But this fall, he’ll hang up his white coat and instead don a pressed suit every day for the next year in Washington, D.C., serving as one of 15 individuals appointed by President Joe Biden to the 2022-2023 class of White House Fellows.
"I am truly humbled for the opportunity to serve as a White House Fellow," Nadel says. "I look forward to a year of growth through public service while gaining invaluable leadership experience at the highest levels of the federal government."
Founded in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the White House Fellowship is a nonpartisan leadership development program that provides valuable firsthand experience working for White House staff, cabinet secretaries, and other senior government officials.
Although the main objective is to gain experience working full time at the highest levels of the federal government, the fellowship also maintains a significant academic and educational aspect, with twice-weekly formal seminars with leaders from across the country. Fellows will also embark on domestic and international trips to study U.S. policy in action.
For nearly six decades, fellows from a broad range of fields have used their diverse backgrounds to enrich the study and development of public policy. While many health care professionals have served, that group has only included four other neurosurgeons, including Sanjay K. Gupta, M.D., chief medical correspondent for CNN.
A native of Centennial, Colorado, Nadel earned his B.A. in Neuroscience with minors in Latin American Studies and Biochemistry from Colorado College as a Boettcher Scholar. He graduated with his M.D. and M.S. from the University of Michigan with academic honors and distinction in research as a Dean’s Merit Scholar. He was also elected a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha and Gold Humanism Honor Societies before beginning residency in 2019.
Nadel will spend the fourth year of his residency—which is typically dedicated to academic research—in Washington, D.C., allowing him to continue his residency next year without interruption. Nadel is grateful to William Couldwell, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Neurosurgery, and Randy Jensen, M.D., Ph.D., Vice Chair of Education and former residency program director at University of Utah Health, for supporting his goals.
"Jeff is a highly valued and respected member of our residency program, so it came as no surprise to our group that he was chosen for this outstanding opportunity as a White House Fellow," Jensen says. "We know he will represent us well in this elite role, which will position him to be a leader for health care policy and reform in the future."
Nadel chose to pursue his training at the University of Utah, believing it would set him apart from others in the field. He notes that the spirit of camaraderie among the residency class provides an excellent community in which to work and train. Meanwhile, the breadth and depth of clinical and research experience allows residents to find their neurosurgical home.
Nadel is passionately focused on eliminating health care disparities through research and the creation of a robust social infrastructure to ensure equitable access. He has led health interventions both domestically and abroad for vulnerable populations in the U.S., Uganda, and Costa Rica.
"I will serve my White House Fellowship at the Department of Veterans Affairs, supporting both the Secretary and the Undersecretary for Health in our sacred mission to provide the best and soonest access to the highest quality health care for those who fought for our nation’s freedom," Nadel says.
On Wednesday, June 15, 2022, he was officially selected after a year-long application process and multiple rounds of interviews. Nadel was scrubbed into a surgical case when the nurse told him he had a phone call from the Washington, D.C., 202 area code.
"As someone who is rarely speechless, the news took my breath away," Nadel remembers. "What a tremendous opportunity. I couldn’t be more grateful."
This won’t be Nadel’s first time dealing with politicians or living in Washington, D.C. Prior to medical school, Nadel worked as a health economics and policy researcher at The Brookings Institution, where he honed his interests in health care finance and policy. He also served as a Fellow in the NIH Academy on Health Disparities, where he gained didactic and practical experience promoting health equity and social justice. Presently, in addition to handling the physical and mental demands of his residency, Nadel serves on the Committee on Legislative Affairs for the Utah Medical Society.
Public service has long been integral to Nadel’s medical vision, and he views this fellowship opportunity as another step toward his goal of advancing health care equity.
"As physicians, we have the unique opportunity to not only work at the bedside but also advance the principles of health care access and equity through our academic and civic pursuits," Nadel says. "If anything, working in health care during a global pandemic has taught me that no one should be sitting on the sidelines. Through the White House Fellowship’s collaborative and multi-disciplinary training, I aim to hone my leadership skills and serve our community and country now and into the future."
Learn more about the 2022-2023 Class of White House Fellows.
- Written by Kamryn Broschinsky