Board Profile: A Conversation with Natalie Levkovich

July 27, 2022

For this month’s Board Profile, HCIF was thrilled to interview Natalie Levkovich, CEO of the Health Federation of Philadelphia. Natalie joined the Health Federation in 1984 and has been the Chief Executive since 1987. She also sits on HCIF’s Board of Directors as Vice Chair and leads HCIF’s Strategic Implementation Planning Committee. Her remarkable career that spans decades is fueled by an insatiable love of learning, purpose, and in her own words, a little serendipity.

What are some of the responsibilities in your current role?

I joined the Federation within a year of its founding. My role has really evolved and changed over the intervening decades, as the environment has changed and as we have gained capacity and grown to meet those environmental needs and changes from both a population health standpoint and a healthcare industry/marketplace standpoint. My role used to be somewhat more hands on programmatically but leading the growth and change process, making strategic decisions and strategic relationships and making sure the internal operations keep up with growth and demand are my main current responsibilities.

What drove you to pursue a career in healthcare?

Like a lot of things in life, some things are just accidental. I have related and useful background training, but zero formal training related to healthcare. I’m of a different generation, so things were possible for me that are less likely to occur today for young emerging professionals.

I was interested in health care for a couple of reasons: one is family background—I have a lot of family in medicine. The other reason is related to civil rights and social justice. I believe that access to quality care is one of the core measures of equity in society. I didn’t pursue anything related to healthcare academically, but when the opportunity to join the Health Federation came up, it really brought together a lot of the interests and ideologies that I hold related to social justice with my skills as a hard-wired problem solver. So, the opportunity to join a start up in this space of nonprofit healthcare and to support access to care for undeserved and marginalized communities all came together. The rest, in terms of content, I learned over the last 38 years by doing — by listening, doing, reading, observing, and through critical thinking and exposure. Public health, which I identify as my professional home, has all been acquired through practice.

My academic education was in English Literature and Anthropology, and I consider both to be quite relevant because both provide an exposure to the vast variety of ways in which people live and organize their institutions and practices. Both involve attention, analysis, critical thinking and communication, and all of that is fully employed on a daily basis in my work. My path is somewhat less likely in this generation because we have evolved, for better or for worse, to kind of a knee jerk expectation of formal credentials, so I wouldn’t necessarily advocate reliance on my example of serendipity as a career strategy, but I benefited from it.

What has been your proudest professional achievement?

I am most proud of the [Health Federation] and how the relationships and partnerships with other organizations and people are of very longstanding and recurring. Implicit in that is a level of trust, credibility, and integrity that has been established and reinforced. Our product is reliable: we only say we can do what we can do well, we don’t compete with our partners, we support our partners. The same can be said for internal staff— we have very low turnover. We have lots of people with ten plus years of longevity at the Health Federation. I think that our relationship-based culture, reputation, and performance that reflects reliability and integrity are probably the things of which I am most proud. Programmatic systems change and capacity building accomplishments that I have advanced are all enabled by strong relationships.

What is a recent memorable experience you’ve had as a healthcare professional?

The Health Federation is a partner among many in an international project to support the recovery, resilience, and expansion of public health systems in Ukraine. The exciting, rewarding, challenging, overwhelming, and daunting aspects of that make this a very engaging process. The project was originally conceived well before the war in Ukraine and was more focused on Covid [19] and public health emergency response, but now has expanded to include all of the impacts on population health and health systems resulting from the war and it is meaningful on multiple levels. It’s meaningful in terms of contributing to the improvement and better future for another country and population, but it’s also meaningful on a personal professional level.  When you do that kind of work, you learn about your own systems and your own skills. What is truly transferrable and what is purely contextual of the experience that you bring to the task? What are the various ways that you have to adapt what you know to a different context whether it be cultural, regulatory, or economic? There is also the exposure to multinational points of view on best practices, so in doing this kind of work there is an opportunity to contribute something meaningful and also to gain something meaningful.

What inspires you?

Purpose. Something that needs doing that I believe I can contribute to.

What is something you’ve learned being a part of the HCIF Board?

Through HCIF, I’ve had a lot more exposure to how health systems operate than I do in my day job, which is really focused much more on primary care, community-based services, and public health issues as opposed to health system operations. Over the years, I’ve also met smart, strategic people on the Board, which is always value added under any circumstances. Some of the programmatic approaches and content of HCIF projects are often unlike what I deal with day to day, but how collaborative work is structured is not new to me. Any exposure to the way other people think or operationalize ideas is always useful and is always an opportunity for learning.

What excites you most about being a member of the HCIF Board?

The opportunity to bring a more community provider-orientated prospective to the discussions. That’s why I was recruited originally for the Board and I have been able to find opportunities to expand that lens. Of course, I am also excited to gain insight into the creative programming that HCIF sponsors.

When you’re not busy working to improve the lives of others, what do you like to do?

I love art and I have nine performing arts subscriptions. I am interested in food as an art form. I am also an avid traveler. I like to travel anywhere, but particularly to places that are not necessarily reflective of a familiar Western culture. Some places that I’ve been, like Southeast Asia or South Africa or Morocco, really expand the lens on culture, history, infrastructure, arts, and interpersonal interactions.

And of course, hanging out with my son and his family when I have the opportunity to visit them in Brooklyn. I have a 7 ½ month old grandson.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I don’t know— I’m an open book. Maybe that I speak Russian! Whatever people don’t know, they can just ask.

Board Profile: A Conversation with Dr. Patricia Sullivan, PhD, RN

May 24, 2022

In a month that observes both National Hospital Week and National Nurses Week, HCIF is honored to interview Dr. Patricia Sullivan, PhD, RN and celebrate her exemplary work for this month’s Board profile. Pat is the Chief Quality Officer for Penn Medicine, and she also serves as Chair of HCIF’S Board of Directors.

What are some of the responsibilities in your current role?

My current role is to oversee quality at the Penn Medicine system level. I work with each of the hospitals and organizations within Penn Medicine to help develop and drive strategy to provide services and roles that are specialized and too valuable to have to replicate at every place. I also help disseminate and spread the best practices where we see the best outcomes. We don’t want every hospital and organization to reinvent the wheel; we want people to learn from each other. We work through a blueprint for quality and our goals are around excellent patient-centered outcomes, zero harm to patients and staff, and exceptional experience.

What drove you to pursue a career in healthcare?

My basic training was as a nurse. I was a critical care nurse, and I happened to be at the right place at the right time and got promoted to nurse manager at a young age. And then I was bitten by the management bug and never looked back! I love healthcare at its core. I found that it was very gratifying to be able to help people feel better. Even if you couldn’t always cure them, you could help them have a better quality of life. And as a nurse you could do different things to help relax [patients] and manage pain. As a teenager I was a volunteer in hospitals and had a great experience and that is what made me decide to go into nursing. Where I was raised, this was in the age when women were not necessarily encouraged to go into medicine. But that’s all changed now, which is wonderful.

What is a recent memorable experience you’ve had as a healthcare professional?

It was during [the Covid-19 pandemic] — the day we decided we were shutting down was Friday, March 13th [2020], and my boss, the Chief Medical Officer, announced that we needed to set up testing sites in the community by that Monday. And we did it! It was an effort of so many people, but all weekend long we worked simulating how traffic would be in a parking lot that belonged to one of our hospitals. It was an amazing experience to see how many could come together from an innovation center, operations, the lab, nurses—you needed all these people. And it was an incredible team effort and we just kept improving it every day as we learned new things.

The second part of that was when we set up roving immunization clinics in West Philadelphia. We went to the churches first then we were using high schools, and we were seeing up to 1000 people a day. It was amazing how you could take up and entire gym and simulate everything and then execute it. I had never worked in the community before and by far that was one of my most memorable moments in all of my career, to be part of such a talented team where everyone was working with the same goal. You don’t get tons of opportunities like that. I made new friendships and new relationships with the people I found myself working next to.

What has been your proudest professional achievement?

On one level it’s having the opportunity to work in quality and patient safety in an excellent academic health care organization. The other thing I might say is earning my PhD. That was hard— working the whole time and getting that dissertation done. I called my mother when I finished successfully defending it as I was not successful on the first try. I used to tease my mother all the time— she’s Ukrainian and my father was Spanish— and I would say I got my emotion and passion from my dad but my persistence and “stick to it” was from my mother. And when I called her I said “Mom, this is for you because it was not my intelligence that got me to the end of this road, it was my persistence and resilience and that came from you and I’m so grateful.”

What inspires you?

When I can help people do the right thing; whether it be processes that generate quality outcomes or working with doctors, nurses, providers, and clinicians to help them in some way do their jobs. Being able to remove barriers and connect the dots for people, so they understand how the things we do are related and not disparate efforts and watching people work and do the right thing inspires me enormously.

What is something you’ve learned being a part of the HCIF Board?

I’ve learned about the community health organizations and how important of a role they play in health and health care. Health is social determinants, your habits, and healthcare combining to impact your ultimate outcomes, and what I’ve learned from the people who sit around the Board table at HCIF is how important these things are and how we can work together.

I’ve also learned what it’s like to bring people together, who normally see themselves as competition, to work in a collaborative fashion so that we can all get better. Being given the right opportunity and environment to do that is very powerful. HCIF is a great neutral convener.

What excites you most about being a member of the HCIF Board?

I’m excited by strategy, so having the opportunity to participate on the strategic roadmap process is exciting. I also like the ability to hear other perspectives. I don’t want to miss a meeting because the perspectives are priceless. Meeting people who don’t have the same role as you and learning what they do and who they are as people—you have new friends and new contacts!

As the current Board chair, what do you envision for the future of HCIF?

I envision that we are going to chart a path that is going to help HCIF continue to get bigger and better in terms of our ability to have an impact on health and healthcare. I want to see the organization grow and take advantage of opportunities that exist that will help us meet our mission. I love our new mission and vision that we worked on collectively. I feel very honored to be [Board Chair.] It’s an honor and a responsibility to be a good leader and helping to make sure we get the most out of the talent we have at the Board level.

When you’re not busy working to improve the lives of others, what do you like to do?

I like to garden—I love flowers. I also like to be active outside and I like to travel. In 2018, four of us went to Africa and it was the trip of the lifetime—it changed me in a different way. In September, the same group is going on a backroads hiking tour in Northern Italy. I think learning about different people’s cultures and getting out of your comfort zone helps you be more open-minded to other parts of your life.

What is something that most people don’t know about you?

Most people don’t know that I’m an avid sports fan, particularly baseball and football. And the problem I always run into is that I’m originally from New York, and I have not been able to shed my loyalty to the New York teams as opposed to the Philadelphia teams, so I try to keep a low profile around that. But I was the oldest of the girl cousins in my family and I grew up going to professional baseball and football games. I like strategy—not the violence involved.

Board Profile: A Conversation with Chaudron Carter-Short, PhD, EdD, RN, NEA-BC

February 28, 2022

In honor of Black History Month, HCIF would like to recognize and amplify the work of Black health care professionals in our region. We are proud to share insights from an interview with Chaudron Carter Short, PhD, EdD, RN, NEA-BC, Chief Nursing Officer & Vice President of Patient Care Services at Temple University Hospital’s Episcopal & Northeastern Campuses. Chaudron has been a member of HCIF’s Board of Directors since January 2020. 

What drove you to pursue a career in healthcare?

My mother always worked in a hospital and as a single mom, she sometimes brought me to work with her. She recommended I go into nursing, but when it came time for college, I chose to go for pharmacy.  However, I realized I didn’t really enjoy being in a lab as a college student and decided to change trajectories to nursing. It sounds cliché’, but I love helping people so nursing was the perfect choice. Prior to becoming a nurse, I was always a nurturer; it was kind of a passion for me. I found nursing fascinating and engaging very early on.

What are some of your responsibilities in your current role?

In my current role as the Chief Nursing Officer & Vice President of Patient Care Services, I have the responsibility and oversight for the nursing department. In my role some of my obligations include vision setting for the department, establishment of best practices for patient care, regulatory compliance, and to ensure there is a strong line of communication between the Chief Nursing Officer and my team. My team is essential to my role, as I have the responsibility of helping them develop and to realize their potential as clinicians and leaders.

During this past year, my team and I had to manage in the face of crisis. In order to be the person that my team looked upon during the height of COVID, it’s been important for me to take the time to de-compress and take care of myself. I enjoy reading, working out, and spending time with family/friends to help me overcome the stressors that have been associated with each COVID wave.

What has been your proudest professional achievement?

My proudest professional achievement was attaining Magnet status for Temple University Health System. Prior to that, I worked as a clinical director at another facility and was looking for a new and different challenge. When I went to Temple in 2015 to support the Magnet journey, some of my colleagues thought the idea was wild. I admit, there were many obstacles and bumps in the road, which made getting Magnet status that much more pleasurable.  We were actually designated Magnet with exemplars (which are additional accolades you can receive by appraisers). The most gratifying reward was when one of my prior cynics that originally doubted me, came to personally visit me and said, “if anyone could do it, I knew you could.”

What is a recent memorable experience you have had as a healthcare professional?

When the pandemic hit, we had to build a full COVID hospital in a different building by moving all ancillary services out of the building to make space.  We took care of about 300 COVID patients in that building. The teamwork and collaboration that took place to provide exceptional care for patients was awe-inspiring. Temple received most of the COVID patients in Philadelphia and had the highest number of patients with the best outcomes. We postponed elective procedures/surgeries, and the nursing staff from those areas, developed a team model concept to care for the COVID patients. Staff were on the units with the sickest of the sick, when patients could not have visitors or could not speak with their loved ones, nurses went above and beyond by providing technology (sometimes their own personal devices) to connect patients with family members. The staff was fearful and exhausted, but you never heard one complaint. The team made sure no person was left alone and as a leader this is what nursing is all about.

What inspires you?

I get inspired by really helping others, especially helping others to achieve a goal through mentorship and support.

What is something you’ve learned being a part of the HCIF Board?

I’ve learned that there’s an opportunity to learn about other organizations across the region. The HCIF Board provides an opportunity to break down silos among healthcare organizations to share and educate. I am enjoying helping to grow HCIF and I’m especially encouraged by HCIF’s desire to diversify the Board of Directors.

When you’re not busy working to improve the lives of others, what do you like to do?

I enjoy being with family/friends, watching TV, reading, playing games, and weight training. I have a daughter who is 27 and a son through marriage who has a 1-year-old. My grandson is the highlight of some of my weekends.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I used to be a competitive figure bodybuilder; when I’m stressed, I need to work out and I try to do it most mornings.

Partner Profile: A Conversation with Steve Wray

December 18, 2019

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 for a responsive, coordinated health care community that fulfills the needs of patients and consumers to achieve better health.

Steve Wray, Vice President, Strategic Initiatives at Econsult Solutions, Inc., has served on HCIF’s Board of Directors for over a decade, and has been Chair of the Board since 2017. Below, he shares his perspective on economic development, public-private partnerships, and HCIF’s evolution and accomplishments during his tenure.

How did you become interested in public policy and economic development? What do you think people should know about public-private partnerships in Philadelphia?

I have always been a policy wonk, including both an undergraduate and master’s degree in Public Policy. Partnerships are hard work – they require collaboration, innovation and organizational support to make them work.

You have been a board member for 11 years. How have you seen HCIF evolve in that time?

HCIF has moved from a hospital centered organization to one with a broader portfolio of issue impacting all manners of health care issues – from population health, to disease management to health literacy. The staff has been very creative and nimble to expand HCIF’s role while staying true to our mission.

What has been the most rewarding part of being Chair of the Board?

Working with the dedicated members of the board is great, but it is truly a privilege to see and understand the quality of the staff. HCIF is at the center of crucial issues, driving high value health care and bringing together leaders to solve problems while recognizing the need for accountability and data.

What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment to date, and what would you like to accomplish in the future?

Leading the IssuesPA election information initiative for the Pennsylvania Economy League from 2001-2006. We broke new ground in presenting issues information online and made a real difference in 2 gubernatorial elections. In the future, I would like to run for office and bring back some semblance of bipartisanship to policy making.

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

I am a strong believer in the importance of early childhood education, so I would like to see Pennsylvania (and the nation) truly adopt a universal approach to high-quality early education.

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

“No matter where you go, there you are” from the movie Buckaroo Bonzai. To me, it represents being present and fully engaged no matter where life takes you.

Steve’s favorite color is Duke Blue, in honor of his alma mater. Of all the places he has traveled for business or pleasure, Nice, France tops his list for places to visit.