Ruby Mendenhall, Ph.D. has been named the assistant dean for diversity and democratization of health innovation at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. Mendenhall is also an associate professor of sociology, African American studies, urban and regional planning, gender and women’s studies and social work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is also an affiliate of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, Women and Gender in Global Perspectives, the Cline Center for Advanced Social Research, Epstein Health Law and Policy Program, Family Law and Policy Program and the Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. She received the Richard and Margaret Romano Professorial Scholar for outstanding achievements in research and leadership on campus.

Carle Illinois has a first of its kind medical curriculum built on four distinct pillars: basic sciences, clinical sciences, engineering and innovation, and medical humanities. Professor Mendenhall’s insight and experience will enhance the development of a strong medical humanities curriculum thread, training compassionate physician-innovators to be on the forefront of developing new approaches to patient care. Mendenhall aims to truly democratize health innovation and make the extraordinary discoveries that will take place at Carle Illinois accessible to everyone. Included in this pursuit is training cohorts of diverse students and creating pipeline programs that will ensure that Carle Illinois produces the multifaceted talents required for success in the twenty-first century.

“My vision is to help foster an interdisciplinary, multi-sector and humanistic approach to medicine at Carle Illinois,” says Mendenhall. “As a land-grant institution, we must bring our latest health innovations to the citizens of Illinois, and the global community, as we take advantage of critical insights from citizen scientists and the broader community. In so doing, the sum of our parts will be more than what we ever imagined and will hopefully ignite a paradigm shift in health care and well-being.”

In her role as assistant dean, Mendenhall will work on health and well-being research, curriculum development, diversity initiatives and translational activities. Building on the strong interdisciplinary culture of the College of Medicine, she will work with faculty, staff and students in the humanities, arts, social sciences, law and other areas to incorporate a breadth of multi-disciplinary research and knowledge into the Carle Illinois curriculum. Additionally, she will collaborate with community, social, educational, religious, business and governmental partners in breaking down barriers in order to holistically address social determinants of health and decrease health disparities.

“Professor Mendenhall is an accomplished and compassionate researcher who will bring a unique humanistic perspective to our engineering-based medical education, enabling us to accomplish our vision of leveraging engineering and advanced technology in order to provide more humanistic care for patients.” said Dr. King Li, dean of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. “We’re confident she will lead the way in fostering a culture of diversity that represents the communities in which our future physician-innovators will serve.”

Mendenhall’s research examines how living in racially segregated neighborhoods with high levels of violence affects black mothers’ mental and physical health using surveys, interviews, crime statistics, police records, data from 911 calls and genomic analysis. She uses mixed methods to examine how racial microaggressions affect students of color health and sense of belonging on predominantly white campuses. Mendenhall also uses mixed methods to understand how low- and moderate-income families use the earned income tax credit for social mobility and how financial stress negatively affects health outcomes. She earned her master’s degree from the University of Chicago in public policy and her doctorate from Northwestern University in human development and social policy.

“Through Professor Mendenhall’s research and experience, she will lead the way in creating an environment in which we train our physician-leaders to develop solutions making health care available to all.” said Rashid Bashir, executive associate dean at Carle Illinois. “We are thrilled to have her leadership through this role.”

Read more about the impact of Ruby Mendenhall’s research here.