2021 Salk Fellowship Kicks Off, to Focus on Re-envisioning U.S. Public Health

For introductions during the first session, the 2021 Salk Fellows each selected a public health innovator and shared why they admire these public health heroes (pictured here).
The COVID-19 pandemic revealed how years of underfunding and political interference have crippled progress in U.S. public health systems at every level—as they currently operate and as they could be upgraded with modern technology. With the 2021 Salk Health Activist Fellowship, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) is encouraging the next generation of health leaders and innovators to reimagine the U.S. public health system considering frontier data analytics, interoperable data systems, AI/ML advances, methods for accountability and empowered leadership. The 30 fellows will learn from inspirational thought leaders and collaborate with peers to develop updated solutions for population health problems and inequities within the purview of public health.

This year's cohort hails from seven universities, three states, and 25 academic and professional disciplines. Their diverse interests present a strength for innovative redesign and reconceptualization. The nine fellowship sessions will explore the challenges and opportunities within regional, state, and national public health systems, even borrowing from global best practices. Fellows will also add new skills to their activist toolkits as they consider the politics of institutionalizing change. For the finale event, small groups of fellows will each pitch their ideas for the systems of the future.

During the first session on September 21, JHF President and CEO Karen Wolk Feinstein set the stage for the fellowship, highlighting insights for beginning an activism journey. Dr. Feinstein overviewed the history of JHF and she gave a candid appraisal of the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative's journey to address patient safety and reduce medical error in healthcare settings.

The Salk Fellowship's second session focused on taking note of the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. This session featured guest speaker Vincent Mor, PhD, MEd, Florence Pirce Grant university professor and professor of health services, policy and practice, from Brown University's School of Public Health. Additionally, Morgan Overton, MSW, JHF's community engagement and policy associate, presented and facilitated a discussion on the intersection of health equity and public health, highlighting Pittsburgh's "outsized" inequities for Black women. This prompted the fellows to discuss what a rebuilt equitable public health system should look like.

Future sessions extending through November will highlight how principles of behavioral science can help us effect behavior change, gain insight from effective advocacy strategies by and for people with autism, examine the ways that regional, statewide, and national public health should be reimagined, leverage lessons from the history of HIV/AIDS in public health, and explore the ways technology could disrupt health care and public health for the better.

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