Lauren Underwood (1986- )

Lauren Underwood
Courtesy U.S. House of Representatives

In 2018, Lauren Underwood was elected to the U.S. Congress representing the 14th Congressional district of Illinois which is suburban Chicago. She is the first African American woman to represent the district, defeating incumbent Republican Congressman Randy Hultgren. At age 32, she is also the youngest black woman in history to be sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives.

Lauren Underwood was born on October 4, 1986 in Mayfield, Ohio and moved with her family to Naperville, Illinois at the age of three years old. Growing up in Naperville which is 35 miles west of Chicago, Underwood joined the Girl Scouts and made the pledge “to help people at all times.” Those early lessons in leadership and inspiration gained from the health care providers who treated her as a child (at age eight, she was diagnosed with a heart condition) laid the foundations for what would become a stellar career in healthcare and policy. She attended Neuqua Valley High School and later earned a Bachelors of Science in Nursing from the University of Michigan in 2008. She then received two master degrees from Johns Hopkins University in 2009.

In June 2010, Underwood began a career in public service at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She began her political career as a policy health professional in the Obama administration in 2014, where she worked to implement the Affordable Care Act. She also worked on public health emergencies and disasters like the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. In 2016, Underwood moved back to Naperville and begin working for Next Level Health, a Medicaid plan in Chicago to ensure that it provided-quality, cost efficient care. Also, a teacher, she taught future nurse practitioners through Georgetown University’s online master’s program.

Endorsed by former President Barack Obama and the support of constituents in a predominantly white district, Underwood won the 14th District in the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2018 and was one of several women of color to ride the blue wave of victory to Washington D.C. Underwood’s focus remains access to high quality, affordable health care for all Americans, creation of high paying jobs, and a strong local economy. Underwood currently sits on the House Committee on Education and Labor, House Committee on Homeland Security, and House Committee on Veterans Affairs. Underwood continues to be a very active member of Congress.