Abdul El-Sayed

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Abdul El-Sayed
El-Sayed, Abdul (cropped).jpg
Born Abdulrahman Mohamed

(1984-10-31) October 31, 1984 (age 33)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Education University of Michigan (BS)
Oriel College, Oxford (MA, PhD)
Columbia University (MD)
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Sarah Jukaku
Awards Rhodes Scholarship
Paul and Daisy Soros
Fellowships for New
Website Campaign website

Abdulrahman Mohamed El-Sayed (born October 31, 1984) is an American physician, epidemiologist, public health expert, and politician. In 2018 he ran for the Democratic nomination for governor of Michigan, finishing second of three candidates with over 340,000 votes.[1]

El-Sayed was executive director of the Detroit Health Department and Health Officer for the City of Detroit from 2015 to 2017. Appointed at age 30, he was the youngest health director in a major U.S. city. Previously, he was Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University. On February 9, 2017, the Detroit News reported that El-Sayed would resign as health director to run for governor.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

El-Sayed was born in the Detroit metropolitan area to parents who emigrated to the United States from Egypt.[3]

He grew up in the Detroit area with his father, Mohamed El-Sayed, and stepmother, Jacqueline El-Sayed, a native of Gratiot County, Michigan. Both are engineers. His father grew up in Alexandria, Egypt and emigrated to the United States to study engineering at Wayne State University.[4] His mother, Fatten Elkomy, is a nurse practitioner in Missouri.

El-Sayed graduated in 2003 from Bloomfield Hills Andover High School, where he was a three-sport athlete – football, wrestling, and lacrosse – becoming a captain in each team sport in which he participated.[4]

El-Sayed attended the University of Michigan, where he majored in biology and political science, and played on the men’s club lacrosse team.[5] He won the William Jennings Bryan Prize for Political Science, graduated with Highest Distinction, and delivered the student commencement speech in 2007 in front of president Bill Clinton.[6] While at the University of Michigan, El-Sayed lived with his grandparents, Jan and Judy Johnson, at their house in Whitmore Lake, Washtenaw County, Michigan.

El-Sayed was awarded a full-tuition Dean’s scholarship to attend the University of Michigan Medical School, where he completed his first two years of medical school.[7] There, he led a student medical mission to Peru and founded a student organization that raised money and coordinated community service for a local free clinic.[8] He was offered the Marshall Scholarship and awarded the Rhodes Scholarship in 2009 as a second-year medical student.[8] He attended Oriel College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar,[9] where he completed a Doctor of Philosophy in Public Health in 2011.[10] While at Oxford, he earned a full blue as captain of Oxford’s men’s lacrosse team.[11] He completed his MD at Columbia University's College of Physicians & Surgeons in 2014 on a Soros Fellowship for New Americans[12] and Medical Scientist Training Program fellow funded through the National Institutes of Health.[13]

Health career[edit]

El-Sayed is the author of over 100 scholarly articles, abstracts, and book chapters on public health policy, social epidemiology, and health disparities.[14] His essays on public health policy have also been published in The New York Times,[15] CNN,[16] The Hill,[17] The Huffington Post,[18] The Detroit News,[19] and the Detroit Free Press.[20]

Public health professor[edit]

In 2014, he joined the faculty at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health as Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology. He served as director of Columbia's Systems Science Program and Global Research Analytics for Population Health.[20] As a researcher, he has authored over 100 scientific publications, including articles, commentaries, book chapters, and abstracts, about health disparities, birth outcomes, and obesity. His research has been cited over 700 times.[14] He is the recipient of several research awards, including being named one of the Carnegie Council’s Policy Innovators.[21] He created and taught the Mailman School's first course on systems science and population health. He co-edited a textbook on the topic with Sandro Galea published in 2017 by Oxford University Press, "Systems Science and Population Health".[22]

Health Director of Detroit[edit]

In August 2015, Mayor Mike Duggan appointed El-Sayed Health Officer and Executive Director of the Detroit Health Department, making him, at 30 years old, the youngest health officer in a major US city at the time. In that role, he was charged with rebuilding the Detroit Health Department after government public health activities were provided by a nonprofit before the City of Detroit's municipal bankruptcy in 2012.[20] On his first day on the job, El-Sayed arrived at a small office space in the back of Detroit's parking department overseeing five employees.[4] In his first year as Director, El-Sayed led efforts to oppose increases in sulfur dioxide emissions by Marathon Petroleum's Southwest Refinery, which resulted in reductions in overall emissions.[19] He also led efforts to test Detroit schools for lead in the wake of Flint's Water crisis,[23] provide free glasses to children in Detroit city schools,[24] and transform the City's troubled Animal Control department.[25][26]

In view of his leadership on lead poisoning reduction, he was appointed to the governor’s statewide Childhood Lead Elimination Board.[27] He also served on the State of Michigan's Public health Advisory Commission,[28] and the Advisory Committee to the US Secretary of Health & Human Services for Healthy People 2030.[29]

He was named one of Crain's Detroit's "40 under 40",[30] and "Public Official of the Year" in 2016 by the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.[31] In 2017, the University of Michigan awarded him a Bicentennial Alumni Award, awarded to 20 alumni "whose achievements carry on Michigan's traditions of intellectual creativity and academic endeavor, of civic engagement, and of national and international service."[32]

Political career[edit]

On February 9, 2017, the Detroit News reported that El-Sayed would resign as health director to run for governor of Michigan in the 2018 Democratic Party primary.[2] He officially announced his candidacy on February 25, 2017.[4] El-Sayed was inspired to run for governor following the Flint water crisis, saying, "I watched as Governor Snyder and his team of accountants were cutting costs and cutting corners. Their inattention to communities ultimately poisoned thousands of children - and those children were the very ones that I was serving at the helm of the health department. ... And that's something I didn't believe in. I believe in government as something we do in this country for the people and by the people".[24] He lost the August 7 primary to Gretchen Whitmer.

El-Sayed pledged not to accept any campaign donations from corporations and raised over $5,000,000 from individual donations.[33]

El-Sayed received support from many notable public figures, including U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders,[34] Democratic congressional nominee and democratic socialist activist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,[35] and Women's March Organizer Linda Sarsour.[36] He was also endorsed by the organization Justice Democrats[37] and The Nation magazine.[38] According to Politico, El-Sayed's candidacy "went down in flames on Tuesday, failing to carry a single county in a nearly 22-point loss to Whitmer."[39] He earned more than 340,000 votes in Michigan's Democratic primary election, finishing second of three candidates.[40]


El-Sayed lives in Detroit, Michigan with his wife, Sarah Jukaku, a psychiatrist.[4][41]


  1. ^ "Detroit health director set to make bid for governor". Detroitnews.com. 
  2. ^ a b Ferretti, Christine (February 9, 2017). "Detroit health director set to make bid for governor". The Detroit News. 
  3. ^ Helms, Matt (November 24, 2015). "Detroit's new public health director aims to innovate". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved July 7, 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Gee, Marcus (May 12, 2017). "Will this man seeking to lead Michigan be America's first Muslim governor?". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved June 21, 2017. 
  5. ^ "U-M dual MD/PhD student named Rhodes Scholar". University of Michigan News. November 26, 2008. Retrieved July 7, 2016. 
  6. ^ "Abdulrahman El-Sayed Commencement Speech". YouTube. July 6, 2016. Retrieved July 7, 2016. 
  7. ^ "First 'U' student since 2004 wins Rhodes Scholarship". michigandaily.com. Retrieved August 8, 2018. 
  8. ^ a b "U-M dual MD/PhD student named Rhodes Scholar - University of Michigan News". umich.edu. Retrieved July 7, 2016. 
  9. ^ "Abdul El-Sayed". rhodesscholarshiptrust.com. Archived from the original on August 19, 2016. Retrieved July 7, 2016. 
  10. ^ M., El-Sayed, Abdulrahman (January 1, 2011). "Inequalities in obesity in England : an agent-based systems approach". bl.uk. Retrieved July 7, 2016. 
  11. ^ "LACROSSE - Varsity Match 2011 - Cambridge University Sports Department". cam.ac.uk. Retrieved July 7, 2016. 
  12. ^ "Meet the Fellows". pdsoros.org. Retrieved July 7, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Alumni Directory". columbia.edu. April 13, 2015. Retrieved July 7, 2016. 
  14. ^ a b "Abdul El-Sayed - Google Scholar Citations". google.com. Retrieved July 7, 2016. 
  15. ^ "The Link Between Weight and Health". The New York Times. January 5, 2013. Retrieved July 7, 2016. 
  16. ^ "Health of Muslims, Arab Americans another victim of 9/11". cnn.com. Retrieved July 7, 2016. 
  17. ^ Picard, Joe (March 11, 2015). "Invest in American science". thehill.com. Retrieved July 7, 2016. 
  18. ^ "Abdulrahman El-Sayed". huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved July 7, 2016. 
  19. ^ a b "Detroit health chief: Don't let Marathon up pollutants". freep.com. Retrieved July 7, 2016. 
  20. ^ a b c "A native son brings Detroit's health department back to life". statnews.com. May 3, 2016. Retrieved July 7, 2016. 
  21. ^ "Abdulrahman M. El Sayed". policyinnovations.org. Retrieved July 7, 2016. 
  22. ^ "Systems Science and Population Health". Oxford University Press. March 1, 2017. Retrieved August 8, 2018 – via Oxford University Press. 
  23. ^ Williams, Candice (April 5, 2016). "DPS testing for lead, copper in drinking water". The Detroit News. Retrieved 2018-09-01. 
  24. ^ a b Rifai, Ryan (March 27, 2017). "Q&A: The man running to be US' first Muslim governor". Al Jazeera. Retrieved June 21, 2017. 
  25. ^ Ferretti, Christine (February 15, 2016). "Detroit official goes to bat for public health". The Detroit News. Retrieved 2018-09-01. 
  26. ^ Hansen, Logan T. (December 7, 2016). "Detroit animal control gets new digs with doubled budget after years of poor conditions". MLive.com. Retrieved 2018-09-01. 
  27. ^ "Snyder - Gov. Rick Snyder appoints members to new Child Lead Poisoning Elimination Board". michigan.gov. Retrieved July 7, 2016. 
  28. ^ "Snyder - Gov. Rick Snyder makes appointments to the Public Health Advisory Commission". Michigan.gov. Retrieved December 8, 2016. 
  29. ^ "Committee Members | Healthy People 2020". Healthypeople.gov. Retrieved December 8, 2016. 
  30. ^ "Abdul El-Sayed, 31". Crainsdetroit.com. October 7, 2016. 
  31. ^ "Fourth Annual Innovation in Conservation Gala - Michigan League of Conservation Voters". Michiganlcv.org. Retrieved August 8, 2018. 
  32. ^ "Spring Commencement will include unique bicentennial elements". Record.unmich.edu. 
  33. ^ https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2018/07/27/spending-michigans-gubernatorial-primary-record-pace/848913002/
  34. ^ "Bernie Sanders Endorses Democrat Abdul El-Sayed In Michigan Governor's Race". Huff Post. 
  35. ^ Ikonomova, Violet (July 5, 2018). "Socialist hero Ocasio-Cortez endorses El-Sayed for Michigan governor". Detroit Metro Times. Retrieved July 5, 2018. 
  36. ^ "Abdul El-Sayed hosts townhall with Women's March founder". Michigandaily.com. 
  37. ^ Krieg, Gregory (June 28, 2018). "Who's next? Progressive primary insurgents to watch". Retrieved July 13, 2018. 
  38. ^ "Abdul El-Sayed for Governor of Michigan". The Nation. August 3, 2018. Retrieved 2018-08-03. 
  39. ^ Robinson, Derek (10 August 2018). "Rashida Tlaib Is the Left's Way Forward". Politico. Retrieved 22 August 2018. 
  40. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/08/07/us/elections/results-michigan-primary-elections.html
  41. ^ "Detroit's new public health director aims to innovate". freep.com. Retrieved July 7, 2016.