Dr. Lakshmi Warrior, chairman of neurology at Cook County Health, has been named to the 2020 class of Crain’s Chicago Business’ 40 Under 40 feature.

Dr. Warrior, who resides in River Forest, is one of a handful of Chicagoans to be spotlighted on the highly anticipated annual list.   Forty leaders across multiple industries who have achieved extraordinary success before the age of 40 were photographed, interviewed and featured.

Since 1989, Crain’s has honored more than 1,100 people, many of whom have since achieved national acclaim. Past honorees include Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Chance the Rapper.

Two years ago, Dr. Warrior, at 34-years-old, was appointed to one of the top medical positions in the health system, leading the neurology unit at one of the largest public safety net health systems in the U.S.

“When most doctors are completing their residency and interviewing to become an attending physician, Dr. Lakshmi Warrior went from her residency to Department Chairman at the young age of 34, for Cook County Health,” said Dr. Suja Matthew, chairman of the department of medicine, Cook County Health.

“It takes a warrior – or in this case Dr. Warrior – to fight strokes in minority and at-risk communities,” said Dr. Matthew. “Our patients and our staff are better for her guidance and leadership.”

Changing Stroke Care for Cook County

When Dr. Warrior, who is specialized in stroke neurology, started at Cook County Health, she noticed that on average, stroke patients at the health system were 10 years younger than the Illinois state average, in part due to other health issues exacerbated by socioeconomic conditions.

In 2016, Dr. Warrior took on the monumental task of opening the first Stroke Clinic at Cook County Health. The goal was to provide comprehensive stroke treatment for underserved patients and connect them to resources that could improve outcomes and lower stroke risk. With limited financial resources, Dr. Warrior worked across multiple departments to convince colleagues to join in helping to improve outcomes.

Since it opened, the Stroke Clinic has cared for more than 700 patients, targeting populations who are often most at risk for suffering a stroke, but often face severe obstacles to receiving care. More than half the patients seen by Dr. Warrior and her team are African American, more than a third are uninsured, nearly 37 percent speak a first language other than English, and more than a third do not have a high school diploma.

Cook County Health now has a designated stroke unit for inpatients, which allows for improved quality of care and coordination of resources.

Improving the Health of the At-Risk and Minority Populations

Under Dr. Warrior’s leadership, Cook County Health received the national designation as a primary stroke center by The Joint Commission and the American Heart Association. The recognition is for hospitals that meet standards and criteria set by The Joint Commission and American Heart Association for work to foster better outcomes in stroke patients. Cook County Health received the recognition under Dr. Warrior’s guidance in 2014 and has maintained it every year since.  Dr. Warrior has also increased stroke education in local communities, targeting areas where people are most at-risk.

Dr. Warrior is also the co-lead on the Cook County Health Equity Initiative, which is developing a comprehensive strategy with specific metrics and timelines to address health equity for patients, employees and the community.

Dr. Warrior received her medical degree from Rush Medical College and earned a master’s degree in Public Health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

She’s an assistant professor in the department of neurology at Rush Medical College and is in the Emerging Leaders Program for the American Academy of Neurology.

Kate Hedlin, Communications Manager