2021 Salk Health Activist Fellowship Concludes

2021 Salk Fellows

The Salk Health Activist Fellowship wrapped on November 16, culminating in a program featuring presentations by fellows and remarks from esteemed experts in public health. The fellowship encouraged the next generation of health leaders to reimagine the U.S. public health system with technology upgrades, empowered leadership, and lessons gleaned from past and current public health movements. The 27 fellows learned from inspirational thought leaders and collaborated with peers to develop updated solutions for population health problems and public health inequities. Fellows also added new skills to their activist toolkits as they considered the politics of institutionalizing change.

Throughout the fellowship, participants explored the challenges and opportunities within regional, state, and national public health systems, even borrowing from global best practices. Sessions covered HIV/AIDS and autism activism, COVID-19 vaccine organizing, behavioral science, data analytics, and the latest in technological applications for health care and public health. In small groups, fellows collaborated to design new, innovative solutions to public health problems. Fellows pitched their ideas during the finale to panelists Deborah Bogen, MD, director of the Allegheny County Health Department, and John Auerbach, MBA, director of intergovernmental and strategic affairs at the CDC.

Fellow Sarah McKendry, a student in the Doctor of Occupational Therapy program and a graduate research assistant at the University of Pittsburgh, said, "[The Fellowship] has certainly given me a better idea of how I might contribute to activism, and consequently made the idea of being an activist that much more doable."

Keynote speaker Arjun Srinivasan, MD (CAPT, USPHS), associate director for healthcare-associated infection prevention programs in the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spoke on Building Back to Normal.

The fellows pitched solutions for addressing patient safety, medical mistrust, access to health care, nutrition communication, expanding postpartum care, rural food insecurity and healthcare access, coordination of community resources, and social media public health misinformation.

Fellow Caroline Passerrello, MS, RD, LDN, community coordinator and instructor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences dietician nutritionist program, said of her fellowship experience, "One change for me is thinking about being an activist every day in small ways, when the opportunity arises. I'll be searching for more opportunities and not just waiting for the 'next big one.'"

Thank you to the guest speakers featured throughout the fellowship sessions:

Vincent Mor, PhD, Med, Florence Pirce Grant University Professor, Professor of Health Services, Policy and Practice, Brown University School of Public Health

Gretchen Chapman, PhD, Head and Professor of Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University

Luciana Randall, MRC, Executive Director, Autism Connection of Pennsylvania

Joseph Vernon Smith, Autism Advocate and Photographer

Elizabeth Miller, MD, PhD, FSAHM, Professor of Pediatrics, Public Health and Clinical and Translational Science; Edmund R. McCluskey Chair in Pediatric Medical Education; Division Director, Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, University of Pittsburgh

Roni Rosenfeld, PhD, MSc, Head of the Machine Learning Department; Professor of Machine Learning, Language Technologies, Computer Science, and Computational Biology, Carnegie Mellon University

Divya Venkat, MD, Inclusion Health Track Director, Center for Inclusion Health, Allegheny Health Network

Everette James, JD, MBA, Director, Health Policy Institute, University of Pittsburgh

Carlye Lauff, PhD, Assistant Professor of Product Design, University of Minnesota; Principal, Carlye Lauff Consulting LLC; Senior Instructor, LUMA Institute

Donald S. Burke, MD, Distinguished University Professor of Health Science and Policy, Jonas Salk Chair in Population Health, University of Pittsburgh

Judith Monroe, MD, President and CEO, CDC Foundation

Michael Seltzer Distinguished Lecturer, Baruch College

Sheila Taylor, Community Member

Crystal Morrison, PhD, MS, Co-Founder, Meerkat Village; Founder and CEO, EverRise LLC

Audrey Russo, MPA, President and CEO, Pittsburgh Technology Council

Dan Swayze, DrPH, MBA, MEMS, Vice President of Community Services, UPMC Health Plan; Director of Operations, UPMC Innovative Homecare Solutions 

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