Pernell leaving University Hospital to pursue other opportunities

Highly regarded and well-known thought leader and public health advocate had been pursuing role as CEO

Dr. Chris Pernell, a well-known thought leader on all issues involving health care, announced Thursday that she is stepping down from her role as chief strategic integration & health equity officer at University Hospital in Newark to purse other opportunities.

The move is effective Sept. 2.

Pernell, who came to the hospital in November 2019, had been actively pursuing the role of CEO, which opened after Shereef Elnahal left earlier this summer for a job with the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C. Mary Maples is serving as interim CEO.

Pernell, in a statement, said she was grateful for her time at the hospital.

“Having the opportunity to serve our communities and state in this role has been deeply meaningful, especially in the city that welcomed my maternal grandparents, mother and family,” she said.

“At a time in our communities’ and nation’s history when health equity has been core to solving not only our way through a pandemic but also in disrupting systemic racism and historical and contemporary inequities, this has been ‘heart work’ for me. While my time at UH is ending, my love and mandate to improve the health and well-being of populations, especially historically excluded groups, will persist and continue to motivate my life and professional practice.”

A staunch public health advocate, Pernell was instrumental to University Hospital’s partnership with the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, L+M Development Partners, Type A Projects and MSquared to create supportive housing and community health care space in Newark at the Georgia King Village property in the city’s Fairmount neighborhood.

Pernell also partnered with the city of Newark to conduct the most recent community health needs assessment, the results of which will be released this fall. In addition, Pernell and her team secured and expanded funding for key programs, including the hospital-based violence intervention and trauma recovery center programs. In 2020, Pernell was appointed as the designated medical expert for the Essex County Civilian Task Force. Pernell is a frequent contributor on CNN.

Pernell served a variety of roles at the hospital, including serving as the hospital’s first chief responsible for diversity, equity & inclusion.

The position was created following the hospital’s first Strategic Plan, which was completed by the board of directors in June 2019. Under Pernell’s leadership, the hospital created its first equity and inclusion strategy, including the design of a theory of change framework, hiring UH’s first director of equity and inclusion, and the launch of its first cultural competency survey and mandatory implicit bias and structural racism training. Over the past three years, she has successfully led the hospital’s efforts on population health, community affairs, strategic planning, human experience and equity and inclusion.

The University Hospital board of directors thanked her for her service.

“We are grateful for Dr. Pernell’s contributions and leadership during her tenure at University Hospital,” the board said in a statement. “Her guidance has helped us provide exceptional care to all our patients and our community at large. The board of directors wishes Dr. Pernell continued success as she embarks on this next phase of her career.”

Maples also offered praise.

“Dr. Chris has been a tireless advocate for University Hospital’s patients, team members and community, providing expert guidance and advice to the entire leadership group as we pursue our mission, vision and values,” she said. “We will take the roadmap that she has given us and move in earnest to ensure that the work of equity and inclusion remains a priority at University Hospital.”

The University Hospital’s Community Oversight Board also thanked Pernell for her efforts.

“Dr. Pernell’s dedication to public health has made a positive impact on the way we think about patients and has changed the way we talk about health within the community,” it said. “We are thankful for her leadership and her focus on the importance of health care access to all, which will continue to be a driving focus of our work.”

Pernell is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, where she is often called upon for student presentations and faculty grand rounds and presentations on topics related to equity and inclusion and population health.

Pernell, a regular on various ROI Influencers lists, earned her bachelor’s degree from Princeton University in 1997 and her M.D. from Duke University in 2003.