President’s Update: December 2021

December 20, 2021 | Wendy Nickel

HCIF: A Study of a Highly Effective Board of Directors


In 2019, attorney Thomas Hyatt authored a blogpost on the traits of high-performing boards. The traits include: full board involvement and a sense of engagement and participation; a respect for processes that further the organization’s mission; willingness to try new directions; strategic vs. operational focus; and an effective partnership with staff leadership. If I were to choose the characteristics that best describe HCIF’s Board of Directors, Hyatt seemed to read my mind a year before I even joined the organization. As a staff leader, I won the Board lottery!

Boards typically work behind the scenes in terms of driving strategic direction and organizational performance, and they don’t always get the credit they deserve. Although I have only been with HCIF for about 18 months, I am certain that HCIF has weathered the storms of the past 2 years because of the strength, commitment, and leadership of our Board members. Not only did our Board lead the organization through a search and leadership transition, they did this during the time of COVID – quite a challenging time to recruit and onboard a new leader. They proactively identified solutions and mitigation strategies to counter the financial ups and downs associated with the virus. They also reacted swiftly to the social justice issues of the summer of 2020 and made a powerful and committed statement about our organizational stance on racism. Finally, they have been active participants in an 8-month long strategic planning process to identify organizational priorities, including health equity, community engagement, and bridging population health and clinical care.

The Board has been capably and adeptly led by former Board chair, Steve Wray since 2017.  Steve has been a true partner in every sense of the word since I joined HCIF.  I recall my first Board meeting – 2 days after starting with the organization. I was nervous and (virtually) meeting some members for the first time.  I worried that I didn’t know Robert’s Rules very well, or that my technology wouldn’t work, or that one of my kids would interrupt the meeting. But Steve set the tone for the meeting, provided a little levity, and made me feel comfortable – as did all of our other Board members.

Mike Casey, our former vice-chair, was one of the first Board members I met during the interview process. With terrific business acumen, Mike has provided great strategic insights and recommendations during my tenure with the organization. I will always be grateful for his warm reception and gift of time during my first few months at HCIF. He has also been one of our go-to Board members to interview and recruit new members.

Joe Tate joined the Board as a consumer representative in 2016 and has provided great counsel on his experiences as a patient. Joe offered his legal expertise and guidance as we amended our bylaws in 2020 and has always contributed to our many strategic discussions.  Betty Craig also joined the Board in 2016 and brought her insights to our work from her role as a Chief Nursing Officer. Her contributions in providing firsthand accounts of clinician and patient experience has been essential to our work, especially during COVID.

Unfortunately, Steve, Mike, Joe, and Betty all had terms that expired at the end of 2021.  I am so appreciative of their commitment and contributions to HCIF and greatly value all that they have offered.  Now it’s time to welcome a new slate of leaders to the Board as we implement our new strategic roadmap. I am pleased to share that Patricia Sullivan, PhD, RN, Chief Quality Officer of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, will serve as our new Board Chair and Natalie Levkovich, Executive Director of the Health Federation of Philadelphia, will serve as our Vice-Chair.  I am looking forward to partnering with them on the next chapter of HCIF’s story. I am also excited to welcome Norm Weinstein to the Board for 2022. With our new leadership at the helm, I trust that we will continue to have a highly-effective and functioning Board that will continue to guide us as we encounter new triumphs and challenges.


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