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July 13, 2023

Yale New Haven Hospital president Churchwell leaving, to be next president of American Heart Association


Longtime cardiologist Dr. Keith Churchwell is leaving his position as president of Yale New Haven Hospital in August for a national role focused on heart health.

Churchwell is the next president of the American Heart Association, a volunteer position he will start in 2024. He is currently president-elect.

Christopher O’Connor, president and CEO for the Yale New Haven Health system, which includes Yale New Haven Hospital, said Churchwell will step down as of Aug. 11, after an “impressive nine-year tenure,” at the hospital. 

O’Connor credited Churchwell with guiding the hospital through the COVID-19 pandemic, and for improving patient access to health services.

“Dr. Churchwell has a longstanding commitment to address health inequities and racial disparities across the country and will continue this important work,” O’Connor said, via an emailed statement. “We thank Keith for his leadership and numerous contributions during some of the most challenging times at YNHH.”

Pamela Sutton-Wallace, currently the health system’s chief operating officer, will be the interim executive leader for Yale New Haven Hospital, while continuing in her current role. 

Churchwell took over as president at Yale New Haven Hospital in October 2020. Yale New Haven Hospital also includes Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven, Yale New Haven Children's Hospital and Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital.

Churchwell, the hospital’s first Black president, first came to work there in 2015, and is board certified in internal medicine and cardiovascular disease. He was promoted to president after first serving as the hospital’s chief operating officer and executive vice president.

During his career, he has been a healthcare advocate and has called attention to the impact of structural racism on health, including on cardiovascular disease. Churchwell worked on the American Heart Association’s presidential advisory report, "Call to Action: Structural Racism as a Fundamental Driver of Health Disparities." 

Churchwell has also been well-known for his “Walk with a Doc” sessions, when he has regularly met with members of the New Haven community, particularly in the Dixwell and Newhallville neighborhoods.

The American Heart Association indicated Churchwell has successfully helped it with its legislative efforts, including on laws and policies requiring CPR training in schools, ensuring access to defibrillators in youth sports, reducing nicotine in cigarettes, removing flavored vapes from the market and expanding Medicaid.

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