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Living and Learning at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting

Oct 31, 2012, 8:54 AM, Posted by Myra Parker

Myra Parker, JD, PhD, is acting instructor at the Center for the Study of Health and Risk Behaviors, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Washington and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Connections grantee. This post is part of a series in which RWJF scholars, fellows and alumni who are attending the American Public Health Association annual meeting reflect on the experience.


I took my seven-year-old daughter to help me pick up my registration materials at the Moscone Center. I was thrilled to map the American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian (AI/AN/NH) sessions and discover they are located in one of the central buildings this year! It’s terrific to be able to attend the general sessions AND those specific to my community, which has not always been the case with AI/AN/NH sessions held in off-site hotels last year in Washington, D.C.

My daughter was amazed and excited to see the performances outside the convention center. The artistic displays added to the air of festivity as American Public Health Association (APHA) attendees took over the Moscone area. I was excited to see the diversity of attendees across many different professional backgrounds and ethnic/cultural communities.

We attended the American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Caucus General Membership Business Meeting. This was the first time I had the opportunity to attend the business meeting, which included officer elections for the upcoming two years, introductions of members and visitors, and updates on the caucus budget and events. The caucus was able to fund six undergraduate, masters, and doctoral students from AI/AN/NH communities to attend APHA this year at $2,000 each. This is a wonderful new opportunity for these students, each of whom also applied to present a poster at the conference. I plan to attend the caucus social on Monday evening, which includes a silent auction of native art! This fundraiser contributes to the cost of providing caucus-specific sessions as well as to the student scholarship fund. I also learned that if we pack a room at the conference, there is a higher chance the caucus will be able to offer these sessions next year.

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When Crossing the Street is the Difference Between Life and Death

Oct 25, 2012, 8:00 AM, Posted by Comilla Sasson

Comilla Sasson, MD, MS, FACEP is an attending physician at the University of Colorado Hospital and Assistant Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Colorado.  Sasson was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholar at the University of Michigan from 2007 to 2010. Her latest study is published in the October 25th, 2012 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dead. How do you make someone “undead?” How, with just your two hands, can you prolong the time that paramedics have to restart a person’s heart? How can a normal, ordinary person make a difference and literally save a life?

We know that a person’s chances of surviving an out-of-hospital sudden heart arrest decreases by 10 percent for every one minute he/she does not get CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).  I had learned about hands-only CPR in my medical training.  Hands-only CPR is where all you have to do is push hard and fast (to the tune of “Staying Alive”) at a 100 times a minute until helps arrives.

But time and time again, I cared for African-American patients in Atlanta who had laid in their families’ homes for critical minutes as their brains slowly died from a lack of blood supply from the heart.  Their hearts had stopped and no one called 911. No one placed their hands on the chest and started doing hands-only CPR.

Maybe this is just Atlanta? Is it the color of a person’s skin or is the place where he or she collapses that makes the difference?

In my Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program (RWJCSP) at the University of Michigan (2007-2010), I learned about the importance of neighborhoods in determining a person’s health.  After wading through the literature, my a priori hypothesis was that having someone stop to provide CPR is completely dependent upon others; therefore, the neighborhood plays a large role in whether or not someone does CPR.

After consulting with my two RWJCSP alumni mentors, David Magid, MD, MPH, and Arthur Kellermann, MD, MPH, FACEP, the question became clear: What role does the racial and socioeconomic composition of a neighborhood have on an individual’s likelihood of receiving life-saving bystander CPR?

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Meet the RWJF Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico

Oct 9, 2012, 9:00 AM

This is part of a series introducing programs in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Human Capital Portfolio. The RWJF Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico is working to increase the diversity of those with formal training in the fields of economics, political science and sociology who engage in health services and health policy research, and to become a nationally recognized locus for health policy research that will support work to inform health policy debates at multiple levels.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico is poised to have a far-reaching impact on the nation. The Center is the only institution dedicated to increasing the number of leaders from Latino and American Indian communities who will help shape the future of our nation’s health and health care.

At the heart of this work is the academic and professional development of its doctoral and post-doctoral fellows, a diverse group who are on their way to careers in health policy, academia, philanthropy, and health care financing and delivery systems. 

The Center is dedicated to preparing these future leaders through on-the-job research, policy analysis training, leadership development, and community capacity building. Through interdisciplinary research with health care professionals, and by partnering with other researchers and professional organizations, fellows pursue resolutions for complex policy issues affecting our nation’s health, especially in Latino and American Indian communities.

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Women Underrepresented as Health Care CEOs

Aug 9, 2012, 1:00 PM

While they make up 73 percent of medical and health services managers, women account for only a small portion of CEOs at hospital and health care organizations, according to a report by RockHealth. The analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and other surveys finds that just 4 percent of health care organization CEOs and 18 percent of hospital CEOs are women.

RockHealth’s report highlights a range of barriers to women’s advancement, including persistent gender roles in the workplace, a lack of mentors and role models for women, and more. To understand what women in the health care workforce thought, RockHealth conducted interviews with 100 women in the field. Nearly half the survey respondents reported that insufficient self-confidence was one of the biggest barriers to their career advancement. Among other reported obstacles: time constraints (45 percent) and the ability to connect with senior leadership (43 percent).

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has long championed leadership development, for women and men alike. Many of the Foundation’s programs offer leadership training for nurses, physicians and other health care professionals, to help advance their careers. Learn more about RWJF programs at

What do you think? Are females underrepresented in health care leadership? What can we do to increase their representation? Register below to leave a comment.

See the RockHealth Women in Health Care report.
Read coverage of the report from Fierce Healthcare and Forbes.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.

Revolutionary Gerontology: The Intergenerational Questions

Aug 8, 2012, 1:30 PM, Posted by Cleopatra Abdou

Cleopatra M. Abdou, PhD, is an assistant professor of gerontology at the University of Southern California, and an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholars program. This post is part of a series on the RWJF Health & Society Scholars program, running in conjunction with the program’s tenth anniversary.

An elderly man walks away from a house, along a path, using a walker.

Gerontology, the study of aging, is a diverse field that integrates the biological, social-behavioral, and health sciences, as well as public policy. This means that gerontological research addresses a vast range of questions. One type of question asked by gerontologists, including myself, has to do with intergenerational processes. My own research investigates the intergenerational transmission of culture, social identities, conceptions of stress and success, and, ultimately, health. For example, how do our notions of, and relationships to, family affect our health at critical points in the lifespan? More specifically, how do familial roles and responsibilities, such as marrying, reproducing, and caring for grandchildren, correlate with life satisfaction and longevity?

My four siblings and I are the first American-born generation in our family. Our parents came to the United States from Egypt in 1969, and I am strongly identified as both an American and an Egyptian. Anyone who has complex or competing identities knows that it’s a mixed bag—a blessing and a curse. Recently, as I boarded a plane in Cairo to return to the United States, I found myself sobbing with what I think was a kind of homesickness. As happy as I was to return to my immediate family and orderly life in The States, I mourned leaving the land of my parents and all of our parents before them, especially during this important time in Egypt’s history.

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International Conference on Health in the African Diaspora 2012: Scholars React

Jul 10, 2012, 11:47 AM

Last week was the International Conference on Health in the African Diaspora (ICHAD), which convened experts from a variety of fields to discuss the health and social experience of African descendants in the Western hemisphere. Below, two scholars from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College who attended the conference talk about the experience. Helena Dagadu, MPH, is a 2011 health policy fellow and doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at Vanderbilt University, and Tulani Washington-Plaskett, MS, is a Fall 2011 health policy scholar and second-year medical student at Meharry Medical College.



Human Capital Blog: Why did you decide to attend the International Conference on Health in the African Diaspora?

Helena Dagadu: When I met Dr. LaVeist almost two years ago, he shared his idea about ICHAD with me. As he described his vision for the conference, I knew I had to be a part of it. My research and policy interests fit directly with the spirit of ICHAD to both understand and address health disparities among people of African descent. I also attended because this was an opportunity to meet people from different disciplines and gain some insights from their respective perspectives.

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Same-Sex Marriage Policies Harm LGBT Health

Jun 22, 2012, 12:50 PM, Posted by Mark Hatzenbuehler

By Mark L. Hatzenbuehler, PhD, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholar at Columbia University. This post is part of a series on the RWJF Health & Society Scholars program, running in conjunction with the program’s tenth anniversary. The RWJF Health & Society Scholars program is designed to build the nation’s capacity for research, leadership and policy change to address the multiple determinants of population health. Hatzenbuehler is a member of the program’s 8th cohort.

The topic of same-sex marriage in the United States was once again front and center in the public discourse several weeks ago when North Carolina joined 30 other states in banning same-sex marriage. The debates surrounding same-sex marriage policies have been waged on many grounds—moral, legal, religious, and economic. Conspicuously absent from this debate has been a discussion of whether same-sex marriage bans harm the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals.

In a New York Times article from May 11, Gary Pearce, a former advisor to Jim Hunt, a Democratic governor in North Carolina, explained that those who voted against same-sex marriage “genuinely and honestly believe it violates their fundamental religious beliefs.” He added, “They don’t really want to hurt people.”

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My Own Story: Encouraging a Diverse, Well-Educated Nursing Workforce

May 6, 2012, 1:00 PM, Posted by Susan Hassmiller

Happy National Nurses Week! Today is National Nurses Day, and the beginning of a week during which we celebrate the contributions of this profession. The week fittingly ends with Florence Nightingale's birthday on Saturday, May 12. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has a proud history of supporting nurses and nurse leadership, so this week, the RWJF Human Capital Blog will feature posts by nurses, including leaders from some of the Foundation’s nursing programs. Check back each day to see what they have to say. This post is by Susan B. Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, RWJF Senior Adviser for Nursing and Director, Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action.


Earlier this month I had the privilege of traveling to Montana to help some of the state’s health care leaders launch the Montana Cooperative to Advance Health Through Nursing. This new state-based Action Coalition is working to advance recommendations from the Institute of Medicine report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health.

While I was there, I met with Native American nursing students and their mentors at Montana State University. They are part of the extraordinarily impressive “Caring for Our Own: A Reservation/University Partnership,” known as the CO-OP program. These students come from desperately underserved areas and, after they graduate, they will go back to their reservations to provide culturally-sensitive, urgently needed care.

At the Action Coalition gala, the recipient of the student award told her story, moving many of us to tears. When she was 17, she tried to commit suicide. It was a nurse who saved her life, and convinced her there were things to live for and gifts she had yet to share. She told the audience that the nurse had been her role model through hard times. It had taken her many years and she had overcome many more hardships, she explained, but she will soon graduate and give back in the same way that her role model had given to her.

She and her peers are the kind of strong, dedicated, caring professionals that nursing needs, our health system needs, and patients need. I came home invigorated and encouraged by all the Montanans I had met, and the promise of progress in this state.

Today is National Nurses Day, which begins the celebration of National Nurses Week. We are a diverse profession, serving patients in more ways, more roles and more settings than Florence Nightingale—whose birthday, May 12, concludes National Nurses Week—could have ever imagined.

I am proud to be a nurse, proud of my colleagues working to help patients all over the country, and proud that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has a long history of supporting nurses in many roles, from research to practice to leadership and more.

RWJF recently announced the launch of the Academic Progression in Nursing (APIN) initiative, which will help state Action Coalitions in their work to advance the recommendation in the Future of Nursing report that 80 percent of the nursing workforce be prepared at the baccalaureate level by 2020.

I am an associate’s degree nurse. I started my nursing education at a community college, and at that time, I’m not sure I could even have imagined getting to where I am today.

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