On April 10, the College of Health and Human Services will host the 2015 Community Heroes Awards to recognize the unsung heroes in our community whose actions, thoughts and words have had a transformative power in our region. Our heroes, who represent each of the seven departments and four centers within our college, put others before themselves to genuinely make a difference for the residents of our region. All month long, we will be highlighting our 11 honorees in our Community Heroes Series.
Name: Dr. Gail Newel, MD
Occupation: Medical Director of Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health at Fresno County Department of Public Health and Director of Obstetrics at UCSF-Fresno Medical Center
Nominated by: Central Valley Health Policy Institute
Not too many individuals can say they’ve delivered 10,000 babies or traveled to foreign countries like Congo to help educate others in medicinal practices. For Dr. Gail Newel, it is all just another day on the job as an obstetrician-gynecologist. When Newel speaks about her experiences thus far, she exudes a sense of joy that proves this isn’t just a job to her. It’s truly her passion.
Newel serves multiple roles professionally, including medical director of Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health with the Fresno County Department of Public Health, as well as the director of Obstetrics at UCSF-Fresno Medical Center. In that role, she trains medical students and resident physicians who care for our community’s most high risk, underserved patients at Community Regional Medical Center.
Newel credits her own life experiences as one of the reasons why she is went into the medical field, particularly in working with women and children. When Newel was 20, she gave birth to her first child – a natural birth, free of medication. Although the experience was daunting, as is the case with any new mother, it left her feeling empowered and invincible. She wanted to help others going through the same thing and let them know that they, too, could feel that same sense of empowerment.
This led to her enrolling in nursing school, with the goal of becoming a midwife. A year into the nursing program, after recognizing Newel’s tenacity, the director of the program suggested Newel pursue medical school to become a doctor instead. Newel was hesitant at first. After all, she was a new mother. This was the 1970s, when it was uncommon for women to hold titles like doctors. Newel defied the naysayers, and later graduated from UC Irvine School of Medicine, having spent her entire educational career as a full-time student and mother. Her strong interest in international and public health later led her back to UC Berkeley to pursue her master’s in Public Health.
That same thirst for knowledge and empowerment Newel had back then is ever present today, where she serves as a Diplomat of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and a Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. In addition, she has served as volunteer clinical faculty to the UCSF-Fresno residency program since completing her training there in 1990.
During her years at Kaiser-Permanente Fresno, where she served as chief of the OB-GYN Department, Newel developed several new programs: the Mother-Infant Lactation Center, the Early Start Substance Abuse in Pregnancy Program, and the Teen Pregnancy Program. In 1998, she co-founded Fresno Women’s Medical Group, which has now grown to become a multi-specialty center serving women and their families.
Besides caring for women of the Central Valley, Newel has worked on several global medical projects. Most notably, she has worked with a Fresno-based non-profit to provide services to women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She was funded for a three-year project working with women who were victims of sexual violence as a result of the armed conflict in eastern Congo. Along with a multidisciplinary team, she planned and developed a training program to teach Congolese physicians how to perform fistula and other surgical repairs for these women. She visited Congo 10 different times during the course of this training program.
In 2014, Newel participated in the Central Valley Health Policy Leadership program and along with program colleagues, was awarded a grant from the Public Health Institute to participate in the California Leadership Academy for Public Health. As a part of this Academy, they, along with other Fresno-area health leaders, formed the Fresno County Health Leadership Team, which is developing Fresno County’s first Community Health Implementation Plan.
Newel exemplifies professional leadership in addressing community problem solving. Her kindness, candor and clarity truly offer a model of principled engagement for Fresno State students, faculty and staff.
The 2015 Community Heroes Awards will be held on April 10, 2015 at Fresno State. For more information on the event, contact Beth Wilkinson at 559.278.3603 or firstname.lastname@example.org.