Nature Inspires a Day of Team Building and Creative Energy – HCIF’s Staff Retreat

Wendy Nickel

September 8, 2023

In the middle of Philadelphia sits an oasis of nature and beauty, rivaling some of the more exotic and scenic national parks in the United States. HCIF had the unique opportunity to spend the day at the Discovery Center for our staff retreat in July.  In addition to being able to utilize a beautiful public space to promote creative thinking and inspiration, we were heartened by the giggling campers who were in the room next door to us. We even had the chance to enjoy a nature walk after a long day of exercising different parts of our brains than we usually do in our day-to-day work. We left the retreat exhausted, but inspired and ready to put our ideas and thinking into action.

According to its website, the Discovery Center provides education and adventure programs that “inspire self-discovery, foster personal achievement, and build community across Philadelphia”. It struck me that this is very similar to what we hope to achieve through our programming  to improve health care. Ultimately, our work promotes opportunities for individuals and communities to achieve optimal health and well-being through collaboration and shared learning. It was just fortuitous that our mission found a kindred spirit in the Discovery Center. 

During the retreat, the first in many years, we had the opportunity to connect in person and reflect on our accomplishments over the past several years, including our anti-racism work, a new strategic roadmap, and organizational work to improve our exposure and social media presence. Related to this, we had a chance to think about our identity as we begin designing a new website (coming soon). We celebrated the launch of several successful programs, including the Health Equity Data Strategy Collaborative; the 2022 Regional Community Health Needs Assessment; PENNJ-SOS, an opioid stewardship program engaging clinicians and patients; and hosted multiple summits addressing gun violence in the hospital setting, health literacy, and health equity. We also enjoyed a fun Team Bingo game – if you haven’t done this before, it’s a great ice breaker for teams or new partners. 

We also had the opportunity to think about our current healthcare environment and how HCIF can support recent shifts, such as addressing social needs and risks to achieve optimal health. Our retreat highlighted how HCIF is poised to meet the needs of both our community and health care partners to facilitate achievements in health equity. We left the day with a number of to-dos, takeaways, and next steps to move towards our long-term vision as the go-to source for supporting work to improve health.

We started the day with an overcast sky overlooking the lovely Discovery Center lake and left with a bright shining sun, much akin to the brightness and energy with which we left the retreat.

Showcasing HCIF’s and Our Collaborative Partners’ Work at the 2023 Accelerating Health Equity Conference

April Reilly

June 15, 2023

From May 16-18, the American Hospital Association (AHA) hosted their Accelerating Health Equity Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Over 900 professionals gathered in Minneapolis to discuss innovative and strategic ways to accelerate health equity and improve community health. 

I, along with my colleague, Liz Owens, had the privilege of traveling to the conference to present on HCIF’s Health Equity Data Strategy Collaborative. Our learning session titled, ”Starting with the Basics: Assembling and Activating REaL and SOGI data” was held during the second day of the conference and we were joined by Dr. Stormee Williams, Children’s Health in Texas, and Morgan Black, The Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS) (pictured below).  Each of our organizations were uniquely poised to share with the audience lessons learned about the collection and use of race, ethnicity, and language (REaL) and sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data. Audience engagement was great, and reinforced that health systems are in very different places with this work – and that through collaboration we can learn so much from one another.

April Reilly, Dr. Stormee Williams, Morgan Black, and Liz Owens

Throughout the three days of the conference, the agenda was layered with noteworthy speakers and breakouts that encouraged attendees to think outside the hospital walls, create cross-sectional partnerships, and overcome challenges to address health inequities (just to name a few!). In total, we heard from 3 distinguished keynote speakers and attended around 10 breakout sessions learning from well over 20 different organizations on topics that ranged from addressing equity in ambulatory settings to creating community support for older adults to the intersection of health care and criminal justice. Day 1 kicked off with Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author Isabel Wilkerson who pulled back the curtain on the impact the American caste system has on our society, and on the inequitable medical care Black and Brown patients receive compared to White patients, while offering a path forward for creating a just and equitable future for all. “This is a national health crisis that should move anyone in a position of power to act,” Wilkerson said.

On Day 2, Dr. Ivor Horn, director of health equity and social determinants of health at Google, discussed the landscape of technology in health care – including its promising possibilities and potential perils. Horn also explained how health care and equity leaders can understand and challenge technology to support patients, employees and communities.

The conference concluded with remarks from Brian Smedley, equity scholar at the Urban Institute. He shared lessons learned and offered actionable steps as the U.S. and world move to further address structural racism. Smedley reminded the audience to reframe the conversation to center on “the sources of strength and resilience in the marginalized communities we serve.”

Overall, the themes of collaboration and lifting community voice resonated throughout each of the sessions we attended. We left the conference energized. We re-connected with colleagues. We made new connections. We had meaningful conversations.  And we will hold ourselves accountable to take what we learned and turn it into action to inform our work.

Finally, a special thank you to Carol Vianna from AHA for her patience and help in getting our group prepared to present at the conference! We couldn’t have done it without you!

The 2023 RISE Summit on Social Determinants of Health

by Sehrish Rashid, MPH, MA

April 20, 2020

Earlier this month, I attended the 2023 RISE Summit on Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) held at the Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park. The summit started with a series of workshops on April 2, followed by a two-day conference on April 3-4. The conference agenda had a balanced cross-sector representation from payers, health system partners, local/state governments, educational institutions, advocacy groups, non-profit, and community-based organizations (CBOs), which in itself is a good example of a collective approach towards health equity.

On Day 1, Seun Ross, DNP, MS, CRNP-F, NP-C, from Independence Blue Cross moderated a powerful opening panel “Addressing Systemic Racism as a Driver of Health Inequity” with Rachel J. Thornton, M.D., Ph.D., from Nemours Children’s Health and John Adams from Gray Matter Analytics as panelists. The discussion focused on the importance of better data collection as a means to addressing health equity. The panelists highlighted the need for a shared understanding of that data and emphasized the willingness to learn from mistakes. Using the example of Southeast Asian countries, Adams commented that the disaggregation of data as different communities poses different challenges, which could not be solved through a cookie-cutter approach. Dr. Thornton also suggested hiring community health workers as integral members of the care team. Geisinger’s Vice President of Health Innovations and HCIF Board member, Allison Hess, MBA, also contributed to a panel on Day 1 discussing Geisinger’s practices and lessons learned related to the collection and use of race and ethnicity data.

Day 2 was packed with empowering energy through two fireside chats by Chanda Hinton, Executive Director, Chanda Center for Health and the Chanda Plan Foundation, and Jasmine Zapata, M.D., MPH, award-winning author, community leader, youth empowerment specialist, and board-certified physician specializing in the fields of pediatrics and preventive medicine. Hinton shared her personal experience of becoming paralyzed below the chest at the age of nine due to an accidental shooting, and how she eventually became a patient advocate for people living with disabilities. Zapata shared her story about how she was personally impacted by racism and traumatic events, which eventually led her to address adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) both inside and outside her clinic walls. She established Beyond Beautiful Girls Empowerment Movement, which is an effort to empower girls through music, books, events, and youth development curricula.

Being surrounded by over 600 people who travelled across the country for this event was invigorating. I enjoyed learning from the speakers about how they have been working to achieve health equity and hearing personal impactful stories. I look forward to the opportunity to attend more professional development opportunities in the future!

Susan Choi Says Farewell to HCIF

July 2022

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!

HCIF is Seeking a Director

January 26, 2022

The Health Care Improvement Foundation (HCIF) is seeking a Director for several healthcare improvement programs.  This position is responsible for designing, delivering, and evaluating certain HCIF quality improvement, population health, and health equity programs under the supervision of the Vice President of Clinical Improvement and in collaboration with HCIF’s clinical advisors, partners, and other stakeholders.  The role provides support for HCIF’s overall healthcare improvement project portfolio and other HCIF programs as requested. 

Candidates for consideration must have a Master’s degree in a health-related field.  Individuals must have at least five years of healthcare experience in Quality and Patient Safety, Process Improvement, Health Equity, Patient Experience, or other related fields in a hospital or other healthcare setting. Candidates must have experience in project management and multi-organizational initiatives resulting in improved healthcare outcomes with the ability to apply quality improvement methodologies.  Candidates must possess strong written and oral communication skills, relationship-building skills, and participate with collaborative teams.  Working knowledge of clinical data registries, survey design and analysis tools, graphic presentation and infographic platforms, and project management tools is preferred. The successful candidate must excel at project management, time management, and the ability to handle multiple projects simultaneously.  The salary range for this position is $90,000-$100,000 with a generous benefits package.

In support of our commitment to diversity and equity, HCIF welcomes a diverse candidate pool.  EEO Employer F/M/veterans/individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply.

To apply, please send your resume to

The Health Care Improvement Foundation (HCIF) ( was officially established in 1980. Philadelphia-based HCIF ( is a nonprofit organization that drives superior health care through collaboration and shared learning between stakeholders. Our vision is healthier communities through collaboration and shared learning.  HCIF’s approach engages multi-stakeholder resources to implement solutions that no market participant could achieve individually.  Since its inception, HCIF has been recognized as an outstanding example of how advances in quality care can be achieved through large-scale collaboration. Our current strategic priority is to improve health equity and we have an organizational commitment to anti-racism.

The Board of Directors is composed of leaders representing health systems, health payers, the business community, and the public health sector; plus two consumer representatives.  HCIF maintains a staff of eleven (10) professionals and is supported by contributions from hospitals and health systems, government grants, contracts, partnerships with corporate sources and payers, and donations from foundations and individual donors.