Makini Chisolm-Straker, MD, MPH (Photo courtesy of Mount Sinai website)

The President’s Commission on White House Fellows has appointed Mount Sinai’s Makini Chisolm-Straker, MD, MPH, to the 2022-2023 class of White House Fellows. This nonpartisan program equips exceptional young leaders with the necessary skills to be better community leaders through opportunities to work at the highest levels of the federal government.

Before starting her fellowship, Dr. Chisolm-Straker served as associate professor of emergency medicine and core faculty in the Institute for Health Equity Research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Her research focused on invisible populations, including labor and sex trafficking survivors, and trans and genderqueer patients in emergency settings.

“I’m grateful for the trust the White House Fellowship Commissioners have put in me. The Fellowship provides me with a prestigious opportunity to develop a portfolio outside of health care, in social policy, and to learn with and from the current and future leaders of the United States,” said Chisolm-Straker.

Each fellow chosen for the program spends a year working with senior White House staff, cabinet secretaries, and other top-ranking administration officials. During her fellowship, Chisolm-Straker will work at the Social Security Administration, where she will study the structural contributions to disability with SSA Acting Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi. PhD, MSW.

“We are operationalizing ‘disability’ according to the social model of disability, which defines ‘disablement’ as the social, economic, and/or political exclusion of people who live with impairment. We will collaborate with lived-experience experts—people who live or have lived with mental and/or physical impairments. To finally achieve a nation that respects and values the diversity of bodies, minds, and life events, we need to understand what people who experience disability—experts—say we need to build that nation,” Chisolm-Straker said.

Chisolm-Straker anticipates that this work will further her mission to amplify the voices of those who have been historically excluded or discounted. The fellowship will also deepen her capacity to serve in domestic social policy, the key determinant of individual and community well-being.

“The biggest problems many of our patients in the ED face are not inherently medical or psychological; they are rooted in the environments in which they grow, learn, live, and work,” Chisolm-Straker said. “My job is to bring the wisdom of those with lived experience to policy-making spaces, ideally by bringing those individuals to these spaces. Their experiences are data, and they are experts.” 

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