DAVID ALEXANDER ANSELL, MD, MPH | BIOGRAPHY
David A. Ansell is a Chicago based physician and health activist. In June 1978, Ansell and four med-school friends from Syracuse hopped into a 24 foot U-Haul van and trekked across country to Chicago, more specifically to train at Cook County Hospital – one of the nation's most storied and notorious public hospitals. What they discovered was a building described by Scott Simon of NPR in 1994 "as huge, grey and battered as a vanquished and abandoned old battle ship run aground on the shattered streets just west of Chicago's Loop," and inside, "hallways thick with sick people who have also run aground and seem[ed] abandoned to waiting, limping, straining, coughing sighing and sweating, bleeding, crying."
Ansell journeyed from the open wards of County to the hallowed halls of Congress where he testified to change American laws on patient dumping -- the immoral and deadly practice of inter-hospital transfer of critically ill, uninsured patients. He developed one of the first programs in the US to battle racial disparity when he started the Breast Cancer Screening Program at Cook County Hospital. He started as an intern at County and stayed seventeen years. He now sits on the board of directors of that troubled health system.
Dr. David Ansell is an Internal Medicine physician who currently serves as the Chief Medical Officer at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. He was appointed to the eleven member board of directors of the Cook County Health System in 2008 where he is chairperson of the Quality and Patient Safety Committee. He continues his service to the medically underserved in his volunteer activities at the Community Health Clinic, a free clinic in Chicago, and with his medical relief work annually in the Dominican Republic. He was part of a Chicago-based effort that provided medical relief after the Haiti earthquake and made two trips to Haiti in 2010.
Ansell has interest in issuses related to access to health care and health disparity reduction. His work led him and others to realize that there was an enormous disparity in breast cancer mortality between African American and white women in Chicago and that nothing was being done to decrease the disparity. He helped lead the efforts to start a new organization, the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force (MCBCTF), where he serves as President of the Board. The MCBCTF goal is to decrease the disparity by improving the quality of breast cancer screening and care for minority women in the Chicago area.
Dr. Ansell has a Masters in Public Health from the University of Illinois School of Public Health and has written extensively about health disparities. Most recently, he wrote “COUNTY: Life, Death and Politics at Chicago’s Public Hospital,” a memoir about the years he spent working at Cook. The book documents the harsh working conditions for doctors and nurses and the suffering the patients experienced there—most of whom were low-income minorities and immigrants. His book, “COUNTY: Life, Death and Politics at Chicago’s Public Hospital,” tells the story of the inequities and injustices that he and his colleagues discovered along the way -- and articulates the health inequities that still exist today -- that cause black men in some neighborhoods in Chicago to die eight years earlier than white men. The book speaks to the US's failure to address the most unjust of all the inequities present in the world's richest society - that of health inequity.
Dr. Ansell lives in Oak Park, IL, with his wife of 36 years, Dr. Paula Grabler, who also trained at Cook County Hospital. They have two grown children. During his scarce leisure time, he enjoys reading, exercising and gardening.