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Yale New Haven Hospital’s Dr. Keith Churchwell to be honored with American Heart Association’s Meritorious Achievement Award

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

New Haven, CT (May 11, 2021) – Keith Churchwell, MD, president, Yale New Haven Hospital (YNHH), will be presented with the Award of Meritorious Achievement at the American Heart Association (AHA) National Volunteer Awards Virtual Experience on Tuesday, June 22. The AHA presents the award to individuals and organizations for contributions of national significance.

Dr. Churchwell was selected based on his leadership, expertise and commitment to greater health equity, and his impact on the AHA and its regions in charting a path to address structural racism and transform communities. From his position at Yale New Haven Hospital, Dr. Churchwell has evaluated both the hard data and "our day-to-day experience" of the pandemic and how it has affected different populations differently. This knowledge has helped inform and refocus AHA strategies to best address the social determinants of health – the conditions in which people are born and live. He was instrumental in drafting the AHA presidential advisory "Call to Action: Structural Racism as a Fundamental Driver of Health Disparities," a milestone for the organization.

The longtime hospital administrator and cardiologist and American Heart Association volunteer leader considers the pandemic a stress test on society in general and the public's health in particular.

"COVID is teaching us a lot about ourselves and has illuminated the issue of health disparities across the country," Dr. Churchwell said. "The issues of socioeconomics, travel and nutrition are contributing to a higher risk for our Black and brown communities, not only in terms of COVID but diabetes, cardiovascular disease and overall morbidity and mortality. In the last 10 or 20 years, we have made significant strides across all populations in the reduction of mortality in cardiovascular disease, given the work that the AHA and others have done. The overall improvement is not equal – African Americans still lag," he said. He said such discrepancies demand a re-evaluation "to expand our ability to address problems that are not only medical, but social, because the social have an impact on the medical health of the individual and the population."

"COVID is starting a national conversation in multiple places, not just health care," he said. "I was happy and honored to play a role in the development of the advisory."

Churchwell also has spearheaded restructuring at the AHA. He was president of the Southeast Affiliate from 2010 to 2014 and president of the former Founders Affiliate from 2017 to 2019. As an ex-officio member of the Eastern States board of directors, he helped reorganize the former Founders, Great Rivers and Mid-Atlantic affiliates into the new Eastern States region, which serves more than 74 million people in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

The Meritorious Achievement Award, presented annually at the AHA Scientific Sessions, recognizes a person whose achievements have made a significant impact in the field of congenital heart disease and heart health in the young and have helped to further the mission of the council.

Yale New Haven Hospital (YNHH), part of Yale New Haven Health, is a nationally recognized, 1,541-bed, not-for-profit hospital serving as the primary teaching hospital for the Yale School of Medicine (YSM). Founded as the fourth voluntary hospital in the U.S. in 1826, today, YNHH has two New Haven-based campuses, and also includes Yale New Haven Children's Hospital, Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital and Smilow Cancer Hospital. YNHH has received Magnet designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the nation’s highest honor of nursing excellence. YNHH has a combined medical staff of about 4,500 university and community physicians practicing in more than 100 specialties.

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