SMHS Faculty Spotlight
SMHS Faculty Spotlight
CFE (Center for Faculty Excellence)

GW School of Medicine & Health Sciences Center for Faculty Excellence 

June 2023 Faculty Spotlight Series
Excellence in teaching & learning, scholarly endeavors, and leadership are all around us at GW. The Center for Faculty Excellence would like to Spotlight our faculty’s contributions. In honor of the upcoming Clara Bliss Hinds Society Annual Event, we will be highlighting the three speakers for the event. Our speakers bring leadership perspectives across the Academic Medical Enterprise. We want to thank our highlighted faculty members for sharing with us their advice and perspectives!
- SMHS Center for Faculty Excellence
Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, MD, MPH
Join the CFE as we highlight LaQuandra Nesbitt, MD, MPH, who discusses her role as Senior Associate Dean for Population Health and Health Equity and the Executive Director of the Center for Population Health Sciences and Health Equity (CPHSHE) and her work within the GW and DC communities. Dr. Nesbitt discusses her journey and future goals for incorporating discussions of population health and health equities to understand better the communities we serve and train future medical leaders. She also discusses the importance of mentoring in her own career and leadership development. 


LaQuandra S. Nesbitt, MD, MPH, is a board-certified family physician with more than a decade of experience leading population health initiatives in governmental public health agencies. Most recently, she served as the director of DC Health and led the District’s COVID-19 pandemic response. In this role, she mobilized organizations and community to implement innovative solutions to promote health and wellness and achieve health equity. She also served as the interim director of the District’s Department of Behavioral Health. As a highly sought-after expert in population health and wellness, she has held leadership roles within major federal and local healthcare organizations, including service on several boards and committees within the federal reserve bank and the Centers for Disease Control. 

She earned a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from the University of Michigan, her Doctor of Medicine from Wayne State University School of Medicine, and a Master of Public Health in Health Care Management and Policy from the Harvard School of Public Health. She completed an internship in family medicine at the University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University and served as chief resident in the family medicine residency at the University of Maryland and completed the Commonwealth Fund Harvard University Fellowship in Minority Health Policy.

Interview Q/A

How long have you been at GW SMHS? What drew you to this current position?
LaQuandra: I started my position at GW in November of 2022. I came to GW after spending about 15 years working in governmental public health agencies and spent 11 years leading those agencies as a Chief Health Strategist, both at the local and state level. In those positions, I helped develop population health initiatives, worked on health policy, and was involved in a range of activities from program design to regulating healthcare facilities. The opportunity to join the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences as its first Senior Associate Dean for Population Health and Health Equity, and the Executive Director of the Center for Population Health Sciences and Health Equity was a great opportunity for me to combine my previous professional experiences in government and academia.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in family medicine and public health?

LaQuandra: My interest in family medicine started at the beginning of my interest in a medical career. I was drawn to family medicine because it allows a physician to care for people across their life course and maintain a continuity relationship with patients from the very first day of life to caring for patients as they become a part of the aging population. It also allowed me to have such a dynamic clinical career, where throughout the course of a clinical session, I could be checking on a newborn or managing a patient with a myriad of complex health conditions. The ability to develop relationships with patients and people has translated greatly throughout my career to the practice of population health. In family medicine, I was able to have an impact on an individual patient and have one-on-one discussions. At the same time, in population health, I can maintain that same familiarity with the community while also increasing my understanding of their challenges across the life course. As a health strategist, this work allows me to refine and understand what is needed to impact people and create the opportunity for everyone in a given community to lead a healthy life and achieve optimal health, regardless of age. That has been equally rewarding and valuable to me.
As Executive Director of the Center for Population Health Sciences and Health Equity (CPHSHE) and Senior Associate Dean for Population Health and Health Equity:
Can you tell us a little about your roles?

LaQuandra: Within the two roles at GW, I should also mention our commitment to ensuring that we have an equity-focused Academic Medical Enterprise where all our patients can receive high-quality care and are treated with dignity and respect. This extends to a commitment that all our faculty, staff, and learners understand and value the clinical and non-clinical factors that contribute to all patients' health status and outcomes. This also means a continuous partnership and engagement with the community we serve, in meaningful and mutually beneficial ways. As the Senior Associate Dean for Population Health and Health Equity, I help to integrate a population health approach across our academic, clinical, and research programs at GW, such as the Clinical Public Health and Population Health practice program, which is extremely popular within our MD programs, and how to expand that same type of integration of population health and clinical public health into our GME programs for residents and fellows, and into experiences for our health sciences students. I help to facilitate strategic partnerships with our community based organizations and clinical providers, and academic research partners. Then my role as the Executive Director of the Center involves identifying how we manage our patient population through the use of data to ensure that we don't have differential health outcomes for the people that we care for. We can only have an equitable health system if we measure to ensure that everyone receives the same quality of healthcare across demographical factors like race, ethnicity, gender, ability, or age. The center helps to measure the performance of our clinical pillar and put forth best practices in place to make sure that we can deliver on our promise of being an equitable health system.

What is your favorite thing about your current roles?

LaQuandra: The opportunity to advance this huge pillar of population health within an institution with such an extensive and established healthcare system, and having such a huge commitment and recognition by the University through Dean Bass' leadership to have a focus on population health and health equity as a critical component within a health system. The enthusiasm of the leadership, faculty, staff, and learners behind this center and pillar is truly remarkable and motivating.

What are your major goals for GW and the CPHSHE in the upcoming academic year?

LaQuandra: There are two major initiatives we are currently working on. One of them is a part of the opening of the Cedar Hill Regional Medical Center on the campus of Saint Elizabeths East. This collaborative partnership with the District of Columbia government, Universal Health Services, and GW will open a new access point for healthcare in a part of the city that has not had access to a full-service hospital in quite some time. My role, and a huge activity of the center, is for GW to be a successful partner in that effort and for us to design a clinical program and population health research initiative that fulfills our promise to address the health disparities and inequities that have long been challenges for the residents who live in wards 7 and 8. These communities have experienced lower life expectancies and a disproportionate burden of disease when compared to the other residents who live in the DC region. This is a huge and once-in-a-generation opportunity to structure a clinical, academic, and research program that can fulfill the promise of improving health outcomes for this population in a way that radically improves their quality of life. 

The second one bolsters how we think about population health in the GW Academic Medical Enterprise. So investigating how we use data to drive our decision-making around our clinical program design and how we use data to demonstrate our quality and value within our health system, is a huge area of excitement for people like me who love data!
As Senior Associate Dean for Population Health and Health Equity, what do you think medical curricula need to do better to address health equities?

LaQuandra: Since joining GW, I have spent a significant portion of my time engaging with leadership in our academic and educational programs and having conversations about strategic plans for our clinical public health and practice program and the intersectionality within our graduate medical education programs. This year, I kicked off the Graduate Medical Education Retreat, speaking about opportunities for health equity in the GME space. I am excited to continue to have these discussions, but more importantly, move these discussions to a more robust implementation around addressing health inequities in training the future healthcare workforce. The mantra we used at DC Health was, “Health equity is everyone's work.” So there really should be a framework for institutionalizing health equity through training all of our learners to look for differential outcomes in health outcomes and being able to look at the contributors to those differential outcomes. There are ways to be focused on quality improvement, and patient safety, and recognize how those factors contribute to health equity. With that, my focus is also on helping people understand the curriculum, and training design, and identifying the core components of our existing curriculum where you can naturally embed a focus on health equity. This also involves helping others understand that health equity is not an add-on or a separate part of the curriculum but rather something that can be integrated, which I feel is an important principle that we will continue to advance here at GW.
You’re one of the speakers for the June Clara Bliss Hinds Society Annual Event focused on leadership in academic medicine. Can you tell us a little about what support (programs, mentoring) helped you throughout your career to develop leadership skills?

LaQuandra: There are a few people who have been extremely influential to me throughout my career that I met very early on. One was the Chair of the department when I was in my residency, and the other I met during my fellowship. Both individuals I always consult when making a professional decision. What has been so impactful about receiving mentorship is identifying people who recognize that the goal of mentorship is not to create the next person who's exactly like them, but to recognize your core strengths, interests, and passions. They supported me in so many ways through coaching and networking that truly aligned with my experience and goals.

When I have mentored people, I have also taken that same approach. I'm not the mentor who will tell you what to do. I try to learn about who you are as a person first, so when you come to me for guidance and mentorship, I ask a series of questions that provide an introspective approach around the best path for you to take. It is also valuable for a mentor to ensure you have a professional development plan that you understand. Even if your mentor is not in the same institution as you, which mine has seldom been, they should help you navigate the role and growth within your institution. Your mentor helps you keep your professional and personal goals in alignment that rests well with you, and helps you make choices in the future. That alignment will change as you grow and develop; it is a dynamic construct. Good mentors help you when you're trying to decide where you feel comfortable with that alignment.
What impact do you hope you have on students, faculty, SMHS, science and/or patients in general?

LaQuandra: The impact I hope to have is to leave a community measurably better off than I found it. When I did work in Louisville, Kentucky, and the District of Columbia, I was able to do that, and I hope to continue this for the GW Health Community. Throughout my career, I've maintained academic appointments and have been able to influence many communities scattered across the US, and I expect that to be the same here at GW. Most days of the week, I am in Ross Hall on the 7th floor, and I welcome visits to learn more about what I'm doing from faculty, staff, and students.
How does this spotlight/recognition make you feel?
LaQuandra: I am truly honored to be recognized this way and to get more acquainted with the GW community. I look forward to the continued advancements of the GW health system that incorporate the need for population health and health equity. I hope to continue to increase health equity in the DC community and look forward to working with the great faculty, staff, and students here at GW.
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