influence and improve population and community health by making health care safer and more equitable.
The new office will build on dozens of existing health equity initiatives within the Institute for Medicine and Public Health (IMPH) and other VUMC programs. The effort to establish the new Office was led by Robert Dittus, MD, MPH, Executive Vice President for Public Health and Health Care and director of the IMPH.
“Achieving health equity is a grand challenge for our society,” said Dittus. “Health care providers must collaborate using interprofessional and interdisciplinary approaches to achieve equity in the delivery and outcomes of care and to address the many determinants of health beyond health care. Dr. Wilkins’ leadership in this area provides an important opportunity for Vanderbilt to improve health for all.”
Sculpting how educators and clinicians provide high quality and affordable care to an expanding population that lives and works in a variety of geographic and economic realities will be paramount as VUMC moves toward delivering health care to larger and more diverse populations across the Southeast.
Social, environmental and behavioral determinants of health will be both opportunities and challenges for clinicians in the future as information and risk sharing evolve with greater emphasis on outcomes in reimbursement models.
Strengthening VUMC’s ties into networks around the region and exploring how partnerships that improve underlying elements that impact health as people age are central to the future of how the Medical Center delivers care.
Initially, the Office of Health Equity will include three components: community and population health improvement; health equity research; and health equity education and training. Wilkins will work with existing leadership and departments to integrate and scale initiatives.
“Health disparities in our community and nation have become intractable and without systematic approaches to addressing them, we will continue to see rising health care costs and poor health outcomes. I am thrilled that VUMC is taking on the important challenge of embedding health equity across the organization in ways that will provide equitable care and enable discoveries that reduce health disparities,” said Wilkins.
Wilkins is the author of numerous peer-reviewed publications and abstracts and currently serves as principal investigator or co-investigator for several of VUMC’s most recognizable federally funded research initiatives, including the Vanderbilt-Miami-Meharry Center of Excellence in Precision Medicine and Population Health, Improving Clinical Trial Education, Recruitment and Enrollment at CTSA Hubs (I-CERCH), The Mid-South Clinical Data Research Network, the Tennessee Center for AIDS Research and the Mid-South Practice Transformation Network.
At VUMC and Meharry, Wilkins serves on more than 40 committees and advisory boards guiding educational, clinical and research activities. She is the recipient of numerous professional awards and distinctions.
Wilkins earned a BS in Microbiology and an MD from Howard University. She completed residency training in internal medicine at Duke University Medical Center and a geriatric medicine fellowship at Washington University School of Medicine/Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
Following her medical training, Wilkins earned a Master of Science in Clinical Investigation from Washington University School of Medicine.
Prior to joining the faculty of both VUSM and Meharry Medical College in 2012, Wilkins served in a variety of roles of increasing responsibility at Washington University School of Medicine where she was an associate professor of Medicine in Geriatrics and Nutritional Science, Psychiatry and Surgery.
There, she was a clinical investigator in Washington University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and was also involved in a range of community and public health initiatives including founding the Center for Community Health and Partnerships.