Late last year, a group of health equity leaders gathered, virtually, for the first meeting of the National Advisory Council (NAC) of the Pozen-Commonwealth Fund Fellowship in Health Equity Leadership.
The group of healthcare practitioners and administrators have wide-ranging expertise in the systemic barriers to equitable health outcomes, with experience in the private sector, government, and academia. Their role is to advise the two-year-old Pozen-Commonwealth Fund Fellowship and to serve as mentors for fellows in the program.
The fellowship brings healthcare practitioners to Yale SOM for 22 months of study in the healthcare area of focus of the MBA for Executives program, as well as specialized training and mentoring from experts in the disparities in healthcare access and outcomes that affect people of color and other vulnerable populations. Five students are currently in the fellowship.
“One of our top priorities in the fellowship is to expand the ‘knowledge networks’ of our fellows,” explained Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the director of the fellowship and an associate professor of internal medicine, public health, and management, after the meeting. “How do we grow their connectivity to established health equity leaders? The NAC brings together a group of individuals who are nationally and internationally recognized pioneers in the field. Not only do they bring unique perspectives and guidance to the fellows themselves, they also provide critical guidance and feedback on the fellowship program as it matures.”
Dr. Octavio N. Martinez, Jr., executive director of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at the University of Texas, serves as chair of the NAC. He said that the fellowship provides a badly needed path for emerging leaders. “The United States needs leadership that understands the complexity of our healthcare system and understands the factors that impact health. This means leaders in health that truly comprehend the determinants of health, health disparities, and health equity. “
At the first meeting of the NAC, the members were briefed on the operation of the fellowship and the health equity landscape at Yale, and discussed the program’s future. Each also described what had motivated them to join the council. “To hear each member speak to the value and potential of this unique program, and to their eagerness and enthusiasm to invest their time and efforts to develop the next generation of health equity leaders, was incredibly inspiring,” Nunez-Smith said.
“I think they most enjoyed interacting with the fellows,” she added. “It was wonderful to witness those relationships between NAC members and fellows germinate.”
Martinez agreed that it was inspiring to speak with the students in the first two cohorts of fellows. “Each fellow is an amazing individual that exudes passion, creativity, and dedication. They are already making their mark at Yale SOM and have set the standard of excellence for future fellows. The program, in my opinion, has had a terrific beginning.”