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Sherine Gabriel to lead ASU Health

Bringing a wide array of experience, Gabriel says ASU Health will be a ‘different model altogether’ combining tech, innovation, industry and community needs

Portrait of Sherine Gabriel
July 06, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is featured in the 2023 year in review.

Arizona State University has named Dr. Sherine Gabriel — whose resume includes an extensive list of leadership positions in medicine and academia — executive vice president of ASU Health.

Gabriel, who had been University Professor of the Future of Health Outcomes and Medicine and chair of the ASU Health Outcomes Design Council, has dedicated her career to improving health and advancing innovative education, training and equitable health outcomes as a medical systems leader, an educator, a population scientist and a clinical rheumatologist.

In addition to numerous professional appointments with Mayo Clinic, including her role as dean of its medical school, Gabriel has been dean of the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and president of Rush University in Chicago. Rush University is a nationally ranked academic medical center and includes a medical college, college of nursing, college of health sciences and graduate college.

ASU News talked with Gabriel about her new position and ASU Health, including the new ASU School of Medicine and Advanced Medical Engineering, which will integrate clinical medicine, biomedical science and engineering.

The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

Question: Everyone has seen the headlines about ASU Health. What’s now happening behind the scenes?

Answer: The short answer is a lot. We’ve been working to identify all of ASU’s health assets, which are considerable, and are beginning to bring people together. We’re leveraging skills and talent and resources from across ASU, and everybody is pitching in, which is pretty amazing. Since the day of the announcement (about the medical school), and probably every day since then, there’s been a deluge of emails from people inside ASU and people outside saying, “This is really cool. How can I help?” That’s awesome and inspiring.

Q: ASU Health is not just about the School of Medicine and Advanced Medical Engineering. What are some of the other elements that excite you about ASU Health?

A: First, the School of Medicine and Advanced Medical Engineering is a first-of-its-kind medical school in the country that fuses the disciplines of medicine and engineering to create a different kind of health-care provider that approaches problems differently and devises solutions in a way that none of us were trained to do. One way I like to think about it is we’re not only training doctors to help patients, one patient at a time, like most of us were trained, but to train doctors to come up with solutions that could potentially help hundreds or thousands of patients at a time.

The other one-of-a-kind school is the School of Public Health Technology. We’re bringing technology into public health in a way that hasn’t been done before in order to reimagine the discipline of public health so that it’s more effective to improve health for everyone. It’s fueled by everything that AI, data science and technology can bring to bear.

Q: That's just a few parts of ASU Health, correct?

A: Everyone is aware of the critical shortages in nursing, right? We have plans to accelerate the production of nurses, nursing specialists and other health professionals, and also accelerate research both in the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and the College of Health Solutions.

We also have some creative research initiatives like the Health Observatory at Arizona State University, which will be a one-of-a-kind statewide research and surveillance system that has the capability to use state-of-the-art technology, AI tools and data-science tools to identify health threats as well as ongoing health indicators enabling us to act much earlier than we have been able to in the past. Another key focus is on growing our collaborative work with our partners, like Mayo Clinic. All of these are components of ASU Health.

Q: A medical school at ASU has been talked about for years. Why is now the right time?

A: I think the university has developed and evolved to a stage such that now is the right time. There are impactful health-related programs in virtually every college and unit. It’s absolutely remarkable. The goal is not to change those efforts but to enhance them and bring added focus and coordination. A medical school can do that.

Q: Beyond academia, are there industry leaders involved in building out ASU Health?

A: Absolutely. Like everything else ASU does, innovation, industry and entrepreneurship are a key part of it. One of the items we discussed, in fact, is to create an industry and community council, even at this early design stage. That’s an important dimension, to ensure that we include their voices as we plan. We’re anticipating that some of the graduates of some of the programs that we’re building will seek roles in industry because we’re training them in engineering, innovation and entrepreneurship.

So, we want industry leaders to engage with us upfront, to help us build education programs that graduate the kind of people that can hit the ground running in their companies. We also want community members to tell us what is important to them in the context of their health.

Q: Fast-forward five years and then 10 years. What do you see for ASU Health?

A: I believe in a few years people will be able to recognize that ASU Health is a very different model than those which exist elsewhere. The kind of individuals we will admit into ASU Health programs are not your average students. They will have a different phenotype. They will have different interests and different backgrounds. They will be committed to solving health problems in a different way and learning the tools to help them do so: engineering principles, data science, AI principles, that kind of thing. We’ll also have a different kind of faculty, a large multidisciplinary faculty not focused in one school but drawn from across the entire university.

So, it’ll be a different model altogether, integrated rather than siloed. A lot of medical schools, for example, are on an entirely different campus than the rest of the university and have separate faculty and infrastructure. ASU Health schools and programs will be a core part of the ASU and surrounding community.

Externally, in the health sphere, the health providers we plan to produce in increased numbers will help to address the serious shortages in Arizona and beyond, and the research that will emerge from things like the Health Observatory at ASU and the Mayo Clinic ASU Alliance will, we hope, help solve the health challenges that plague us and will have industry looking to us as a place to recruit outstanding graduates and for partnerships and collaborations of all sorts.

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