Leadership Trailblazer Spotlight: Joneigh Khaldun, Vice President and Chief Health Equity Officer of CVS
April 05, 2022 | ASTHO Staff
Public health has a rich history of women in leadership. Are there any figures who inspire you most?
There are so many female leaders in public health that I admire! It is hard for me to pick just one. I’d say all of my fellow female state health officers who stepped up during the pandemic have been inspirational and kept me going. I would also say I have had the honor of working with amazing women in my time in the Baltimore Health Department, Detroit Health Department, and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. It has been so inspirational to work with such amazing teams and leaders throughout my career.
How have you been able to elevate other women in public health?
Particularly as a woman of color, it is so important that I lift up and support others from historically marginalized communities. Whether I’m leading a meeting and recognize another woman not speaking up or being spoken over, or mentoring and supporting female colleagues, mentors, and people on my teams, I feel it is part of my duty to lift others up.
Who has been most supportive of you in your leadership journey?
I’ve had so many people—personally and professionally—supporting me on my leadership journey. At each stage of my educational and career journey, going back to even elementary school, I’ve had teachers, professors, coaches, colleagues, mentors, and bosses who have recognized and appreciated my passion, potential, and expertise. And, of course, my family—my husband, children, parents, and extended family. I have an entire village supporting me on my journey. It’s so important, especially when times are tough. And I try to be part of that village for others.
Describe one of the most meaningful accomplishments of your career.
I think anyone who has led during the COVID-19 response would say that this has truly been our public health leadership moment. While I wish that, as a country, we were better prepared, I feel proud that my team’s work and the policies we implemented in Michigan saved many lives. In Michigan we were one of the most proactive states early on fighting back the pandemic, and the stark racial and ethnic disparities it exposed. We acted boldly and intentionally and saved lives. I am very proud of that.
The public health workforce has been under immense stress. Who—or what—motivates you to persevere through tough times?
Honestly, my patients and my teams. I’ve been honored to continue working in the Henry Ford emergency department throughout the pandemic. Being able to see how I can make an impact in people’s lives with the policies we implemented at the state level were humbling. Sometimes my patients recognize me from my many television appearances in Michigan. Often, their message has been that they wore their mask, or got their vaccine, or they just felt less anxiety about the pandemic, because I was there. That is so humbling and brings so much meaning to my work. I consider my life’s work—helping people be healthy locally and at large—so rewarding. That’s why I’m so excited about my new role at CVS Health. We touch millions of people’s lives every day and have the opportunity to change the trajectory of health in America at scale.