Princeton, N.J.—The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) announced today that Julie Morita, MD, the current commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, has been named executive vice president, overseeing all programming, policy, research, and communications activities in support of its vision of building a Culture of Health in America in which everyone has a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being.
For nearly two decades, Morita has helped to lead Chicago’s public health department, first as medical director, then as chief medical officer. In 2015, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed her commissioner, overseeing some 600 employees and running a public health agency that serves the 2.7 million residents of the nation’s third-largest city.
“I am thrilled to have Julie join us at RWJF in the pivotal role of executive vice president,” said RWJF President and CEO Richard Besser. “Her many accomplishments in a complex, big city environment like Chicago speak to her abilities as both a dedicated public health advocate and a smart and sensitive leader of people.”
The executive vice president serves as a key leader at RWJF, directing the Foundation’s program strategies and managing resources to advance them, and ensuring that the Foundation’s program work, policy, research and evaluation, and communications activities work together to achieve its mission.
In 2016, under Morita’s leadership, the Chicago Department of Public Health and partner organizations launched “Healthy Chicago 2.0”—a community health improvement plan based on RWJF’s Culture of Health framework. Like the Foundation’s vision for a Culture of Health, the Chicago plan recognizes that giving everyone a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being requires addressing much more than health care. It requires improvements to the conditions in which people live, learn, work, and play, such as housing, education, transportation, economic development, and reducing discrimination. In 2018, Chicago was recognized for the second year in a row as the only Gold medal city in the Midwest by CityHealth, for implementing a range of policies that promote healthy living.
Partners in the Chicago effort include foundations, academic institutions, and health care agencies, as well as non-traditional partners focusing on transportation, housing, economic development, and racial equity initiatives.
“This is the kind of outreach and partnership-building that will effectively spread the Culture of Health concept,” said Besser. “This is a leader who doesn’t just ‘get it’—she runs with it.”
“I am honored to join RWJF where I will be able to apply what I have learned in Chicago to communities throughout the nation,” said Morita.
Morita began her career in public health as an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. There, she learned to identify causes of disease outbreaks, recommended prevention and control measures, and implemented strategies to protect people from illness and death. She started her medical career as a pediatrician in Tucson, Ariz.
Morita is married to William Trick, MD, an internist, who is the director of the Collaborative Research Unit at Cook County Health. The couple has two children.
Selected after a nationwide search, Morita succeeds James S. Marks, MD, who retired at the end of 2017 after a 35-year career in public health, including 13 years at RWJF. She expects to begin work at RWJF in June.