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Crystal Cené, MD, MPH

After 13 years as a faculty member in the Division of General Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology, Crystal Wiley Cené, MD, will be leave UNC to serve as Chief Administrative Officer for Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and Associate Chief Medical Officer for Health Equity at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) Health System. She will also have a faculty appointment in the UCSD School of Medicine.

“Crystal has had a huge impact on the Division, the Department of Medicine, and the School of Medicine, and she will be greatly missed,” said Darren DeWalt, MD, chief of the Division. “I will miss Crystal’s friendship and the opportunity to learn from her day by day.  Like others, I will start recruiting her back the moment she leaves and continue to learn from her from afar.”

As a junior investigator, Dr. Cené researched the role of family members in the care of patients with heart failure and helped the world understand the important role our families play in health outcomes. Dr. DeWalt worked closely with her on three NIH R01s related to heart failure management for patients with low literacy, an intervention to reduce racial disparities in hypertension control in rural NC, and implementation of Patient Priorities Care. Dr. Cené also worked on several other studies at UNC, and around the country, to build community engagement and reduce health disparities.

Last year, Dr. Cené took on the position of the UNC Health System Executive Director of Health Equity. In that role, she helped to lead a more equitable distribution of vaccines and modeled how the health system can make a difference in addressing health disparities.

“Within our division, Crystal started our patient and families advisory board several years ago, as an extension of her work to engage patients and families, and to give patients a stronger voice in health care. We cannot forget her seminal email “We are NOT OK” after the George Floyd murder. That email and her subsequent leadership helped our division become more directed at being anti-racist. Since that time, she has led our anti-racism task force.”

With grace and intelligence, Dr. Cené influenced leaders at UNC and across the state, to make policies and actions more effective. She also created a strategic plan for the health system to address health equity. She leaves UNC with great ideas for moving forward.

The Division of General Medicine and the Department of Medicine thank Dr. Cené for her service to UNC, and congratulate her on this new opportunity.