Health Care Access & Coverage

Charles C. Leighton, MD Memorial Lecture with Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, MSN, MPH

Bringing Science to Policy to Achieve Health Equity: A Congresswoman’s Journey
Moderated by Antonia Villarruel, PhD, RN, FAAN

9:30a.m. – 10:30a.m. May 20, 2022 Virtual Event

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, MSN, MPH delivered the virtual 2022 Charles C. Leighton, MD Memorial Lecture, featuring a conversation with Antonia Villarruel, PhD, RN, FAAN, the Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Penn Nursing.

Sponsored by the Charles C. Leighton, MD Memorial Lecture Fund. 


Lauren Underwood, MSN, MPH

Congresswoman, Illinois 14th Congressional District

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood serves Illinois’ 14th Congressional District and was sworn into the 116th U.S. Congress on January 3, 2019. Congresswoman Underwood is the first woman, the first person of color, and the first millennial to represent her community in Congress. She is also the youngest African American woman to serve in the United States House of Representatives.

Congresswoman Underwood serves on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and the House Committee on Appropriations. Congresswoman Underwood co-founded and co-chairs the Black Maternal Health Caucus, which elevates the Black maternal health crisis within Congress and advances policy solutions to improve maternal health outcomes and end disparities. She also serves on the House Democratic Steering and Policy  Committee. Rep. Underwood is a member of the Future Forum, a group of young Democratic Members of Congress committed to listening to and standing up for the next generation of Americans, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and the LGBT Equality Caucus. As a strong supporter of addressing the gun violence epidemic, Congresswoman Underwood is a member of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.

Prior to her election to Congress, Congresswoman Underwood worked with a Medicaid plan in Chicago to ensure that it provided high-quality, cost-efficient care. She served as a Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), helping communities across the country prevent, prepare for, and respond to disasters, bioterror threats, and public health emergencies. As a career public servant at HHS, she helped implement the Affordable Care Act — broadening access for those on Medicare, improving health care quality, and reforming private insurance. Congresswoman Underwood also taught future nurse practitioners through Georgetown University’s online master’s program. Congresswoman Underwood is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University. She graduated from Neuqua Valley High School and is a lifelong Girl Scout. She resides in Naperville, Illinois.