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Abdul El-Sayed

As Americans, we have an opportunity to rethink our politics by expanding our personal networks.

Physician | Public Health Expert | 2018 Candidate for Governor in Michigan

Contact Abdul For Booking
Abdul El-Sayed | Physician | Public Health Expert | 2018 Candidate for Governor in Michigan
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Named “The new Obama” by The GuardianDr. Abdul El-Sayed is a physician and public health expert who ran to be the first Muslim-American governor of Michigan, ever. His campaign excited Americans, with his focus on public health, education, diversity, and dialogue. As a speaker, El-Sayed opens up a new, cross-party conversation that “reignites a sense of what matters” in a nation divided. The idea of who we are is getting a major, much-needed update, and El-Sayed is raising the bar.  

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed ran his campaign on an unapologetically progressive platform, advocating for universal healthcare, clean water for all, debt-free and tuition-free higher education, a pathway to 100% renewable energy, and to rebuild the barrier between corporations and government. Although he earned over 340,000 votes, he did not win the Democratic primary. Still, he caught the public’s imagination: “When I spoke, people came for the spectacle. They left as supporters.”


“In his attempt at running for governor of the state, [Abdul El-Sayed] is trying not just to win, but also to change American politics itself.”

The Guardian

Before running for governor, El-Sayed served as Health Commissioner in Detroit, where he rebuilt Detroit’s Health Department after it had been privatized during the city’s municipal bankruptcy. At 30, he was the youngest health official in a major US City. Under his leadership, the Department created a program to provide every child in the city with a free pair of glasses; stood up to corporate polluters, forcing them to reduce emissions and invest in parks; and had every school, daycare, and Head Start building tested for lead in the water. He was responsible for multiplying city funding for public health tenfold, and attracting millions of dollars in grants. Under his direction, the Department became a national leader in public health innovation.


Prior to his work in public service, El-Sayed was tenure-track faculty member at Columbia University’s Department of Epidemiology; Director of the Columbia University Systems Science Program, and co-Director of Global Research for Population Health. El-Sayed holds a Doctorate in Public Health from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, as well as an MD from Columbia University. He graduated with Highest Distinction and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Michigan (where he was also a starting defenseman on the Men’s Lacrosse team). At graduation, El-Sayed was selected to deliver the Student Commencement Address alongside President Clinton, who said of him, “I just wish every person in the world could have heard you speak today.” 


Speech Topics

Politics & Society
The Gubernatorial Gambit Tales from the Campaign Trail
In this talk, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed talks about his experience running for governor of Michigan—a state that voted for Donald Trump—as a millennial, Muslim-American doctor in 2018. A charismatic speaker, El-Sayed discusses why he ran, what he learned, and what it means for our evolving political ecology. In this talk, El-Sayed shares stories from the campaign trail and touches on themes relating to how we form our personal and political identities, courage in public service, and the responsibility that each of us has to do the basic work of our democracy: to reach beyond our safe relationships to ask “Who are we?” and “Who do we want to be?” 
Civic Engagement
A Clean Bill Rebuilding Detroit’s Ailing Health Department

In this talk, Dr. El-Sayed guides audiences through the process of rebuilding a city’s health department from the ground up. He discusses what happened in Detroit that led to the privatization of a 185-year old Health Department, and how he and his team went about rebuilding it. With vibrant, moving examples, he’ll show your audience the critical role of local public health, the evolution of healthcare, and the vital part politics must play as we move forward.