Friday, Merge Healthcare Inc. announced a new addition to its team. The health IT interoperability solutions provider has appointed Cheryl Whitaker, MD, MPH, FACP, to serve as the company’s first Chief Medical Officer. Previously, Dr. Whitaker was at the Chicago Community Trust where she directed the strategy and priorities for funds that support the health of the Chicago region. Recently, Dr. Whitaker received the distinction of being honored by Governor Quinn to join the Board of Directors of the Illinois Health Information Exchange Authority.

Dr. Whitaker holds degrees from the Washington University School of Medicine and the Harvard School of Public Health. She completed her training in Internal Medicine at Stanford University and the University of California, San Francisco. Prior to joining the Chicago Community Trust, she was an Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. There, she conducted research to determine the impact of lifestyle factors that affect the overall health and quality of living. She also received funding from the National Institutes of Health to work in low-income communities with people living with chronic diseases.

At Merge, Dr. Whitaker will help guide new product strategy designed to enhance the company’s product portfolio, in addition to supporting federal healthcare initiatives. She will also act as Merge’s liaison with clinician-focused industry organizations as the company continues its focus on improving the usability and interoperability of electronic healthcare.

Jeff Surges, Merge’s CEO, commented, “With the evolution of electronic healthcare and the changing healthcare landscape, Merge is developing of a variety of new and enhanced products and services. Dr. Whitaker will be a valuable resource in helping us optimize our offerings to meet the needs of both patients and the medical community. As a former practicing physician with a long-time commitment to improving the healthcare delivery system, she is an ideal choice to help us build an increasingly stronger healthcare information platform.”

Dr. Whitaker has been repeatedly recognized for her research and service to the medical field. In October 2009, she was awarded the Chapter Laureate Award by the Illinois Chapter of the American College of Physicians for her outstanding contributions in medicine to the State of Illinois. As a junior faculty member at Rush University Medical Center, she was awarded the Midwest Trainee Investigator Award. While training as a hypertension specialist at Rush, she received the GlaxoSmith Kline Medical Fellowship Award, which recognizes emerging leaders in hypertension treatment and research for underserved populations. She was also the recipient of the Secretary of Health and Human Services Award for Innovations in Health for her proposal to develop an exercise program for urban African-American women when she was a student at the Harvard School of Public Health.