Staff Profile: A Conversation with Kaynaat Syed

August 26, 2021

Kaynaat Syed recently celebrated her 2nd anniversary with HCIF. She is a Project Manager for many of our hallmark clinical improvement programs, including the Pennsylvania Urologic Regional Collaborative (PURC). Additionally, Kaynaat serves on many of our internal committees including Anti-Racism and Marketing and Communications. The HCIF team enjoys when her office mate-at-home, Ayla, (Kaynaat’s one year old daughter) vocally contributes to our virtual meetings. Get to know Kaynaat better in this month’s staff profile.

1.) Describe your role at HCIF:

I am a Project Manager on the Clinical Improvement Team and have been in this role for two years. I oversee the PURC program and provide support to a few other clinical improvement programs, including Pennsylvania-New Jersey Surgical Opioid Stewardship (PENNJ SOS), Partnership for Patient Care (PPC), and a 2-year initiative with HAP which recently ended called the Opioid Learning Action Network (OLAN). As a project manager, I am responsible for planning, organizing, and directing project tasks and ensuring project deliverables are met on time. A lot of my time is spent on PURC, for which I oversee the clinical data registry, plan for collaborative meetings, manage working groups, and complete data requests for participating practices.

2.) How did you learn about HCIF and what prompted you to start working here?

I learned about HCIF after I completed my graduate degree in Healthcare Administration and was ready to make a career move. I was interested in continuing working in the nonprofit space and learned about this particular role through my participation in the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). I was amazed at all the work HCIF does at the local and state-level in bringing together various health care stakeholders with the purpose of advancing quality of care.

3.) What is your proudest accomplishment during your time at HCIF?

I would say that I am most proud of the Opioid Learning Action Network (OLAN) project that I supported from 2019-2021. This two-year initiative brought together over 100 hospitals and health systems across Pennsylvania to assess evidence-based practices for addressing opioid use disorder.  There were a significant number of deliverables for this project and a lot of planning and execution behind each one. I am very proud of the hard work put into this project by myself and my team members and more than anything, appreciate the knowledge I have gained through this work. Looking back, I am amazed at the number of clinicians, patients, partners, and community members that we connected with and brought together to address the opioid epidemic.

4.) What excites you most about your position at HCIF?

The most exciting thing about my position is that no day is like the other. Each day I get to learn something new, whether it be something related to my projects or something I learn from the super smart individuals I get to call my colleagues. Working as part of a small team, there is always an opportunity to get involved in various other projects that serve diverse populations, which keeps my work exciting and interesting. Recently, I joined the population health team in working on a podcast series as part of the PENNJ SOS project. This is something I have very little experience with, but am excited to take on! 

5.) What is one of the most important things you have learned while working at HCIF?

One of the most important things I have learned is the value of collaboration-both at the organizational level and in working with different healthcare professions. People’s skill sets are very specialized, and when a group of individuals come together and contribute their expertise for the benefit of a shared objective, it helps with problem-solving and improves efficiency. Specifically in patient safety and quality, collaboration amongst multi-disciplinary teams leads to improved patient care and outcomes. HCIF’s mission is largely based on this type of collaboration and something that I have appreciated during my time here.

6.) What is a quote that inspires you in your work?

“Your talent determines what you can do. Your motivation determines how much you’re willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it.” —Lou Holtz

7.) What motivates you both personally and professionally?

On a personal level, happiness is my motivator. I choose things that make me happy, whether that’s food, good company, or Fall weather. On a more professional level, things that motivate me include working well as part of a team, overcoming challenges, learning new things, and coming up with creative ideas to improve something.

8.) What are your interests outside of work?

Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my husband, my 16-month old daughter, and our dog, Fitz. I also enjoy true-crime podcasts and documentaries, although most of my time is spent chasing a very active toddler!


Staff Profile: A Conversation with Pam Braun

April 23, 2021

If you’ve been a long-time partner of HCIF, chances are you know Pam Braun, who has the longest tenure of any other HCIF employee. Joining the organization in 2008, Pam serves as VP of Clinical Improvement. Pam has overseen the growth of our clinical quality and patient safety program portfolio and has led our signature Partnership for Patient Care Program for many years. She also provides leadership for many organizational initiatives, such as staff development and strategic planning. Her warm and calm demeanor in the midst of complex and challenging issues serves her well in her role. Learn more about Pam in this month’s staff profile.

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

After being a bedside nurse for many years, I returned to school to earn an MSN.  My coursework included classes on healthcare quality.  I loved learning about the different theories, principles and approaches. Soon after, I accepted a position as a quality analyst.  I’ve worked in healthcare quality and patient safety for over 20 years and never looked back!

What accomplishments are you most proud of from your tenure with HCIF?

I would have to say that I’m most proud of the formation of our regional safe table, a program that HCIF leads in partnership with ECRI PSO. The idea for this program came from our Clinical Advisory Committee members. They wanted to build on the trust and transparency among our region’s patient safety and quality leaders , so recommended a program where these leaders can discuss and learn from actual events of harm, a departure from our traditional topic-specific programs. After many months of planning and gaining support from the region’s hospital attorneys and executives, we launched the program nearly 5 years ago with the hope that enough people would be interested in participating for a 1-year trial period and that participants would be comfortable sharing their experiences and solutions. I’m pleased to say that this program has been far more successful than I thought it would be. I’m honored to continue to support this program and am humbled by the level of expertise and commitment towards patient safety of safe table participants.

How do you apply your nursing experience to the work you do at HCIF?

I have worked many years as a nurse in acute-care and ambulatory care settings both as a direct care provider and as a quality/safety leader. Through this experience, I feel as though I can relate to the numerous challenges that providers/administrators face, appreciate all of the competing priorities that organizations undertake, and can help develop realistic and effective improvement strategies to implement. When I work with individual teams on improvement efforts, it also works to my advantage that I am viewed as a peer.

You’ve been with HCIF longer than any other current employee – how has the organization evolved over time? 

When I started at HCIF 13 years ago, I was one of four employees and we supported 2 major programs.  We now have eleven employees and have supported MANY programs.  The focus of our work has expanded from Quality/Patient Safety to include population/community health.  We’ve also expanded our regional work to include participants across Pennsylvania and into New Jersey.   It’s been very exciting to be involved in HCIF’s growth!

What are some of your personal interests?

I’m a parent of 3 daughters, 20 y.o., 18 y.o and 15 y.o.  My 18 y.o daughter has Trisomy 21 and Autism, so my husband and I like to get involved in school and community activities that promote awareness and inclusion of people with special needs such as the Special Olympics, Buddy Walks, and Best Buddies.  I’m always inspired by the abilities and strengths of these amazing individuals!


Staff Profile: A Conversation with Cassidy Tarullo

March 25, 2021

Cassidy Tarullo joined HCIF in September 2019 and has proven to be an invaluable team member since joining us.  She is somewhat of a “jack of all trades,” but so much more than that.  In addition to supporting HCIF President, Wendy Nickel, Cassidy works closely with our project teams, co-chairs our Anti-Racism Council, and takes on many other critical roles in the organization. If you are involved in any of HCIF’s programs, Cassidy’s hands have probably touched them in some way. Get to know her a little better in this month’s staff profile.

1.) Talk a little bit about your role at HCIF.

As administrative coordinator at HCIF, there’s very few tasks or roles that I won’t take on! I provide administrative support to all staff, which can include anything from troubleshooting an office or technology issue to scheduling meetings. I also provide program support to our clinical improvement and population health programs wherever needed, which is often in the form of scheduling meetings or event planning and support. I previously served as project coordinator to our CPR Ready initiative that ended in fall 2020, and most recently have been a project coordinator to our newly launched “Go to Know” campaign to raise awareness of colorectal cancer prevention in the African American community. My favorite part of my position is the ability to serve on multiple committees that we have – I am on the COVID-19 Taskforce, Marketing & Communications Committee, and Anti-Racism Council where I serve as co-chair.

2.) How did you come to HCIF?

After graduating with my B.S. Public Health in May 2019, I was searching for a full-time position related to public health like most recent graduates. However, I was beginning a Master’s of Public Policy (MPP) degree that August, so I was looking for a position in which I was already knowledgeable in the skills needed and which would allow me the capacity to be a student and employee at the same time. After several internships and office assistant positions, I felt I was very qualified for the position of Administrative Coordinator. This position turned out to be the perfect balance of applying the administrative and organizational skills I already have, while learning more about nonprofit public health work that I can apply in the future.

3.) Share why you chose to pursue your graduate major.

I have had a passion for social justice and human rights for a long time, and previously actually had the goal of being a human rights lawyer. Once I decided to major in public health, I realized how closely tied this field is to issues like criminal justice, immigration, and civil rights, and the impact that public health advocacy and policies can have on such issues. I decided to pursue my MPP through Temple’s College of Liberal Arts because its curriculum provides a comprehensive and well-rounded education on all facets of policy, including things like public management or state and local budgeting.

4.) What are your long-term career goals?

My long-term career goal is to be involved in the legislative process of health policy. I would love to work in health policy advocacy, and maybe someday even be a legislator myself. I believe that policy is one of the ways to make real change in our country, and the events of the past year have highlighted the need for that.

5.) What is one of the most important things you have learned working at HCIF?

One of the most important things I’ve learned so far during my time at HCIF is how to engage the community in your work. Many of our projects prioritize the health of underserved populations that we are not necessarily a part of (i.e. individuals with opioid use disorder, seniors, low-income folks), but it is crucial to involve community members in decision-making about initiatives that will affect them. Several of our programs have community or patient advisory groups, which can ensure that their voices are being heard.

6.) What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

As I’m graduating from my MPP program this May, much of my spare time is spent working on my capstone project. When I’m taking a break from being a student, I like cooking, watching Netflix, taking walks around my South Philly neighborhood, and playing with my cat, Miso!


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 wnickel@hcifonline.org or connect with her on Linkedin – please join the entire HCIF staff in welcoming her to the team!