The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau

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A great leader needs to find their unifying story—one that explains who they are to three key stakeholders: themselves, their team, and their future allies.

County Public Health Director | Author of Healing Politics and Medicare for All | Host of America Dissected

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Lavin Exclusive Speaker

A good story is your greatest asset as a leader. Dr. Abdul El-Sayed knows this firsthand. He’s used the gift of narrative throughout his career to build not only teams, but movements. He was the youngest health official in a major US city when he became the Health Director of Detroit, America’s poorest city. He rebuilt that health department and went on to become the Public Health Director for Michigan’s largest and most diverse county. A great narrative does three things, Abdul says. It explains us to ourselves, helping us to stay on mission. It explains us to our team, which creates resonance and helps them achieve our goals. Finally, it explains us to our external stakeholders, allowing them to see themselves in our story and turning them from stakeholders into allies. He shows leaders at every level how to develop a compelling story that empowers your team, develops resilience, and builds momentum.

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed has dedicated his career to health equity, resiliency, and environmental justice. A physician and epidemiologist, he currently serves as the Public Health Director for Michigan’s largest and most diverse county, where he oversees everything from public health to veterans services for returning citizens.

Every week, on his podcast America Dissected, Abdul invites tens of thousands of listeners to go beyond the headlines with him and leading experts in science, public health, healthcare, public policy, and politics to explore the intersection between health and society. The award-winning show has earned national and international recognition, and has been featured among the best podcasts in science by the New York Times.

He was the youngest health official in a major US city when he was appointed Health Director in the city of Detroit. He led the Detroit Health Department to become a national leader in public health innovation and environmental justice, spearheading one of the fastest municipal public health turnarounds in American history. He also mounted an insurgent campaign for governor of Michigan on an unapologetically progressive platform, and his bid was endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among others. He has served as a Sanders appointee and one of eight members of President Biden’s 2020 Unity Task Force for Healthcare.

As a professor at Columbia University’s Department of Epidemiology, Abdul became an internationally recognized expert in health policy and health inequalities. He was Director of the Columbia University Systems Science Program and Global Research Analytics for Population Health. He has also taught at the University of Michigan and American University. He has over 100 peer-reviewed publications that have earned over 3,000 citations.

Speech Topics

Narrative LeadershipMovement Building Through Stories that Scale

Every great leader needs a great story. Dr. Abdul El-Sayed knows the power of storytelling better than anyone, and he can show you how to craft a story that is both compelling and authentic. He’s used narrative to rebuild two health departments in distressed communities, mount an insurgent campaign for governor of Michigan, and explain the pandemic to the American people as a CNN commentator and host of an award-winning podcast.

In this talk, Abdul shows why you need a unifying story that explains you to yourself, to your team, and to your future allies. “By explaining who we are to ourselves, we stay on mission, allowing our actions to resonate most deeply with who we tell others we are. Our teammates will compare our actions to who we say we are—and when they match, it creates a resonance that explains the work, allows them to predict what will happen next, and consequently make it happen. And then when we tell our stakeholders our story, they can see themselves in it, finding an opportunity to support. They go from external stakeholders to teammates.”

Abdul demonstrates how you can use the gift of narrative to bring in resources, empower your team through mission, and build momentum from scratch. The insights he shares from his historic career are crucial for leaders at any level, and anyone who wants to build strong teams and influential movements.

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Activism & Humanitarianism
Public Health and Health Equity After COVIDHow We Build Against the Next Pandemic

As we emerge from one pandemic, how do we ensure we have the institutions and information to build against the next one? Dr. Abdul El-Sayed is one of America’s leading thinkers in the public health sphere—he was the youngest public health official in a major American city, and led one of the fastest municipal public health turnarounds in American history. In this talk, he shows us the lessons we can learn from the COVID pandemic, how the power of narrative can help us communicate facts in a time of disinformation, and how we can move forward stronger than before.

Drawing on his three books and his career in public health, Abdul explains how we can build against the next pandemic. For example, we need to reinvest in public health—”the substrate that keeps a health hazard from becoming a pandemic in the first place”—and we need to build a healthcare system focused on providing healthcare rather than simply making money. He leaves audiences with a hopeful vision of a more equitable and resilient healthcare system, and equips us to act for a better tomorrow.

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Featured Books

Healing Politics
A Doctor's Journey into the Heart of Our Political Epidemic

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