This week, the newest recipients of the Pozen-Commonwealth Fund Fellowship in Health Equity Leadership begin their Yale education with a three-day orientation and a two-week residency alongside their classmates in the MBA for Executives Class of 2023.
The fellows, who include three physicians and the CEO of a federally qualified health center, will spend the next 22 months studying in the healthcare area of focus of the MBA for Executives program, as well as getting specialized training and mentoring from experts in the disparities in healthcare access and outcomes that affect people of color and other vulnerable populations. Created in collaboration with the Commonwealth Fund and endowed by a gift from Robert C. Pozen, the program gives practitioners the leadership skills and the understanding of teams, markets, and organizations necessary to tackle major inequities in the U.S. healthcare system.
The four new fellows are Alicia Hardy, CEO of the California health center OLE Health; Dr. Nia Heard-Garris, a pediatrician and physician-investigator at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and in the Department of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine; Dr. Tamaan K. Osbourne-Roberts, a team lead physician with Iora Primary Care, a value-based care company in Denver; and Dr. Steven Starks, a psychiatrist and clinical assistant professor at the University of Houston College of Medicine.
The fellows first visited Edward P. Evans Hall in June for a two-day immersion, at which they got to know each other and the two fellows in the Class of 2022 and heard from program leadership and experts in healthcare equity.
Hardy is joining the Pozen-Commonwealth Fund Fellowship in order to help increase access to primary care and push the health system toward a value-based system. “I want to see our health system use resources differently so that everyone has the opportunity to receive preventative care and live their best and healthiest life, particularly those who are most vulnerable in our communities,” she said. “I want to see a system where payment is tied to quality outcomes, supporting a model of care that is patient-centered and incorporates social determinants of health, not just medicine.”
At Yale, she said, she’ll get the quantitative and financial skills to help make change. But meeting her classmates at the immersion also made her understand the value of her new network. “I was so inspired meeting others who share a passion for health equity work and are dedicating their lives to advocacy and system change. I left feeling so fortunate to be a part of the program and have the equity framework as part of all that we will be doing and discussing over the next two years.”
In addition to his clinical work, Starks works in education, curriculum development, and community partnerships at the University of Houston College of Medicine. His goal in applying to the fellowship “is to be an agent for change in the struggle to achieve equity in the American mental health system,” he said. That means making “meaningful impacts on healthcare practices, professional standards and service delivery” in the mental health field.
The EMBA program, he adds, “will equip me with skills to clearly articulate a vision for equitable health environments and will provide the tools that are necessary for organizational leadership.”
Starks agreed that the immersion was an inspiring beginning to the fellowship. “I was impressed with how quickly both cohesion and commitment developed within our group of fellows, alumni, program leadership and invited speakers.”
Heard-Garris, who researches the influence of social adversities in childhood and resilience on child and adolescent health, is focused on putting health equity at the center of discussions of pediatric care. “In essence, I want Black, brown, and other marginalized youth to have equitable access to health, happiness, and opportunity,” she said. “The skills I will obtain at Yale will not only equip me with the credentials to be at decision-making tables but also be a thoughtful leader making decisions for the health of all children and adolescents.”
After the immersion, she said, “I left energized and inspired by the other scholars, professors, advisors, and staff. I felt like I could take a deep breath and just be amongst friends and motivated people that are working towards the same things I am.”
Osbourne-Roberts is an administrator as well as a physician, having served as CMO of Colorado Medicaid and currently serving in policy roles with the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians. “I have long been guided by the Hippocratic Oath, which exhorts us ‘to apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required,’” he said. “To me, ‘all measures’ applies not just to the exam room, but to the boardroom, as well.”
At Yale, he said, he will develop the skills to help clinical and public health organizations “include diversity, equity, and inclusion in their organizational DNA—from human resources, to strategy, to operations, to accounting and finance.”
Meeting his new classmates at immersion, he added, “was like coming home. The work of health equity is sometimes hard, and often lonely. To be surrounded by the remarkable fellows in my cohort, by the wisdom of other current and prior fellows, and by our mind-blowingly incredible faculty—it was like a warm hug for my mind, my heart, and my spirit, one that I didn’t even know I needed.”