President Profile: Welcome Wendy Nickel!

May 20, 2020

Wendy Nickel, MPH, has been named HCIF’s new president. Wendy most recently served as Vice President of Prevention for the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, and brings over 20 years of experience as a health care professional to the role. Below, she shares her public health interests and goals for the future.

How did you become interested in healthcare quality, and what are you most passionate about within the field?

Before working in hospitals, I worked in healthcare consulting and disease management for an insurance company. In both of these roles, I found I had an affinity for how systems of care could improve the quality of care patients received.  I truly found my calling when I joined a hospital in an underserved community to serve as the Director of Patient Satisfaction.  That experience facilitated my understanding of how to develop effective practices to improve the overall experience of care and to use data to evaluate it. However, I also had the unique opportunity to engage regularly with patients and healthcare professionals and understand the individual factors that impact patient outcomes.  I was educated about quality improvement through this experience and used this knowledge to develop patient satisfaction improvement programs at the hospital, resulting in statistically significant improvements based on patient survey data.  More importantly, however, I learned that all patients and families deserve the right to high quality care, no matter their socioeconomic status or ZIP code of origin. This is why I find quality improvement so compelling – it presents opportunities to create a level playing field regardless of the types of resources an institution has or community it serves. I am most passionate about eliminating healthcare disparities and believe that utilizing quality improvement techniques and methodologies, as well as patient-centered care, we can move the needle on the most vexing challenges we face in healthcare today.  

How does your past experience align with some of HCIF’s specific project areas?

I have been working in quality improvement, patient safety, patient experience, and public health for the past 18 years.  My past program work has included improving: transitions of care, care for individuals with diabetes, prevention of colorectal cancer, and health literacy.  Many of these topics have been addressed by HCIF’s work, which is something that attracted me to the organization. My experience has taught me that improvement only occurs when there is collaboration between patients and healthcare professionals and a deep commitment to change.  HCIF’s model uses collaboration to motivate and engage stakeholders and very closely aligns with my own personal beliefs for how to achieve high quality care.

What are your greatest professional accomplishments so far?

In each role I have held over the years, I have been proud of many accomplishments.  However, two stand out to me the most.  First, one of the organizations in which I was responsible for quality and patient safety won a prestigious award for national innovation for making improvements in a variety of topics. Second, I established a center for patient partnership at one of the largest physician membership organizations in the country.  The goal of this center was to develop programs and policies to promote patient/clinician partnership in healthcare. In addition to developing a set of principles to support this partnership, my team helped to inculcate patient-centeredness into every aspect of the organization’s programming, from education, to policy-making, to development of clinical guidelines.  Patients are now partners at every level of the organization.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how proud I have been to work with stellar team members, managers, and colleagues over the years who have inspired me and propelled me forward.

What are you most looking forward to as you step into the role of President?  What’s your vision for the future of HCIF?

I am looking forward to so many things as I step into the role of President. First, I am excited to work with the exceptionally talented team at HCIF.  I knew a couple of the staff and Board members from past professional experience and have always had the utmost respect for the organization. Second, I look forward to building upon the incredible foundation that Kate has established in order to provide the highest quality care to the Delaware Valley and beyond. There are some exciting opportunities that HCIF has the ability and experience to tackle in the near term including care challenges associated with COVID-19, addressing the myriad issues associated with opioid use disorder, and leveraging healthcare technology, such as telehealth.  My vision for HCIF in the future is that we establish a variety of new, unique collaborations to achieve our goals, continue to diversify our program portfolio, and gain increased recognition as a regional and national leader in healthcare quality.  I have some big shoes to fill, but supported by our capable staff, believe that these goals are clearly in our sights.

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

“I raise up my voice-not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard…” –Malala Yousafzai

Wendy’s favorite pastimes include running, exercising, gardening, attending live music events and concerts, and traveling. Her favorite place she has visited so far is Bali, and she would love to take a trip to Dubai someday. You can reach Wendy at or connect with her on Linkedin – please join the entire HCIF staff in welcoming her to the team!

Partner Profile: A Conversation with Dr. Benjamin Abella

February 20, 2020

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.

Dr. Benjamin Abella, MD, MPhil, is the Director of Center for Resuscitation Science at Penn Medicine, as well the Medical Director for Mobile CPR Project, a partner of the CPR Ready coalition. February is Heart Month, the perfect time to learn more about efforts to spread hands-only CPR training in Philadelphia.

How did you become interested in addressing sudden cardiac arrest?

During my medical residency training, I responded to many cardiac arrests in the hospital. These were dramatic, stressful, and ultimately sad events – as most of the victims died. It made a huge impression on me; I kept thinking “why are these events so chaotic? Why aren’t we discussing what we did well or poorly? These victims are in the hospital with the best care available, why do most of them die?”  The more I investigated the topic, the more I realized that there were so many more questions to answer surrounding cardiac arrest, and so much potential to improve care and survival.

What is one thing you think people should know about hands-only CPR training?

Hands-only CPR training is relatively easy and can make a huge impact. I have seen numerous success stories where hands-only CPR was delivered, and arrest victims made full recoveries.

How has CPR Ready impacted Southeastern Pennsylvania, and how have collaborative partnerships contributed to its success?

CPR Ready has achieved the important goal of starting the conversation. In most US cities, including Philadelphia, cardiac arrest awareness and training is disjointed. Individual organizations cancertainly make an impact, but messaging is always stronger when we come together with one voice and a coordinated approach. One key advantage of CPR Ready is our ability to share human resources in a coordinated fashion – for example, our Mobile CPR Project training team has partnered with city leaders and HCIF personnel for larger training events.

What have you found most valuable about working with HCIF? What’s something you’ve learned from our partnership?

I have been impressed by HCIF’s desire to be broad, inclusive, and supportive. Their connections and knowledge of Philadelphia-area organizations and stakeholders has been crucial.

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

“90 percent of success in life is showing up.” The work of CPR training isn’t rocket science, it doesn’t require special talents.  It requires getting out there and doing it.

Most people don’t know that Dr. Abella was an active violinist in high school and college, and he looks forward to returning to music in the future. In the meantime, he indulges his inner science kid in the kitchen, through cooking and baking.

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.

Partner Profile: A Conversation with Hillary Holes

October 15, 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.

Hillary Holes, Director, Health Equity, Healthcare Council of Western Pennsylvania (HCWP), leads Pennsylvania Health Literacy Coalition efforts in the Western half of the Commonwealth. Since 2014, HCWP and HCIF have collaborated to create a culture of health literacy in Pennsylvania. Join Hillary at the Western Pennsylvania Health Literacy Event on October 25—register now!

How did you become interested in health literacy?

My first job after college was as the Performance Improvement Coordinator in the Quality Department at a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). I encountered the term “health literacy” for the first time while working on quality improvement projects in this role. Our patients were at risk for outcomes associated with low health literacy. I got to witness this firsthand and work with clinic staff to brainstorm ways to better communicate with patients. My colleagues, supervisors, and even the patients taught me so much.

What is one thing you think people should know about health literacy?

Health literacy knows no boundaries when it comes to who is impacted. Judgment and stigma are not to be taken lightly when dealing with health literacy. Never judge individuals just on the way they look, or the way they are acting in a situation. You can’t tell by looking if someone will struggle to understand health information.

What are your greatest accomplishments within your field so far?

When I joined HCWP in 2017, I took over the 10 Attributes of Health Literate Health Care Organizations Workgroup. This group developed a resource, Delivering Health Literate Care: A Quick Reference Guide, which has since been shared with hospitals across Pennsylvania. There were times while working on this project that I questioned whether we could get it done; having the final product in hand and disseminating it widely has exceeded all my expectations!

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

It would be to work with their organization on updating education materials that they are giving to the public. This can be time-consuming, but that is okay. The most important things are that the information is easily understood by everyone, doesn’t use jargon, and is engaging enough that it doesn’t get immediately thrown in the trash by the patient.

What have you found most valuable about working with HCIF? What’s something you’ve learned from our partnership?

I learned everything I know about health literacy from the amazing staff at HCIF, and everything that I have learned from working with HCIF has been valuable. It is such a great partnership that I look forward to continuing.

If you’re looking for a heartfelt book to dive into this fall, Hillary recommends The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. It’s her favorite, and she tries to read it at least once a year. Seeking a fall adventure? Try Laguna Beach, California—the weather, wineries, restaurants, and views are to die for! You can connect with Hillary via email or on LinkedIn.

Partner Profile: A Conversation with Dr. Robert Uzzo and Dr. Jay Raman

September 19, 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.

Dr. Robert G. Uzzo, MD, FACS currently serves as the Chair of the Department of Surgical Oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center at Temple University Health System. Nationally known as a leader in the field of urologic oncology, Dr. Uzzo has made important clinical, scientific and educational contributions to the Department of Surgery. In addition to his extensive clinical practice, he oversees research laboratory initiatives studying molecular mechanisms of genitourinary cancers. Dr. Uzzo serves as PURC’s Executive Director lending his expertise in program development, implementation, and evaluation .

Dr. Jay D. Raman, MD, FACS currently serves as Professor of Surgery and Chief of the Division of Urology at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. His clinical practice focuses on robotic-assisted surgery for upper and lower tract urologic cancers. Dr. Raman also serves as Chair of the American Urologic Association (AUA) Video Education Committee, Course Director of the Fundamentals in Urology AUA Course, and Secretary of the Mid-Atlantic AUA section. Dr. Raman serves as the PURC Director of Prostate Programs through which he supports HCIF with setting goals, establishing metrics, and identifying approaches and activities that best support participating practices.

Did you know?

September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Our team asked Dr. Uzzo and Dr. Raman some questions about their careers in Urology, prostate cancer awareness, and their experiences with PURC. 

Learn more about Prostate Cancer Awareness Month here.

Physicians should remember they will “Cure sometimes and comfort always.”

Sir William Osler

How did you become interested in Urology?

Dr. Uzzo: Urology has always offered the best of surgical care and medical care. It is one of the few specialties to offer such a breadth of options for patients from endoscopy to robotics to open surgery to medical management. The diseases that affect the genitourinary tract are very common. In fact nearly 1 in 5 cancers affects organs of the GU tract. This means that as a urologic oncologist you have the opportunity to affect so many patients’ lives. Finally, I had wonderful mentors who loved their careers. 

Dr. Raman: I always was interested in pursuing a career in surgery even upon entering medical school. In fact, I thought I would be a cardiac surgeon. During the summer after my first year of medical school, I had the fortune of meeting the Chair of Urology at Cornell (E. Darracott Vaughan, MD) who opened my eyes to the field of urology and all of the disease processes and procedures this specialty performed. I was hooked on Urology as a career after that.

What is one thing you think people should know about prostate cancer?

Dr. Uzzo: Although prostate cancer is so common, with nearly 200,000 cases in the US diagnosed per year, only about 12-14% of men with prostate cancer die from prostate cancer. 

There are many reasons for this ranging from biology to effective management options even for the most advanced cases.

Put simply, most men beat prostate cancer!

Dr. Raman: Unlike many other malignancies, prostate cancer is a heterogeneous or mixed bag of cancers. Certain types are slow growing or indolent and are unlikely to impact life expectancy, while others are more aggressive and warrant appropriate treatment. The critical element of prostate cancer screening is not only identifying the presence of malignancy, but also tailoring management to a patient’s specific type of cancer thereby personalizing individual care for patients.

What are your greatest accomplishments within your field so far?

Dr. Uzzo: I have been very lucky to learn from great physicians, surgeons and nurses at NY Cornell Presbyterian where I went to medical school, Memorial Sloan Kettering where I spent a good part of my residency and Cleveland Clinic where I did my two fellowships. These individuals inspired me to study and understand the diseases we treat more deeply. As such, to date I have authored or co-authored over 800 peer reviewed papers, chapters, books and abstracts. Each of these are an attempt to improve the care I deliver to my patients and to contribute to the field so that others can improve their care.

Dr. Raman: It is never easy to pat yourself on the back but probably what I am most proud of is helping change the face of the Urology program at Penn State Health. When I started at Penn State 11 years ago, we were a smaller community based program with 4 urologists. We now have grown to 23 total providers with subspecialty training across all areas in Urology. Furthermore, this growth has allowed us to broaden and grow our research programs and join quality initiatives such as PURC which greatly enhance the care we can provide to patients in Central Pennsylvania.

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

Dr. Uzzo: Healthcare delivery is extremely complex. Patients are easily overwhelmed by the diseases they face and the diagnostics and treatments recommended. As such, one of the greatest issues we face in medicine is our inability to match treatment intensity with disease risk. This leads to both over-treatment of some diseases (for example very low risk prostate cancer) and under-treatment of others (due to the limitations of our therapies). 

One of the greatest issues in our field is therefore the development of biomarkers to help us provide the right treatment for the right disease in the right patient at the right time so that we can minimize effects on quality of life while maximizing efforts to extend life.

Dr. Raman: I would ask persons to look at their own practices and identify one area where the potential exists to improve the quality of care being delivered. Often times, these may not seem like earth shattering issues, but they are often very actionable. In my case, this motivation has prompted my decade long investigation into making prostate needle biopsy (to diagnose prostate cancer) a safer procedure.

What have you found most valuable about PURC?

Dr. Uzzo: PURC is the second largest urologic quality collaborative in the country. Despite advances in information technology, doctors in different health systems rarely have the ability to share and compare the results of their care as directly as we can in PURC. This voluntary effort to improve care with my colleagues across the region is one of the most valuable assets of PURC.

Dr. Raman: PURC is a remarkably collegial and interactive group all working together collaboratively to improve care for the prostate cancer patient. When compared to other quality program or data sets, I find that PURC gives me information and ideas that I can take back and implement immediately. Collectively, this is highly appealing to our patients but also to providers who understand that it is our data that is driving changes to improve care.

In his free time, Dr. Uzzo enjoys traveling. When asked about his favorite destination he answered: “I have been fortunate to travel across the globe and have even visited every continent…..twice. While most might answer this question with a warm and sunny place, two of my favorites were Iceland and Antarctica (in their summer season). The pristine, magnificent, and powerful beauty of nature were on full display.” To connect with Dr. Uzzo, you can find him on LinkedIn.

Dr. Raman also shared some fun facts about himself. When asked about his favorite hobbies, he answered: “Running. It gives me 30-60 minutes a day when I give my mind a break from the daily grind.” We’re glad to hear our physician partners are able to catch a break when they are not busy saving lives! To get in touch with Dr. Raman, you can email him, follow him on Twitter (@urojdr) or find him on LinkedIn or Doximity.