Philadelphia Department of Public Health names first-ever chief racial equity officer

Gail Carter-Hamilton smiles, wearing a pink and green scarf and necklace.

Gail Carter-Hamilton has been named Philadelphia Department of Public Health's first-ever chief racial equity officer. (Photo courtesy of the Department of Health's staff webpage)

On Friday, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health named their first-ever chief racial equity officer.

Gail Carter-Hamilton, MSN, RN, CSN, will focus on developing racial equity efforts within the health department in order to address racial health disparities throughout the city in the newly created role.

Philadelphia has now joined Chicago and New York City as among the major cities that have established a racial equity officer position in their health departments. Both Chicago and New York City announced the creation of a similar position in the fall of 2020, following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic which has disproportionately affected Black and brown communities throughout the U.S.

Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole says Carter-Hamilton will work to move the needle on addressing deep-seated racial inequities in healthcare and public health for Philadelphians.

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“Many of the public health issues that Philadelphia faces are due to or exacerbated by historical and systemic racism,” Bettigole said in an emailed statement. “The Health Department is committed to ameliorating these problems from a place that acknowledges that racism. Having Ms. Carter-Hamilton in the Health Commissioner’s Office gives her a bird’s eye view of our operations and the ability to help guide our processes.”

Since August 2020, Carter-Hamilton coordinated COVID-19 guidelines and regulations in city schools and early-childcare spaces as the health department’s pediatric partnerships manager.

“I am committed to working to address health equity and health justice in Philadelphia,” Carter-Hamilton said in a statement. “So many of our communities are struggling under the dual burden of systemic racism and the pandemic, which led to much worse outcomes in communities of color.

With a B.S. in Nursing from La Salle University, and an M.S. in Nursing from Wilmington University, Carter-Hamilton has also worked as a school nurse in Philadelphia city schools.

“I look forward to ensuring that racial equity is at the heart of our operations and that we are able to build sustainable partnerships throughout the city in order to maintain robust public health programs,” she said.

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