At the end of June, HCIF said farewell to our Senior Director of Population Health, Susan Choi. Susan joined HCIF almost ten years ago, when the organization was less than half of its current size. With dedication, perseverance, and compassion, Susan shepherded the growth of HCIF’s Population Health portfolio and team, establishing our base of expertise in health communications, chronic disease management and prevention, and community health and social needs.
After 9 years and 9 months at HCIF, it’s time to say goodbye.
When I was asked to contribute a farewell message, the challenge of summing up my time at HCIF and the pressure I would put on myself to say something profound was almost enough for me to refuse. But over the past several weeks, I’ve come to realize that I do have some things to share before I go.
First, I want to take this opportunity to express my deep thanks. HCIF is where I grew up professionally, where I fully became a facilitator and community health champion, identities I hold close. I appreciate the grace with which colleagues and partners guided me, gently corrected me, and changed my assumptions over the past decade. I am so much the wiser, kinder, and richer for it. Many thanks to Kate Flynn for taking a chance on me those many years ago!
Second, I have finally come to fully embrace the fact that the only things worth doing are hard. Bringing people together to compromise and coordinate is hard. Creating systems that center shared humanity and justice is hard. Being asked to do more with fewer resources is hard. Trying to do all of this while feeling emotionally and psychically drained is hard. But whenever I start despairing, I look to a quote by the English writer Zadie Smith pinned to my bulletin board:
“Progress is never permanent, will always be threatened, must be redoubled, restated, and reimagined if it is to survive.”
Seeking progress in the face of serious headwinds posed by (and this is just a partial list) inertia, deeply entrenched bias, exhaustion, fear of the unknown is, in a word, hard—and I can’t think of a worthier way to spend my time and energy. I’m grateful to HCIF for giving me the confidence and perseverance to pursue progress, especially when it’s hard.
Third, I now know that hard things are easier and better done together. My belief in collaboration has deepened into a conviction that it is not simply an anodyne value that all can agree upon, but a muscle that is built through hard work, skilled coaching, and commitment. In this sense, I think of HCIF as the personal trainer for all of our partners, and I feel honored to have been part of the training staff for so long.
I believe that the power, energy, comfort, and inspiration we draw from each other by exercising our collective collaboration muscle are what will enable southeastern PA to grow stronger and healthier in the years ahead. I end with the hope that we can all continue to do the hard things, together.
Susan will be joining the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. While we will greatly miss the strength of her contributions and her character, we wish her all the best in her professional journey. Please join us in wishing Susan the fondest farewell!