Dear Friends of the Weitzman Institute,
I am humbly honored to write you for the first time as Vice President and Director of the Weitzman Institute, a research, education, and policy center embedded within Community Health Center, Inc. (CHC), and dedicated to primary care innovation, particularly for the underserved, nationwide.
I am especially grateful to Mark Masselli, CHC’s President/CEO, and Margaret Flinter, CHC’s SVP/Clinical Director, for their authentic leadership, wisdom, and support since I joined Weitzman. I am also indebted to Daren Anderson, MD, who has tenaciously spearheaded Weitzman over the last decade, and has trusted me to lead the Institute in its next chapter as he redirects his focus to ConferMED, one of the independent affiliates birthed out of Weitzman.
Over the past few months since I’ve stepped into this role, I have taken the time to get to better know many of the incredible people who make our work possible at Weitzman, including our staff, clinical and administrative colleagues at CHC, and supporters and collaborators across the country. For those of you I have yet to meet, you may be wondering, who am I? Great question.
Many of my colleagues will know me by what’s included in my professional bio: an epidemiologist, health services researcher, and classically trained public health professional with expertise in health equity, social determinants of health, psychiatric epidemiology, and mixed methods. I have been fortunate to have been trained and now have faculty appointments at some of the top universities and graduate/medical schools in the country, and arguably the world. I have worked both in the private and public sectors, at different levels of government, and even abroad to bring local solutions to the global stage and vice versa. Yes, all of this is true. And still, there is more to my story. I am the daughter of immigrants and descendant of veterans/prisoners of war who believed that the ideals of this country were worth dying for. I grew up both witnessing and experiencing first-hand the various health, social, and environmental injustices, which continue to plague our society today. Nonetheless, I was also raised to believe in the goodness of humanity and that I, as we all do, have a role in healing those ills and re-creating a healthier, more just world. It is these same guiding principles that have shaped me to become champion of health equity, and why I am here at Weitzman.
I started this role a few months ago during a very busy time at Weitzman, and in the public health/health care field at large. We continue to battle with the converging pandemics of COVID-19, racism, and mental illness. And, I know that the patients, communities, and healthcare professionals and leaders we strive to serve are getting hit the hardest. However, we are not without hope; with every challenge comes an opportunity. I am proud to be part of a team that has stepped up and out in a significant way to leverage our platform and address these public health challenges through our research, education, and policy efforts nationwide. The same unwavering belief that healthcare is a right, and not a privilege that spurred the Community Health Center, Inc. into existence 50 years ago, and the Weitzman Institute close to three decades later, is the same spirit that drives our team and our work today.
While we have done great work to date, there is even more room to improve, grow, and serve. Over the next few months, you will be hearing more about the future direction of Weitzman, including our priorities and my plans for working with our team to ensure that our work is grounded in three core values: excellence, innovation, and equity and inclusion.
I am proud to be part of such an incredible organization, and I am looking forward to the work ahead.
April Joy Damian, PhD, MSc, CHPM, PMP
Vice President and Director, Weitzman Institute
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