UNC Health has promoted Crystal Wiley Cené, MD, MPH, FAHA, into a new role as the organization’s first System Executive Director for Health Equity. In the role of System Executive Director for Health Equity, Dr. Cené will lead a multidisciplinary and collaborative effort to plan, implement, and evaluate science-based strategies and interventions to help address the structures, policies, and practices that perpetuate health disparities and impede health equity in our state.
UNC Health has promoted Crystal Wiley Cené, MD, MPH, FAHA, into a new role as the organization’s first System Executive Director for Health Equity. Dr. Cené serves as an Associate Professor of Medicine in the UNC School of Medicine’s Division of General Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology. In addition, she serves as Director of the Program on Health Disparities at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research.
In the role of System Executive Director for Health Equity, Dr. Cené will lead a multidisciplinary and collaborative effort to plan, implement, and evaluate science-based strategies and interventions to help address the structures, policies, and practices that perpetuate health disparities and impede health equity in our state. In collaboration with stakeholders across the system and the state, she will advise and empower local partners in the creation of healthy communities. Dr. Cené and her work will be closely aligned with the ongoing efforts of UNC Health’s System Executive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council.
“As North Carolina’s health system, we are committed to caring for all residents of our state. We recognize, however, that not everyone has equal access to care, a reality that leads to disparities in health outcomes, disparities made particularly obvious by COVID-19,” said Wesley Burks, MD, CEO of UNC Health and Dean of the UNC School of Medicine. “In this new position, Dr. Cené will collaborate with leaders to first understand the barriers to care and then lead a comprehensive, research and data-driven approach with the goal of improving the availability of quality care for traditionally underserved groups.”
Over the course of her career, Dr. Cené has focused her research on reducing disparities in health and health care access, and studying ways to address the social determinants of health. Over the last several months, she has been a leading voice locally and nationally, shining a light on the ways that COVID-19 has amplified these disparities.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the fact that this is not just about virology; it’s about sociology. The social patterning of the pandemic and its implications for health and well-being, particularly for people of color, amplify the need for innovative, cross-sector solutions to address the fundamental causes that place individuals and communities at risk of poor health,” Dr. Cené said.
“We are at a critical crossroads. We must allow ’the fierce urgency of now’ to compel us to take bold and decisive action. I am excited to lead our health system efforts to realize our goal of providing equitable care to the people of North Carolina.”
As a clinician, Dr. Cené is focused on developing and implementing strategies designed to support and empower family members in the care of patients with chronic conditions, particularly those at high risk for cardiovascular disease. Her work and life’s passion for clinical care and research was influenced by her personal experiences with family members experiencing complex, chronic health conditions.
She has published extensively on the impacts of family and social support on improving outcomes and reducing disparities in patients from underrepresented and underserved groups.
Her work has earned numerous awards including the UNC School of Medicine’s Simmons Scholar Award and a Junior Faculty Development Award from UNC’s Office of the Provost. She has participated in the American Heart Association’s Research Leaders Academy and RTI’s International University Scholars Program.
Dr. Cené has been a member of the UNC School of Medicine faculty since 2008. She is a native of Onslow County and a graduate of UNC. She completed her MD training at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine and her residency training in Primary Care at Yale University. She received a Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. She also completed a fellowship in General Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins.