• Press Release

Mount Sinai Launches New Institute for Health Equity Research

COVID-19 Crisis Spurs Institute to Understand and Combat Health Disparities in Underserved Communities Earvin “Magic” Johnson, five-time NBA champion, and New York State Senator Brian Benjamin Among Industry and Public Health Leaders to Join Institute Task Force

  • New York, NY
  • (May 14, 2020)

The Mount Sinai Health System (MSHS) today announced the creation of a new Institute for Health Equity Research (IHER) to understand the effects of health issues including COVID-19, affecting at-risk communities including those that are non-white, low-income, immigrant, uninsured, and LGBTQ+ across all ages, genders and abilities. The United States now has by far the most reported COVID-19 cases and deaths worldwide, and the immediate and long-term effects on the health of these at-risk groups are still not quantified. The disproportionate impact in underserved populations has highlighted the importance of rigorously studying disparities, and translating discoveries into sustainable, scalable initiatives and policies that benefit communities in New York and the nation.

With philanthropic support from the Mount Sinai Boards of Trustees, the IHER will quickly identify the root causes and magnitude of disparities, devise and test innovative solutions, and take concrete action in response to findings. Richard A. Friedman, Co-Chairman, of the Mount Sinai Boards of Trustees will chair a newly formed IHER Task Force that will guide, publicize, and inform on the research underway.

IHER Task Force members include:

  • New York State Senator Brian Benjamin (Harlem/Upper West Side);
  • R. Martin Chavez, former Chief Financial Officer at Goldman Sachs & Co.;
  • Edith Cooper, former Managing Director and Global Head of Human Capital Management at Goldman Sachs & Co.;
  • Margaret Crotty, CEO of Partnership with Children;
  • Kimberley Harris, Executive Vice President of Comcast Corporation and General Counsel of NBC Universal;
  • Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO and President of Ariel Investments; 
  • Earvin “Magic” Johnson, five-time NBA champion and Chairman and CEO of the Magic Johnson Enterprises;
  • Pablo Legorreta, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Royalty Pharma;
  • Lisa Opoku, Global Chief Operating Officer for Engineering at Goldman Sachs & Co.;
  • Jodie Patterson, author and LGBTQAI advocate;
  • Ruth Simmons, PhD, President of Prairie View A&M University.

“This pandemic has disproportionately affected communities of color across our country,” said Earvin “Magic” Johnson, IHER task force member. “We must understand ‘the why’ in order to prevent further deaths. In addition, we need to address systemic healthcare inequities in the minority communities that have been prevalent throughout history.  I am pleased to be a part of this task force and encourage others to join us in support of these efforts.”

Carol Horowitz, MD, MPH, Professor of Population Health Science and Policy, Professor of Medicine, and Dean for Gender Equity in Science and Medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS), will direct the new Institute, and Lynne Richardson, MD, Professor of Emergency Medicine, and Population Health Science and Policy, and Vice Chair for Academic, Research and Community Programs at ISMMS, will be Co-Director.

A transdisciplinary team of health equity researchers will develop a community-based, community-focused network to generate vital information about priority populations devastated by the pandemic and other chronic illnesses, collecting real-time data on those who are most at risk and whose challenges remain largely unrecognized. One of the first projects is “Speak Up on COVID-19” - an 11-language survey in partnership with over 100 New York City community organizations. “Speak Up” will explore medical, demographic, social determinants, and COVID-19-related attitudinal, behavioral, and psychological factors; capture risks and needs; and link these populations with resources that sustain physical and mental health.

“The IHER will not only enhance and guide Mount Sinai’s ability to combat the current COVID-19 pandemic but will also strengthen and illuminate disparities research underway and train the next generation of diversity scholars. Our extensive expertise in population health and serving one of the most socioeconomically, demographically, and culturally varied populations in the world, make us uniquely positioned to take on this enormous challenge,” said Dennis S. Charney, MD, the Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Dean of ISMMS and President for Academic Affairs for MSHS.  “The war against this pandemic and the threat to underserved communities is great. We will not rest until we defeat it on many fronts: scientific, clinical, and public health.”

“In many communities, COVID-19 has been extra-lethal because it is a pandemic piling on top of multiple, preexisting epidemics: black and Latinx communities already bear an uneven burden of high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, heart disease and premature death,” said Carol Horowitz, MD, MPH, Professor of Population Health Science and Policy, Dean for Gender Equity in Science and Medicine and Director of the new Institute. “These communities tend to have poorer access to care and information about health issues like COVID-19, less opportunity for social distancing, overcrowded home situations, and the most precarious economic circumstances.”

“We’re entering a new normal way of life, and IHER will focus on health disparity issues that can no longer be ignored,” says Mr. Friedman. “I’m proud of Mount Sinai’s willingness to take on this initiative to serve our community.”

Studies currently underway in COVID-19 and other areas include:

  • The interaction of race, ethnicity, disability, underlying illnesses, and social determinants including poverty, pollution, and household crowding on hospitalization and death from COVID-19;
  • The impact of gender-affirming hormone treatment on the clinical course of COVID-19 in transgender and gender nonbinary patients;
  • Health outcomes for those living with HIV and COVID-19;
  • How patient care via telehealth can be delivered equitably and narrow the digital divide; and
  • Translating scientific discoveries into routine use for diverse populations, including using genetic testing to inform choice and dose of antidepressants and pain medications.

Mount Sinai’s deep expertise in healthcare delivery research will provide a lens for how we provide care and identify opportunities to improve equity for the diverse communities we serve. 

Support Mount Sinai’s COVID-19 Response: Join us in this extraordinary and continuing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and for health equity. Donate now to support our frontline clinicians who are caring for critically ill patients and our researchers who are furthering understanding of the virus, developing therapies, and addressing the wide-ranging impacts of the pandemic.  Visit www.giving.mountsinai.org.

About the Mount Sinai Health System

Mount Sinai Health System is one of the largest academic medical systems in the New York metro area, with 48,000 employees working across eight hospitals, more than 400 outpatient practices, more than 600 research and clinical labs, a school of nursing, and a leading school of medicine and graduate education. Mount Sinai advances health for all people, everywhere, by taking on the most complex health care challenges of our time—discovering and applying new scientific learning and knowledge; developing safer, more effective treatments; educating the next generation of medical leaders and innovators; and supporting local communities by delivering high-quality care to all who need it.

Through the integration of its hospitals, labs, and schools, Mount Sinai offers comprehensive health care solutions from birth through geriatrics, leveraging innovative approaches such as artificial intelligence and informatics while keeping patients’ medical and emotional needs at the center of all treatment. The Health System includes approximately 9,000 primary and specialty care physicians and 11 free-standing joint-venture centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida. Hospitals within the System are consistently ranked by Newsweek’s® “The World’s Best Smart Hospitals, Best in State Hospitals, World Best Hospitals and Best Specialty Hospitals” and by U.S. News & World Report's® “Best Hospitals” and “Best Children’s Hospitals.” The Mount Sinai Hospital is on the U.S. News & World Report® “Best Hospitals” Honor Roll for 2024-2025.

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