UMN Medical School hires first Medical Discovery Team Leader

Monday, June 13, 2016

J. Neil Henderson will head team focused on health equity and rural health access

The first Medical Discovery Team (MDT) Leader has been hired by the University of Minnesota Medical School. J. Neil Henderson, Ph.D., will lead the team focused on health equity, rural health access, and American Indian health issues. He will be a professor in the Department of Biobehavioral Health and Population Sciences on the Medical School’s Duluth campus.

The Medical Discovery Team initiative was funded by the state legislature last year, after Governor Dayton appointed a blue ribbon commission to develop recommendations to strengthen the Medical School. The funding is being used to recruit leading researchers from across the country to focus on pressing health issues facing Minnesota.  In addition to the health equity MDT, other teams will focus on addiction, the biology of aging, and optical imaging and brain science.   

Henderson is a renowned researcher and thought leader in the area of health disparities. He comes to the University of Minnesota from the University of Oklahoma College of Public Health, where he held the Edith K. Gaylord Presidential Professorship. He is also the director of the American Indian Diabetes Prevention Center, a National Institutes of Health-funded center focused on understanding diabetes and diabetes prevention.

“Neil Henderson brings a wealth of knowledge about rural and community-based health care access, extensive leadership experience, and impressive research credentials to this new role,” said Brooks Jackson, M.D., dean of the Medical School and vice president for Health Sciences. “The launch of the Medical Discovery Teams is a major opportunity for the University, allowing us to attract world class talent to our state like Dr. Henderson.  As team leader, he will lead a group of faculty and investigators focused on issues that will make a difference in the lives of Minnesotans..

“I look forward to this remarkable opportunity to increase health equity among rural and American Indian people in Minnesota,” said Henderson. “The Medical Discovery Team concept is an excellent vehicle for achieving outstanding results. The ability to work within a variety of medical and social systems to find solutions and to collaborate with native communities and rural populations through the process provides a unique opportunity to improve quality and access to care.”

“The Duluth campus is proud to be the home of the Medical Discovery Team on Health Equity led by Dr Henderson,” said Paula Termuhlen, M.D., dean of the Medical School’s Duluth campus. “ We look forward to his leadership in helping to further the mission of our campus in serving rural and American Indian communities.”

Henderson holds a B.A. from the University of Central Florida, a Master’s in Psychological Anthropology from Florida State University, and earned a Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology from the University of Florida. His research focuses on medical anthropology, public health, and community based interventions, including the impact of culture on health care dynamics and institutional and informal long-term care strategies in rural and urban communities. Henderson is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

Henderson starts at the University of Minnesota at the end of August.