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Profiles in Leadership: Top 25 Minority Executives

 

Kimberlydawn Wisdom overcame obstacles; now, she helps her community do the same

By | December 4th, 2012 | Blog | Add A Comment

 

Kimberlydawn Wisdom: “As an emergency medicine physician, the community comes to you in various states of disarray. I thought that, if I could go out and meet them where they are, I could have a greater impact.”

 

One in a series of profiles of Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare (sponsored by Furst Group)

 

As a successful physician executive at Henry Ford Health System, Kimberlydawn Wisdom, MD, has attracted the attention of governmental leaders far and wide. Jennifer Granholm, then governor of Michigan, named her as the state surgeon general in 2003, a post she held for eight years. More recently, President Obama appointed her to his Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion and Integrative Public Health. But the path to a medical degree was one that Wisdom had to clear of a number of obstacles.

 

First and foremost was the era in which she grew up, a formidable boulder indeed.

 

“In the 1950s and ‘60s, there wasn’t a plethora of physicians of color,” notes Wisdom, Senior Vice President of Community Health & Equity and Chief Wellness Officer of Henry Ford Health System in Detroit and an assistant professor for the University of Michigan Medical Center. “In my junior year of high school, my guidance counselor said I should choose a profession that was more suited for my race. For her, saying ‘I want to be a doctor’ was like someone saying, ‘I want to be an astronaut.’ She actually did want to ensure my success. But I think her sense was, ‘Let me bring you back down to something that’s manageable and achievable.’ “

 

Yet Wisdom’s mother, who grew up in the small community of Coatesville, Pa., did in fact have an African-American physician. And Wisdom became a caregiver for her mom at home as she dealt with severe migraines.

 

“During my childhood, she spent a lot of time in bed and I was regularly bringing her aspirin or some other type of pain medication,” Wisdom says. “It was very impactful to me as a young child to watch her go through that. But on another level, I could bring her water, I could bring her comfort. That began to ignite this desire to consider how I could care for people long-term.”

 

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