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.

Partner Profile: A Conversation with Kate Fox

August 21, 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.

Kate Fox, MPH, DrPH (c), Health Promotion Program Planning and Evaluation Supervisor at the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS), serves on the Planning Committee for the Youth Behavioral Health Summit taking place on September 24. She talked to HCIF about her career in public health, the needs of children in Philadelphia, and her hopes for how the Youth Behavioral Health Summit can help address those needs.

What made you decide to pursue a career in public health?

I always knew I wanted a career that would serve people.  I studied Sociology in undergrad and always thought I would go on to study Social Work.  Quite serendipitously, I took an administrative job at Community Behavioral Health after college.  Frankly, I was not at all interested in the job at the beginning!  It was a Scheduling Coordinator position in the Credentialing Unit – snooze!

This role ended up being incredibly formative in my career.  I learned about the behavioral healthcare system in Philadelphia, from funding streams, to level of care continuums, to policy implementation, to strategic program development….I continued to work at Community Behavioral Health while I pursued my Master’s degree at Thomas Jefferson University.  Now, I’m excited to be returning to academia to pursue a Doctorate in Public Health this fall at Drexel University!

Tell us about your work at DBHIDS.

My overarching goal is to align public health and behavioral health work throughout my career.  I straddle two fields, and while behavioral health is critical to building healthy communities, I’ve experienced a disconnect between the two fields.  At DBHIDS, I work to bridge this gap by managing several partnerships with public health agencies working outside the scope of behavioral health, such as The Food Trust or CeaseFire PA.  I love working across systems to break down siloes and ensure that behavioral health is represented in various public health conversations.

I’ve been working with HCIF for about two years now, and the most valuable thing about the Foundation is its ability to collaborate across systems.  HCIF is such a critical partner in convening and facilitating collaboration across health systems in our city.

What are some of the most critical issues facing children in Philadelphia today?

Public health has pushed healthcare delivery systems to begin to recognize the importance of social determinants, not only on health, but also on a child’s future health outcomes.  We know that educational attainment, economic stability, food and access to healthy options all play a role in health outcomes.  The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study from 2008 and 2013 demonstrated the remarkable impact that childhood experiences such as divorce, neglect, incarceration can have on physical health outcomes….The field has begun to recognize poverty, community violence, or racism as key determinants to a child’s future health.

I believe that these systemic issues are the most critical issues that Philadelphia children face today.  With over a quarter of the city living below the federal poverty line and over 50% a racial/ethnic minority, our children are being exposed to systemic traumas at very early ages that will impact their health for the rest of their lives….As healthcare providers, we can do more in familiarizing ourselves to the resources that our city has to offer, to support families in providing what is best for their children. 

What do you hope people learn from attending the Youth Behavioral Health Summit?

Behavioral health is such a critical piece of a child’s overall health and wellbeing; often is it the piece that requires the most attention.  I hope that people who attend the Summit leave feeling empowered to identify and address behavioral health issues as they arise in the populations or communities that they serve.  It’s important for healthcare providers, social workers, public health professionals, and anyone invested in serving our community to familiarize themselves with the resources that Philadelphia has to offer.

What are your greatest accomplishments within your field so far?

One accomplishment that I’m incredibly proud of is my work with Survivors of Suicide Loss.  Individuals who lose a loved one to suicide are known to be at higher risk of suicide themselves.  The Philadelphia Suicide Prevention Task Force conducted a resource mapping project in the summer of 2017 and identified that Philadelphia lacks resources for survivors of suicide loss.  I was able to implement a peer-led, community-based support group in South Philly.  This year, we accepted applications for eight new facilitators, hosted a peer facilitator training, and will launch four new support groups next month! (For more information, please click here.)

As though Ms. Fox isn’t busy enough with her work at DBHIDS and doctoral training, she shared with us another activity that keeps her occupied: “I am a professional wedding guest. This year, I have attended 13 weddings and was a bridesmaid in six – feel free to invite me to yours!”

She’s not stopping there, either. Kate is getting married herself next month – just a few days after the Youth Behavioral Health Summit. To get in touch, you can email her, find her on Linked In, or connect with her through the Public Health Young Leaders Association.

Partner Profile: A Conversation with Dr. Raynard Washington

July 23, 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. Raynard Washington, PhD, MPH, currently serves as Chief Epidemiologist at the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health (PDPH). PDPH and HCIF have collaborated on a number of different initiatives, including the Collaborative Opportunities to Advance Community Health (COACH) program and multiple grants addressing chronic disease burden in Philadelphia.

In his work at PDPH and with HCIF, Dr. Washington has spearheaded efforts to conduct the first-ever regional collaborative Community Health Needs Assessment for the Southeastern Pennsylvania area. This collaborative report was published on June 30, 2019, by 18 area non-profit hospitals. The assessment involved contributions from a wealth of stakeholders, including three county health departments; the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations; and the voices of community leaders, community-based organizations, and community residents across four counties (Bucks, Chester, Montgomery, and Philadelphia).

Our team asked Dr. Washington some questions about how his career led him to Philadelphia and the groundbreaking initiatives he’s currently working on to improve the health of the city.

“Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life.”

mae jemison

How did you become interested in epidemiology?

My interest in public health and epidemiology grew out of a realization at a younger age that improvements in population health are largely driven by what happens outside of the doctor’s office. While in college, I spent a couple months in a rural area that lacked many basic health resources and public health infrastructure and experienced firsthand the need for systemically assessing and addressing the underlying factors that influence health. So, I began studying epidemiology – the science of public health. Using data to identify, understand and act, focused on preventable inequities, has become my life’s work!

What motivated you to join the Philadelphia Department of Public Health?

Working at a local health department, in one of America’s largest, most diverse cities is a dream come true for me. After working at the federal level, it became clear, that I wanted to be closer to the people and the action.  What better place than one of America’s largest, most diverse cities?! I see the lagging health indicators in Philadelphia as a leading opportunity to make a difference where it matters most.

What do you think people should know about the Community Health Needs Assessment?

The Southeastern PA Regional Community Health Needs Assessment is a tremendous, unprecedented collaboration for the region. It sets the stage for collaborative solutions to address the many challenges facing our communities. It provides the necessary information to stimulate focused action and accelerate our progress to reducing health inequities. The report is a tool, it’s now up to us, across public and private sectors, to put it to use!

What is one major community health issue or challenge that you would like to see addressed?

Closing preventable gaps. To do so, we must be intentional about understanding where gaps exist, what’s driving the gap, and target our solutions to the gap, not just the problem. That means deliberately investing in solutions and policies that are designed for communities experiencing economic, racial, gender, religious, or other disadvantage.

What have you found most valuable about working with HCIF?

HCIF is an incredible convener of healthcare stakeholders. Your ongoing work with hospitals is a model for other regions. HCIF is uniquely successful at facilitating partnership among healthcare stakeholders to address shared challenges with shared solutions.

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

“Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life.” – Mae Jemison.

Luckily, Dr. Washington also knows how to relax when he’s not hard at work. When asked what he likes to do for fun, he answered: “Two things that always make me feel better – cooking and travel!” He’s planning a trip to Thailand in his future, and we hope he won’t be checking email while he’s there – but if you want to learn more about his work, you can email him at, or follow him on Twitter (@Raynard_W) and Linked In.