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Heart of Giving Blog: Interview with Dr. Helene Gayle

Dec 9, 2021


Minding the Gap for Better Future 

Now more than ever, public health is a top priority. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown all too clearly how social inequity can collide with disease to create a global crisis. Currently CEO of the Chicago Community Trust, Dr. Helene Gayle has worked to address healthcare and wealth gaps in a range of roles, among them: President and CEO of McKinsey Social Initiative, Director of HIV, TB, and Reproductive Health Program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Chief of the AIDS/HIV Division at USAID. Her 30-year career of service began with medical training and positions at the CDC, where she witnessed the link between health and broader social issues firsthand. Listen to this episode of the Heart of Giving podcast to hear more about these key issues:

  • Inspiring Younger Generations: Dr. Gayle describes how her experiences growing up in the mid- to late 1960s instilled her with the need to promote positive change. Both role models within her community and her own activism contributed to an abiding passion for causes such as the Civil Rights Movement and women’s liberation. Her story shows the importance of programs relevant for young people: Which organizations are supporting the next generation of thought leaders who will contribute to social justice?
  • Connecting Health and Wealth: Long before the grim toll of the current pandemic, Dr. Gayle recognized the relationship between healthcare and economic concerns. While practicing as a pediatrician, she felt a calling to public health, as working with individual patients revealed the urgency of social problems. During an era that has illustrated just how disproportionately COVID-19 affected communities of color, her experience is more relevant than ever. As we rebuild, how can philanthropy and policy initiatives address the intersection between healthcare disparities and other forms of discrimination?  
  • Advancing Racial and Economic Equity: In her current position, Dr. Gayle grapples with many issues impacting African-American and Latinx communities in the Chicago region, including access to quality education and healthcare. Yet large economic disparities by race impact all Americans, as closing the racial wealth gap would providee a four to six percent boost to the GDP. Her work provides a striking call to action: From business ownership to changing the debt equation, what efforts can facilitate everyone’s full participation in the economy? 
To learn more listen to our interview with Helene Gayle on the Heart of Giving Podcast here.


This article was composed by Emily Hershman.