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Dr. Chris Pernell

Director, Center for Health Equity

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Dr. Chris Pernell - NAACP

Dr. Chris T. Pernell is a dynamic physician leader and social change agent. In her practice, she focuses on health justice, community-based advocacy, and population-wide health promotion and disease prevention. A celebrated visionary and apostle of public health, Dr. Chris serves as the Director of the NAACP Center for Health Equity. The Center is charged with driving equitable health outcomes and transforming healthcare systems while valuing the whole person. Prior to joining the nation's oldest and most venerable civil rights organization, she launched The Esther Group, a public health consulting and health equity strategy firm. As founder of The Esther Group, she lives the mandate to dare a future where organizations, communities and systems can innovate for a better world and humanity.

Previously, she served as the first Chief Strategic Integration and Health Equity Officer at University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey. Dr. Pernell oversaw a portfolio which included Population Health, Strategic Planning, Community Affairs, and the Human Experience. Her office was responsible for leading health equity strategy development and integrating diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism initiatives across all system operations.

Prior to joining University Hospital, she led the 1199SEIU/League Labor Management Initiatives (LMI) Workplace and Community Health Program. Working with 1199SEIU leaders and frontline workers-the nation's largest healthcare union-and executive partners across NYC healthcare institutions, her efforts centered on workplace health strategies, worker empowerment, health equity, and health system transformation.

Dr. Chris is a charismatic and leading voice in preventive medicine and public health. Singled out both for her business acumen and public health expertise, her list of honors include: ROI-NJ Top 150 Business Leaders; The Greenleaf Center Hall of Fame Servant-Leader; The New Jersey Public Health Association Dr. Ezra Mundy Hunt Award for distinctive leadership in the field; an NJBiz Best 50 Women in Business Award; a ROI-NJ Women in Business Influencer; The American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM) Ron Davis Special Recognition Award; an NJBiz Public Health Hero Award; and the NAACP NJ State Conference 100 Black People Who Changed the World Honoree.

Dr. Pernell has spearheaded issues such as criminal justice reform, care for justice-impacted populations, evidence-based wellness programs, civic health, and high-quality education. Known for her community work in the Greater Newark, New Jersey area, she serves on the Essex County Civilian Task Force as a medical expert. On Juneteenth 2023, she was tapped to join the New Jersey Reparations Council as a member of their health equity committee. Dr. Pernell is a frequent contributor across television, radio, and print media leveraging her lived experiences and insights as a public health physician and health equity champion. She regularly speaks at professional symposia and social forums and advises community, state, regional, and national leaders on health equity, racial justice, population health, community wellbeing, and faith-based initiatives.

Dr. Chris graduated cum laude from Princeton University before attending Duke University School of Medicine. She received her Master of Public Health from the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and completed the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health General Preventive Medicine Residency. Dr. Pernell is a fellow and Regent-at-Large for the American College of Preventive Medicine. She holds an appointment as a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. Previously, she taught as an adjunct associate professor at the NYU College of Global Public Health. She labors as a faith leader in a groundbreaking assembly, BET HaSHEM YHWH Worldwide Ministries, and travels domestically and overseas helping to transform lives through love, truth, creativity, and inspiration.

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