Search

About Us

Here at PENN we have the opportunity to lead the charge in creating a health system learning environment that mindfully strives to achieve health equity. The Penn Medicine Center for Health Equity Advancement (CHEA) was born out of this need.

CHEA is uniquely situated within the Office of the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), University of Pennsylvania Health System and reflects a critical partnership between the Offices of the CMO and the Office of Inclusion and Diversity (OID) at Perelman School of Medicine. The Center is also the home within the health system for the Penn Medicine Program for LGBT Health.

Message from the executive director at CHEA

“We envision a health system where every diverse voice is heard, where every unique perspective is considered. Promoting an inclusive culture benefits not only those who work, train, study, and/or advance science within our health systems, but also those who seek care. When we value each other it enhances our ability to care for our patients.”

– Jaya Aysola, MD, MPH, Executive Director

Our Team

Leadership

  • Jaya Aysola, MD, MPH

    Founder and Executive Director

  • Rosemary Thomas, MPH, CHES

    Director of Operations

  • Heather Klusaritz, PhD, MSW

    Director of Community Health Services

  • Nida Al-Ramahi, MHA, CSSGB

    Interim Director of Care Transformation and Strategic Planning

Jaya Aysola, MD, MPH

Founder and Executive Director

Jaya Aysola MD, DTMH, MPH is the founder and Executive Director of CHEA and also the first Assistant Dean for Inclusion and Diversity at Penn Medicine. She leads the charge to:

  • Galvanize Penn Medicine efforts to identify and address disparities in care quality and outcomes.
  • Develop peer-reviewed evidence to guide efforts to operationalize inclusion and diversity.
  • Lead efforts to measure and advance diversity engagement and inclusion.

CHEA stems from her previous successes as the inaugural Associate DIO for Health Equity and Inclusion and Assistant Dean for Graduate Medical Education, where she introduced the Penn Medicine’s Blueprint for Health Equity, founded the Health Equity Taskforce (now Alliance), and introduced Health Equity Week. She is an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, with her primary appointment in the Division of General Internal Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine. Dr. Aysola has an extensive education and experience in anthropology, public health, and health services research. Her research centers on evaluating system, provider, and patient level strategies to improve the uptake and quality of health care and health for vulnerable populations and stems from her clinical, administrative, and policy experiences in resource‐poor settings. Her work has led to high impact publications in JAMA Network, Health Affairs, and Academic Medicine.

Dr. Aysola received a Bachelors of Science from University of Michigan, with high distinction in Anthropology and Zoology, and her MD from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. After residency, she served as a diplomate from the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, spending significant time in Cambodia, Thailand, and India developing and implementing care delivery models in resource poor settings. Her international experience translated well to care delivery in New Orleans, La., during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Dr. Aysola served as the Medical Director of the New Orleans Children’s Health Project, a safety net clinic she developed to provide integrated primary care and behavioral health services in English and Spanish to vulnerable populations. Her integrated primary care behavioral health clinic was an early adopter of the patient-centered medical home (PCMH) standards, receiving recognition in 2008 by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). She received awards for her work delivering primary and mental health care to families after Hurricane Katrina and was asked by the Government Accountability Office to speak on the state of mental health of children in the Gulf Coast post-storm. In 2009, she expanded these operations and became the Section Chief of Community Pediatrics and Global Health at Tulane School of Medicine. Dr. Aysola thereafter received her Master of Public Health in Health Care Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health, through the Commonwealth Fund-Harvard University Minority Health Policy Fellowship. In this position, she partnered with the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) to introduce PCMH standards to better capture care delivery to minority and vulnerable populations. She then completed a two-year general medicine research fellowship at the Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School and the Division of General Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital. During this time, she continued her clinical work for vulnerable populations as an attending physician for women and children at the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program. Her extensive and varied work experiences guides her research inquiries, which consistently have focused on evaluating how health care models can improve access and care for those most in need. 

Rosemary Thomas, MPH, CHES

Director of Operations

Rosemary Thomas serves as the Center’s Director of Operations.

Rosemary holds a master’s degree in public health and Certificate in LGBT Health from Drexel University and is a Certified Health Education Specialist.

In her role as Director of Operations, Rosemary manages day-to-day operations of the Center, the Penn Medicine Program for LGBT Health, and the enterprise-wide Health Equity Alliance. Rosemary is part of the Center’s leadership team and is jointly responsible for strategic and sustainability planning for the Center.

Rosemary was instrumental in the planning for and implementation of the collection of sexual orientation and gender identity data within the electronic medical record, making Penn Medicine one of the first health systems in the Philadelphia region to collect this demographic data from its patients.

Rosemary believes that health care is not a commodity but a human right, and she works collaboratively with partners across the health system and University to expand and improve access to care and quality of care for all people.

Her previous work as a medical social worker with youth and adults living with HIV cemented her commitment to advocating for marginalized communities and working to create more equitable and just healthcare systems.

Heather Klusaritz, PhD, MSW

Director of Community Health Services

Heather Klusaritz, PhD, MSW is the Director of Community Health Services for the Penn Center for Public Health Initiatives and the Associate Director of the Center for Community and Population Health in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, Perelman School of Medicine.

Dr. Klusaritz holds faculty appointments in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, the Masters of Public Health program, and the School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Klusaritz has worked clinically as a member of interdisciplinary care teams treating vulnerable populations at the Penn Medicine for almost 20 years.

Her research interests focus on access to health care for marginalized populations and the design of health systems to eliminate disparities in health access and outcomes.

Currently, Dr. Klusaritz co-directs the HRSA-funded National Center for Integrated Behavioral Health that aims to generate best practices of scalable inter-professional integrated behavioral health training in primary care. She also is a Co-Investigator of a Community Medicine Leadership Fellowship within a geographic care network of primary care provider champions and educators who share complex and high utilizing patients.

Dr. Klusaritz has done extensive work on patient-centered medical homes and played important roles in practice transformation including screening for and addressing social determinants of health.

Dr. Klusaritz works collaboratively with multiple community partners throughout West Philadelphia to improve the health of underserved communities, and she is the co-founder of a program that connects patients to critical social welfare benefits, helps navigate health system access, and engages in medical-legal advocacy.

Nida Al-Ramahi, MHA, CSSGB

Interim Director of Care Transformation and Strategic Planning

Nida Al-Ramahi holds a bachelor’s degree in Health Management and Policy and a master’s degree in Health Administration from Saint Louis University with concentrations in Population Health, Quality Performance Improvement and Finance. Nida is also a certified six sigma green belt.

In her career, Nida has worked in health systems on many operational and strategic initiatives. Specifically, she has worked alongside others to transform and integrate care delivery models across the care continuum. She believes in the importance of empowering change at all levels to holistically care for the patients we serve in eventual efforts to create a proactive and dynamic healthcare ecosystem.

Executive Sponsors

  • PJ Brennan, MD

    Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President of the University of Pennsylvania Health System

  • Eve J. Higginbotham, SM, MD

    Vice Dean for Inclusion and Diversity of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

PJ Brennan, MD

Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President of the University of Pennsylvania Health System

Patrick J. Brennan, MD is the Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President of the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Professor of Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. As Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Brennan leads implementation of Penn’s Blueprint for Quality, a strategic effort to improve clinical accountability and the outcomes of care.

Dr. Brennan oversees the departments of Healthcare Quality, Patient Safety, Regulatory Affairs, and Medical Affairs. He has developed a Center for Evidence Based Practice to apply scientific evidence to clinical operations.

He is an infectious diseases physician and previously served as Director of Infection Control for 11 years at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and for periods of time held the same post at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center and the Philadelphia VA Medical Center. He also served as Director of Tuberculosis Control for the City of Philadelphia for seven years.

Dr. Brennan also is a fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) and in 2008 served as SHEA’s president.

From 2004 to 2010, he chaired the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC), which advises the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on a broad range of issues related to control of infectious diseases.

Dr. Brennan is a member of the Patient Safety Advisory Group of The Joint Commission. He also is past chair of the Board of Directors of the Health Care Improvement Foundation (HCIF), an independent, nonprofit organization that leads health care initiatives aimed at improving the safety, outcomes, and care experiences of patients in southeast Pennsylvania.

Eve J. Higginbotham, SM, MD

Vice Dean for Inclusion and Diversity of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Eve J. Higginbotham, SM, MD is the Vice Dean for Inclusion and Diversity at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also a Senior Fellow of the Leonard Davis Institute and Professor of Ophthalmology as she continues roles as clinical researcher and glaucoma specialist.

Prior to joining Penn in August 2013, Dr. Higginbotham served as a Visiting Scholar for Health Equity at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) in Washington, D.C.

Previous notable leadership roles include Senior Vice President and Executive Dean for Health Sciences at Howard University and Dean and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.

She was also the first woman to head an ophthalmology department at an academic medical center in the United States, serving as chair of the Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences Department at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. Prior to joining the University of Maryland, Dr. Higginbotham served as Assistant Dean for Faculty Affairs at the University of Michigan.

During her career, she has also held several leadership positions in professional organizations, including President of the Harvard Medical School Alumni Council, President of the Baltimore City Medical Society, President of the Maryland Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons, Vice President for Women in Ophthalmology, and member of the Board of Trustees of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

As a member of the Harvard University Board of Overseers 2008-14, Dr. Higginbotham served on a number of committees, including the Visiting Committee for Harvard Medical School, Natural and Applied Sciences, Finance, Administration, and Management, and Alumni Affairs and Development.

In 2011, she joined the MIT Corporation, where she served on the visiting committees on chemistry, political science, and the health sciences and technology program. She continues to serve as a member of the Visiting Committee of the Institute of Medical Engineering and Science (IMES) at MIT.

Dr. Higginbotham is currently President Elect of the AOA Medical Honor Society, a board member of Ascension and a member of its Executive Committee, and a member of the Defense Health Board, for which she led a review of the Deployment Health Centers in 2016-17.

Among her numerous honors, she received the Senior Achievement Award (2002) and a Life Achievement Award (2015) from the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Women of Achievement Award in 2011 from the Young Women’s Christian Association, a group dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

Dr. Higginbotham has authored over 100 peer-reviewed articles and co-edited four ophthalmology textbooks and continues to remain active in health policy and patient care at the University of Pennsylvania.

Team

  • Chang Xu, MS

    Program Analyst

Chang Xu, MS

Program Analyst

Chang Xu is a Statistical Analyst in the Department of Medicine. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 2016 with a master’s degree in statistics. After graduation, he started to work as an analyst with the interest in applying statistical methods to healthcare data.

Interns

  • Kaliya Greenidge

    Social Media and Communications

  • Emma Davies

    LGBT Program

Kaliya Greenidge

Social Media and Communications

Emma Davies

LGBT Program

Research Fellows

  • Alexandra Larsen, MS; MD Candidate

  • Stephanie Teeple; MD-PhD Candidate

  • Jeffrey Rewley, PhD

  • Daniel Resnick; MD/MSC Candidate

  • Michelle Munyikwa, PhD; MD Candidate

  • Matthew Kearney, MPH, PhD

  • Elle Lett, MBiostat; MD-PhD candidate

  • Emmanuella Ngozi Asabor, MPhil MD-PhD Candidate

Alexandra Larsen, MS; MD Candidate

Stephanie Teeple; MD-PhD Candidate

Jeffrey Rewley, PhD

Daniel Resnick; MD/MSC Candidate

Michelle Munyikwa, PhD; MD Candidate

Matthew Kearney, MPH, PhD

Elle Lett, MBiostat; MD-PhD candidate

Emmanuella Ngozi Asabor, MPhil MD-PhD Candidate

The Health Equity Alliance is an interdisciplinary team of staff, faculty, house staff, administrators, and health care providers representing Penn Medicine and the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Alliance works in partnership with center leadership to actualize the mission of CHEA across Penn Medicine.

  • Beth Johnston

    Executive Director, Clinical Practices of the University of Pennsylvania

  • Dan Feinberg, MD

    Chief Medical Officer, Pennsylvania Hospital

  • Eve Higginbotham, SM, MD

    Vice Dean for Inclusion and Diversity of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

  • Frank Caldera, DO, MBA

    Associate Professor of Clinical Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

  • Horace Delisser, MD

    Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Perelman School of Medicine

  • Jeffrey Berns, MD

    Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education Designated Institutional Official (DIO), University of Pennsylvania Health System

  • Jim Ballinghoff, MSN, MBA, RN, NEA-BC

    Chief Nursing Officer/Associate Executive Director at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center

  • Joan Doyle, RN, MSN, MBA

    Executive Director, Penn at Home

  • Judith Long, MD

    Sol Katz Professor of Medicine; Chief, Division of General Internal Medicine, Co-Director of the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion (CHERP) at the Corporal Michael J. Cresenz VA Medical Center (CMCVAMC)

  • Karen Pinsky, MD

    Chief Medical Officer, Chester County Hospital

  • Kevin Mahoney

    Chief Executive Officer, University of Pennsylvania Health System

  • Maria Oquendo, MD, PhD

    Professor and Chairman of Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

  • Maryam Behta, MBA, Pharm.D.

    Chief Operating Officer, Office of the CMO at Penn Medicine, University of Pennsylvania Health System

  • Michael Posencheg, MD

    Chief Medical Officer, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center

  • Michael Ripchinski, MD, MBA, CPE, FAAFP

    Chief Clinical Officer, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health

  • Neil Fishman, MD

    Chief Medical Officer, Hospital of the University Of Pennsylvania

  • Pat Sullivan, PhD

    Chief Quality Officer, University of Pennsylvania Health System

  • Phil Okala

    Chief Operating Officer, University of Pennsylvania Health System

  • PJ Brennan, MD

    Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President of the University of Pennsylvania Health System

  • Regina Cunningham, PhD, RN, AOCN, FAAN

    Chief Executive Officer, Hospital of the University Of Pennsylvania

  • Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA

    Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) Professor of Health Policy and Health Equity, School of Nursing Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Perelman School of Medicine

  • Ron Barg, MD

    Physician Executive, Penn Primary Care

  • Roy Rosin, MBA

    Chief Innovation Officer, Penn Medicine

  • Steven Bergmann, MD, PhD

    Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs, Penn Medicine Princeton Health

  • Suzanne Rose, MD, MSEd

    Senior Vice Dean for Medical Education Perelman School of Medicine

Key Partnerships

Loading...