GW's Rodham Institute Promotes Health Equity in D.C.

From left to right: Jehan El-Bayoumi, M.D.; Hillary Rodham Clinton; and Rain Henderson

From left to right: Jehan El-Bayoumi, M.D.; Hillary Rodham Clinton; and Rain Henderson

According to the D.C. Department of Health, residents living in Ward 8, which has one of the city’s highest poverty rates, are nearly twice as likely to be obese as residents across D.C. To help close such health gaps, the Rodham Institute brought together experts to find sustainable solutions to the health problems that plague underserved residents in the District.

The Rodham Institute, housed at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), hosted its second annual summit to promote health equity on Thursday.

“The goal today is to first acknowledge the work that has already been done, to catch people up on the Rodham Institute’s progress and to continue to inspire people who are already doing the work,” said Jehan “Gigi” El-Bayoumi, founding director of the Rodham Institute and associate professor of medicine at SMHS.  

The institute, founded in 2013 in honor of the late Dorothy Rodham, is supported by its clinical partner, the GW Medical Faculty Associates. The institute seeks to apply the transformative power of education to help current and future health care providers achieve health equity in Washington, D.C.

Jeffrey S. Akman, M.D. ’81, RESD ’85, Walter A. Bloedorn Professor of Administrative Medicine, vice president for health affairs and dean of SMHS, welcomed leaders from health advocacy organizations who filled Jack Morton Auditorium to learn the latest methods to effectively promote local and national health equity.

George Washington University President Steven Knapp introduced Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rain Henderson, CEO of the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, who led the conversation about health equity and what is being done to combat these issues.

“It’s an incredible honor to have this institute named in memory of my mother,” Clinton said. “The mission of the institute is so much in line with what we are doing at the Clinton Foundation and is also in line with my mother’s own upbringing and her concerns about caring for people who were left out and left behind.” 

Clinton recalled the connection her mother developed with her physician, El-Bayoumi. “She and Gigi formed such a close personal bond over the years,” Clinton recalled. “They would talk for hours about what kind of obligations we owe each other.

“She always impressed upon us that we have an obligation to think about ways to improve the quality of life in the community,” Clinton said. “That may be one of her lasting lessons. It certainly was for me.”

El-Bayoumi described the institute’s strategic plan, which is broken down into three main areas: workforce development, clinician training and community collaboration.

Together with the Milken Institute School of Public Health at GW and more than 20 community partners from across the city, the institute received a grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to study a new model that aims to improve HIV prevention and care while lowering health care costs. The institute also coordinated several volunteer experiences for medical students and residents at Food and Friends, an organization dedicated to caring for people living with HIV/AIDS by preparing and delivering specialized meals.

“That’s an incredible amount of results-oriented work in one year,” said Clinton, commending the work of the institute and of GW. “I think you are targeting areas that are critically important to try to change attitudes, increase education and awareness, deliver services and connect people.

“This has been done by so many people over so many years, but on small scales and not sustainable,” said Clinton, explaining how the Rodham Institute’s work dovetails with efforts at the Clinton Foundation through the Clinton Health Matters Initiative.

The initiative was created to improve the health and well-being of all people by activating individuals, communities and organizations to make meaningful contributions to the health of others.

“Our goal is to reduce the prevalence of chronic diseases,” added Henderson, who leads the initiative. “What the Clinton Health Matters Initiative does best is system changes and system strengthening at the national, community and environmental levels.”

At the event, the Rodham Institute Community Collaborator Award was presented to Breathe DC, an organization dedicated to reducing asthma and lung disease in the city. The $5,000 grant was awarded for a proposal to create a parent advocacy group to improve housing and health conditions for children and their families.

Community partners and students involved in the Rodham Institute’s Health Education Leadership Programs, a comprehensive pipeline program designed to cultivate student interest in diverse health professions among underrepresented minority youth, led poster presentations during the event. Discussions on health professions training, workforce development and community collaboration also were featured during the summit.

“There are so many people, particularly young people and children, who have such great potential but are held back by the circumstances of their environment, their family or the institutions around them,” noted Clinton. “Health is such a core purpose for any society to try to provide, but to do it in smart ways that really look at not just individual health and delivery, but also community health, so that there will be more people, like those that my mother encountered, who feel they have both an opportunity and an obligation to try to improve the environment for everyone.”