Staff Profile: A Conversation with Sehrish Rashid, MPH, MA

November 21, 2022

In celebration of Public Health Thank You Day, the Health Care Improvement Foundation (HCIF) would like to highlight one of our newest staff members, Sehrish Rashid, for her extraordinary contributions to public health. Sehrish joined HCIF in August 2022 and is a Project Manager for the Population Health Team. In her role, she focuses on Health Literacy, Cities Changing Diabetes, and COACH initiatives. Learn more about Sehrish in this month’s staff profile.

How did you learn about HCIF and what prompted you to start working there?
Being a public health graduate, I wanted to pursue a career that is closely related to program monitoring and evaluation. I realized during my initial conversations with the staff that, as a Project Manager, I actually could be a part of the M&E process. I was also told that there would be a possibility of working for health communication. So, both these things truly prompted me to start working at HCIF. And not to forget, the mission, vision, and values of HCIF are also admirable and something that I truly respect.

What has been your most rewarding professional experience thus far? What is your proudest accomplishment during your time at HCIF?
I think it’s a little early to talk about my accomplishments at HCIF, since I’ve only been here for a couple months. Yet, if we were to discuss my experience during this time, I feel my proudest accomplishment has been the ability to jump right in the tasks and provide my support wherever it’s needed. I became an active part of the planning team for our Health Literacy Month event from the get go, and everyone supported me tremendously through the process. Together, we all made it a successful event.

What excites you most about your position at HCIF?
The fact that HCIF facilitates so many powerful projects is something that truly excites me about my position at HCIF. I’m someone who never hesitates from learning new things, and I feel there’s so much to learn here at the organization. I feel like this position is allowing me to challenge my skills in a number of productive ways.

“I also like to have an open mind because the best things have happened to me when I expected the least.”


What is one of the most important things you have learned while working at HCIF?
One thing I have learned from HCIF is that it’s important for organizations and leadership to respect and be thoughtful, not only towards its partners, but the staff as well. In my position, I’m learning how to positively model the organizational & professional change that we usually talk about and want to see around us.

What are your long-term career goals?
My long-term career goals are related to gaining more experience towards program monitoring and evaluation. I want to be a part of global health projects in the long run, but I also like to have an open mind because the best things have happened to me when I expected the least. If circumstances allow, I’d love to apply for a DrPH program.

What is a quote that inspires you in your work?
I don’t think it’s specifically related to work, but in general, the quote that inspires me is that change is the only constant in life. It allows me to keep going regardless of the obstacles and believe that nothing truly lasts forever.

What motivates you both personally and professionally?
The ability to be useful for others. I’ve spent enough time thinking about the “meaning” or “purpose” of my life, but at this point, I like to tell myself that it doesn’t have to be anything grand; I can get joy and motivation from all the little things that this world has to offer.

What are your interests outside of work?
Outside of work, I like to spend time with my family, friends, and my cat. I also like traveling and being close to nature. I occasionally write poetry in both Urdu and English, and I’m an avid art lover.

Youth Empowerment at Esperanza College’s Minorities in Health Sciences Symposium

Susan Cosgrove

October 28, 2022

On October 14, Esperanza College hosted their annual Minorities in Health Sciences Symposium. This event empowers youth to explore science that is relevant to our world today, and consider ways to make an impact together. This year’s Symposium marked a return to in-person sessions, and involved a continued focus on diabetes prevention and management. HCIF served as the event’s lead sponsor, through funding from Novo Nordisk to support Cities Changing Diabetes.

Featured sessions included inspirational keynotes, lunchtime panels with professionals in the health and science fields, student poster presentations, and afternoon activities. The hallways buzzed with excitement as students gained hands-on experience with DNA extraction, a dissection lab, virtual reality, 3-D printing, and other interactives from local science and health institutions. About 300 students attended the Symposium.

“There is so much talent in our youth, and sometimes all they need is a nudge, or seeing someone that looks like them that can inspire them to set goals and reach for them,” said Nilsa Graciani, PhD, Chief STEM Officer. “That is one of the reasons we present the Minorities in Health Sciences Symposium. This year the students not only learned about diabetes, but also learned about grit and determination. We really appreciate HCIF and Cities Changing Diabetes, our lead sponsor, and our other sponsors and all the people that care for our youth and brought their energy and expertise to the event to make it a success.”

Students in attendance at the event shared that it opened their eyes to different options, and that the speakers gave a lot of useful advice that they will use. According to one participant, the four keynote speakers, “really helped me have a better understanding of the medical pathways.” Another student said, “It provided a bunch of information in variety of areas in the healthcare field. In addition, the guest speakers who actually had experiences in these fields were very helpful in understanding their day to day life in their field.”

Esperanza College is one of the first Hispanic-serving institutions in Pennsylvania, and has spent the past three decades providing a variety of programs and institutions to build an “opportunity community” where all can live and thrive. As a partner in Cities Changing Diabetes, Esperanza established Champions of Hope, a youth-led diabetes education and prevention initiative, and the companion Diabuddy app that educates and encourages youth to complete wellness activities and challenges.

President’s Update: Reversing the Down Escalator

Wendy Nickel

October 28, 2022

Earlier this month, HCIF held our annual Partnership for Patient Care Leadership Summit – HCIF’s first in-person event since 2019. It was also HCIF’s first-ever hybrid event and we were delighted to welcome over 100 people both virtually and IRL (in real life). The Summit’s theme was “Achieving Health Equity through Community Engagement” and featured keynote speaker, Dr. Somava Saha, a health equity expert from Well-Being and Health Equity in the World, as well as Victor Murray, Senior Director of Community Engagement and Capacity Building from the Camden Coalition.

Dr. Saha’s talk outlined the benefits of engaging communities to advance healthcare quality, safety and equity. She shared powerful images of how place-based inequities have been caused by long-standing policies intended to propagate them, such as redlining, predatory lending, and gentrification. Using a compelling metaphor, Dr. Saha likened health equity to an escalator –in communities where resources are plentiful, the up escalator represents the ease by which individuals can get to where they’re going without obstacles or being slowed down.

However, in less-resourced communities, individuals are constantly trying to go up the down escalator – each time they encounter an obstacle, such as illness, unemployment or unstable housing, it is harder and harder to get to the top. She described the importance of engaging communities to address equity at the roots of what drives health care disparities. Using this approach, for example, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital partnered with the public school system to increase third-grade reading levels. This work resulted in decreased hospital utilization and inpatient days for the targeted communities.

Victor Murray showcased Camden Coalition’s programs that advance health equity through community engagement and emphasized the power of partnership between healthcare providers and community-based organizations. His presentation began with reminding the audience about the importance of individual relationships. He led an exercise where he asked each person to write a note to someone they care about and why. This was an important reminder for tapping into the reasons we are in healthcare and despite facing challenging situations, continue to persevere for the good of communities.

The theme of health equity was carried throughout the day, including the Delaware Valley Patient and Safety and Quality Award program. Celebrating its 20th year, the award featured new criteria in 2022, including health equity and patient and family engagement. The top three winners were Temple University Hospital, Fox Chase Cancer Center and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, with programs focused on: utilizing a community health worker program to improve frequency of visits by individuals with complex needs; improving crash cart readiness; and increasing breastfeeding initiation rates among African American patients in the newborn nursery.

Audience members also heard from HCIF staff about two of our signature programs. April Reilly presented about the important work of the Health Equity Data Strategy (HEDS) collaborative, which is comprises area hospitals working to improve the collection and utilization of racial, ethnicity, and language (REaL) data in order to address health care disparities. Additionally, Kelsey Salazar provided an inspiring and passionate look at the Collaborative Opportunities to Advance Community Health (COACH) program and how it fosters collaboration between a variety of stakeholders to improve food insecurity and trauma-informed care.

It was a remarkable day of learning and sharing, marked by metaphors and images for how to achieve health equity with partnership, care, and engagement of community.  It certainly felt that all of us were working to reverse the down escalators that day. Thanks to all of you who attended and if you were not able to participate, feel free to view the presentations and recordings from the Partnership for Patient Care 2022 Leadership Summit, by following this link and clicking the “Leadership Summit” tab.

Staff Profile: A Conversation with Susan Cosgrove, MPA, CPHQ

October 28, 2022

In honor of National Healthcare Quality Week, this month’s staff profile highlights HCIF’s Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ), Susan Cosgrove. Susan has been a member of HCIF’s population health team since joining the organization almost 10 years ago. As Senior Director of Community Impact, she leads our population health team and oversee a portfolio of programs covering health literacy and communication, chronic disease prevention and management, and community health.

How did you learn about HCIF and what prompted you to start working there?

I started at HCIF as a Project Manager in 2013, shortly after completing my Master in Public Affairs. My academic and professional background at that point was in social sciences, health policy, and advocacy. I was in graduate school when the Affordable Care Act was enacted and subsequently challenged in court, and my focus at that time was on its implementation. Joining HCIF drew my focus from federal policy to regional quality improvement and population health initiatives. I welcomed the opportunity to work closely with local partners on meaningful projects.

What has been your most rewarding professional experience thus far? What is your proudest accomplishment during your time at HCIF?

There are two major accomplishments from the past year that I’m incredibly proud of: the growth of our population health team, and expansion of our Cities Changing Diabetes program. In 2022, our team has undergone significant changes including promotions, staff departures, and new hiring. Supporting the growth of our existing staff into new roles, welcoming new staff, and establishing a cohesive and high-functioning team is very rewarding. Some of this growth was made possible through a multi-year funding commitment from Novo Nordisk to support Cities Changing Diabetes activities in Philadelphia. I feel a great sense of pride when we secure resources to expand our programming and engage new partners, especially when it aligns with our staff’s interests or passions.

What excites you most about your position at HCIF? / What is one of the most important things you have learned while working at HCIF?

I’m excited by the prospect of defining HCIF’s role in addressing barriers to health that result in health disparities and inequity. We’re talking a lot about authentic community engagement, proximity to vulnerable communities, and health equity. Like many other organizations, we are trying to identify our role in bringing about a just society and equitable health care system where all can thrive. We know that this can only happen in partnership with others, and I’m excited to think about who we can collaborate with next. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time at HCIF, it’s the value of bringing humility and curiosity to collaboration.

What are your long-term career goals?

Overall, I want to continue to hone my leadership abilities, capacity for strategic thinking, and skills as a mentor and supervisor. I love working through challenges as if they were puzzles and working with others to come up with creative solutions; I hope to always be in a role that affords me the opportunity to do so. When I think about policy areas that I would like to touch someday, reproductive justice is at the top of the list. Somewhere down the line, I’d love the opportunity to engage more specifically with this issue and play a role in ensuring that every person has access to high quality, culturally appropriate, full spectrum reproductive health care.

What is a quote that inspires you in your work? / What motivates you both personally and professionally?

The variously attributed quote “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional” has always resonated with me. Everyone will, at some point, experience a medical crisis of some kind that requires treatment and interaction with the healthcare system. I am motivated by the desire to drive towards a care system that alleviates pain without causing additional suffering or harm, especially for historically marginalized populations. If we can create a system that delivers high quality care for the most vulnerable, everyone will benefit.

Something that you may not know about Susan, is that she has completed two Ironman Triathlons, several marathons, and dozens of half-marathons and shorter races! “Running has always been an important outlet for me to care for my physical and mental health. I have been on an extended hiatus from vigorous exercise for the past few years as we’ve focused on growing our family, but I’m looking forward to returning to it after our third child is born in early 2023.” Feel free to connect with Susan on LinkedIn, linked here!

Partner Profile: A Conversation with Dr. Danielle Cullen, MD, MPH, MSHP

Abeselom Gebreyesus, MPH(c), BA

October 27, 2022

The Health Care Improvement Foundation’s (HCIF) Partner Profiles highlight the efforts of valued and innovative health leaders. Our partners’ work supports HCIF’s vision of healthier communities through equitable, accessible, and quality health care.

As HCIF continues to tackle trauma-informed care and food insecurity as part of its COACH programming, we are pleased to feature Danielle Cullen MD, MPH, MSHP, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Emergency Medicine at CHOP. Danielle serves as Co-Chair of the COACH Food Insecurity Workgroup that consists of medical and health professionals who have come together to address social determinants of health and food access in Pennsylvania.

You serve on the COACH Food Insecurity Workgroup while also conducting research on childhood food insecurity and community-based interventions to improve health equity among children and their families. How did you become interested in pediatrics and working with socially disadvantaged children?

I’ve always been drawn to working with children and their families, whether it was as a swim instructor through high school and college, tutoring, or now as a physician and public health professional. When kids and their families enter the medical setting, they bring with them more than their acute presenting complaint; they bring their stories, their experiences, and the relationships that impact who they are and how they engage with care. I believe that being a pediatrician means more than treating patients medically; we also have the responsibility of providing a voice for children. Through my work, I see pediatric emergency medicine as a platform to combine clinical practice with research in a way that enables me to advocate effectively for the health of children and their families.

In addition to your work with COACH, you have also been involved with tackling childhood food insecurity at CHOP through programs like the Healthier Together initiative and the Complete Eats program. What is one thing you think people should know about childhood food insecurity?

That it is common and underrecognized. That there’s no specific way that a food insecure family should “look.” And that it’s generally the tip of the iceberg—if a family is experiencing food insecurity, there are likely many other areas in life that are stressful. Most importantly, I want people to know that even if a family is experiencing food insecurity, we must prioritize the family’s autonomy to decide what they want assistance with, when, and from whom. If we ask the questions—and if the family wants assistance— we must be ready to help. I suppose this is more than just one thing…

What are your greatest accomplishments within your field so far?

My greatest accomplishment is my team. I am fortunate to work with a phenomenal group of community partners, social workers, health professionals, academic researchers, and students. It is tremendously invigorating to work with such dedicated and caring humans who are striving to make life a little easier—and hopefully better—for the patients and families that we serve.

“There’s no specific way that a food insecure family should ‘look’.”

-Dr. Cullen

Tell us about the Complete Eats program.

The Complete Eats program is CHOP’s partnership with the USDA, PA Department of Education, and the Nutritional Development Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to serve kids free balanced meals at the point of clinical care and connect families with food and other social resources that exist within their community. It is an extension of the summer food service program, a mirror program of the National School breakfast and lunch programs, operating during school closures. With the tremendous work on our clinical and community partners, this program has been in operation at CHOP for the past six years, providing meals at five different clinical settings. Most impressively, with the dedication of our team, we were able to operate nearly-continuously for 18 months during the COVID-19 pandemic, serving over 101,100 meals to kids, and demonstrating impact of the program in terms of improvement in family-level food security.

If you could motivate people in your field to tackle one issue or address one challenge, what would it be?

Oh, good question. I have a few different “fields” so I’m tempted to cheat on this one and give multiple answers. At the root, it really comes down to pushing further and further upstream, working together to dismantle systemic inequity, racism, and systems of poverty. In this we need to elevate and amplify the experiences and preferences of our patients/families, and the strength in our communities, to promote desired, effective change.

What have you found most valuable about working with the COACH collaborative?

I love the opportunity for clinical and community partners to come together, share lessons learned, and work towards improvement across our fields. As an implementation scientist, I also feel that this group has the potential to serve as a model to decrease the “know-do” gap, allowing for shared learning, dissemination of best practices, and scaling of effective innovations across institutions on a timeline that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

What’s a quote that inspires you in your work?

Sitting on my desk right now, and every day, is a framed quotable card that continues to resonate. It says, “This is your world. Shape it or someone else will.”

Something you may not know about Dr. Cullen is that her grandfather invented car signals! Not only is she very proud that her grandfather was such a tremendous innovator, but also appreciates that an emphasis on safety and clear communication has a strong lineage in her family.

Mental Health, Access to Health Care and Food, and Community Violence Among Top Health Problems for Southeastern Pennsylvania

Nine health systems and 37 hospitals across five counties worked to identify recurring causes
of poor health and focus resources to support change

PHILADELPHIA – October 18, 2022 – Mental health conditions, racism and discrimination in health care settings, and community violence are among the 12 health priorities identified in the 2022 Southeastern Pennsylvania Community Health Needs Assessment (rCHNA) Coordinated by the Health Care Improvement Foundation in partnership with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, a community health needs assessment is a federal requirement for non-profit hospitals. Hospitals are also required to develop implementation plans in response to the rCHNA findings.

“This comprehensive assessment enables us to identify the health and social needs of residents in southeastern Pennsylvania – particularly those who may experience inequities – so we can prioritize programs and direct services where most needed,” said Wendy Nickel, MPH, president, Health Care Improvement Foundation (HCIF). “Recognizing that hospitals and health systems often mutually serve the same communities, our assessment is unique in that it is a regional collaboration offering a broader view of the service needs and gaps across Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.”

The 12 regional community health needs and priority areas identified are:

  • Diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions
  • Access to both primary and specialty care
  • Prevention and management of chronic diseases such as hypertension, cancer and diabetes
  • Prevention and treatment of substance use and related disorders
  • Navigating healthcare and health resources
  • Racism and discrimination in healthcare
  • Lack of access to healthy and affordable food
  • Availability of culturally and linguistically appropriate services
  • Impact of community violence
  • Safe, stable housing and homelessness
  • Socioeconomic disadvantages such as poverty and unemployment
  • Neighborhood conditions such as blight, lack of greenspace, and poor air and water quality

Regional collaboration
Conducted every three years in accordance with the Affordable Care Act, the rCHNA is in its second cycle as a regional collaboration and was expanded from 2019 to 2022 to include nine health systems and 37 hospitals. The assessment involves contributions from a wealth of stakeholders, including county health departments, local clinical and hospital patient advisory group leaders, community-based organizations that work with underserved populations, and residents across the five counties. In addition to HCIF’s coordinating efforts, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health spearheaded analysis of quantitative data. Independent qualitative experts were engaged to hold almost 50 Community Conversations and focus group discussions with residents and key stakeholders to identify needs and strengths. Across the five counties 26 Community Conversations and 21 focus group discussions were conducted that centered around a variety of “spotlight” topics including behavioral health, chronic disease, food insecurity, housing and homelessness, older adults and care, racism and discrimination in health care, substance use, and violence. Further primary and secondary data collection efforts also engaged residents with disabilities, community advisory board members at cancer centers, community-based organizations serving immigrant and heritage communities, and the voices of youth.

The report can be found here. It includes the list of participating hospitals, summaries of health indicators and qualitative data by geographic region, summaries of “spotlight” topics, an overview of the impact of COVID-19 including vaccinations and mortality rates, and solutions recommended by residents and stakeholders to address priority needs.

“The community health needs assessment is a comprehensive effort that gives us important insights from a public health perspective about the current health status, needs, and issues for not only people in Philadelphia but residents across southeastern Pennsylvania,” said Frank Franklin, PhD, JD, MPH, deputy health commissioner, Philadelphia Department of Public Health. “This information helps us to determine where we should focus our resources to best meet the community needs.”

About the Health Care Improvement Foundation
The Health Care Improvement Foundation (HCIF) is a nonprofit organization that drives high-value health care through multi-stakeholder collaboration and initiatives to improve access to, delivery of, and experience of care. We are dedicated to the vision of healthier communities through equitable, accessible, and quality health care. Learn more: