Meet Our 2023 Award Winners: Jorelle Alexander, DMD, MPH - Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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Meet Our 2023 Award Winners: Jorelle Alexander, DMD, MPH

August 2, 2023

Health & Medicine’s Medicine Award recognizes an individual whose work in any aspect of health care delivery fosters system or institutional improvements.

This year’s recipient, Dr. Jorelle Alexander, is an exceptional leader who prioritizes access to high-quality oral health care for everyone and remains committed to providing direct patient care; designing programs tailored to community needs; expanding access to care; and coordinating teams to deliver exceptional programs, services, and quality oral health care.

In her work, Dr. Alexander remains committed to making connections between people, developing partnerships and alliances, and creating momentum to ensure access to care and to make a difference in the lives of others. Making a difference—through collaboration, partnerships, relationships and direct patient care—as a dentist is what she is all about. With an enthusiastic and genuinely friendly attitude, she radiates a sincere passion for delivering quality oral health care to her patients.

“I am honored and overwhelmed to say the least,” Dr. Alexander shares of receiving this honor. “This award will always hold a special place in my heart not only because of the recognition but also because this is the last recognition that I could share with my dear father who transitioned July 1, 2023.”

According to Dr. Alexander, this award reminds her of what she knows to me true—that she is a result of her child, parents, family, friends, church, educational institutions, workplaces, organizations, staff, and patients. “There are so many individuals that have had an impact on my life. Who I am today and what I do is a result of my passion and dedication and those individuals. My parents, grandparents, and extended family poured their heart and soul into helping me realize my dreams. They helped me to understand that I could make limitless contributions to the betterment of others. My son is my whole heart in human form. He helps me to continue to be my best self for him, for me and for others.”

Dr. Alexander earned her bachelor’s degree in child development and biology in 1996 and her Master’s in Public Health in 1999. She spent time teaching at St. Ailbe Catholic School and working for the American Academy of Pediatrics before making the life-changing decision that she could make a larger, positive impact on more people if she moved into clinical care.

After returning to school and earning her DMD from the University of Louisville and completing her Graduate Practice Residency at Rush University and Medical Center, Dr. Alexander’s career quickly accelerated over the next 15 years to management level, and it has expanded far beyond clinical care in underserved areas to leadership in large, federally qualified health centers and county government entities.

She was promoted within 6 months of her being at an FQHC to Director of Oral Health and maintained that position at the FQHC that began as a seven operatory clinic and expanded to 14 operatories. She then was hired as the Dental Director of Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center that had 5 dental clinics and a clinical and administrative staff of 75 culminating in her current position as Chair of the Department of Oral Health for Cook County Health and Hospitals System.

Public health has been her passion for as far back as she can remember—centering her entire career around public health and being an advocate of underserved populations. In Dr. Alexander’s current role, she has the privilege to not only treat but also empower both patients and staff, the honor of educating the community, and the responsibility of ensuring that her operation runs efficiently and effectively every day—before, during and after the pandemic. Her contributions to the field of public health have been and continue to be heartfelt intentional movements filled with gratitude and keenly focused on the patient, the community, and the overall impact of comprehensive quality dentistry on the largest level.

“There is an age old saying that health is wealth,” she says. “It is my heart’s desire that my contributions to the field of public health not only continue to empower others to feel better but to also allow them to enjoy a quality of life that will inspire them to contribute and make a difference in the world in which we live.”

Dr. Alexander resides in Chicago with her son, the person who gives her the motivation to continue to do the work every single day. She is a member of the American Dental Association, the Chicago Dental Society, and the Illinois State Dental Society. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She was a National Health Service Corps Scholar and served in many leadership roles with the Kenwood Hyde Park Branch of the Chicago Dental Society including President. Her interests include underserved populations, hospital dentistry, oral surgery, pediatric dentistry, prosthodontics, and oncology. Aside from dentistry, Dr. Alexander enjoys mentoring, community volunteer activities, cooking, traveling, art, crafts, music, and dance.

“Viewing comprehensive quality dental care through the lens of liberatory consciousness and the pursuit of social justice is how I will continue to navigate throughout my career.” Amongst her highest priorities is to continue to extend access to care for residents of Cook County in a variety of settings. “I want to always be a voice confirming the necessity and commanding that dentistry always has a seat at the table in order to ensure comprehensive quality health care.”

Dr. Alexander dedicates this award to all the patients that she knows, patients she has known for years, and patients who have yet to sit in her chair.

Join us on September 20, 2023, as we connect honor these local health justice advocates, enjoy food and refreshments from The Fat Shallot, and celebrate 42 years of working together to advance health equity.