Congressional Briefing: What’s Next on Social Determinants of Health?

Karen DeSalvo, M.D., MPH, M.Sc., is a professor in the Departments of Medicine and Population Health at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School and is co-convener of the National Alliance to Impact the Social Determinants of Health (NASDOH).  She is a nationally recognized health leader working at the intersection of medicine, public health, and information technology to improve the health of people and their communities. Dr. DeSalvo was an instrumental leader in the effort to re-engineer health care in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in to a model grounded in primary care, enabled by health information technology, and supported by a value-based care payment model.  She served as Assistant Secretary for Health (Acting) and National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Obama Administration.  Dr. DeSalvo was previously the New Orleans Health Commissioner.  Prior to that role, she was Vice Dean for Community Affairs and Health Policy at Tulane School of Medicine and Chief of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics. She is a director on the boards of Humana and Welltower, a member of the Verily Life Sciences Advisory Board and a member of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC).  Dr. DeSalvo is the current President of the Society of General Internal Medicine and is the Honorary Vice President, United States, for the American Public Health Association.  She earned her MD and MPH from Tulane University, and MSc from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Len M. Nichols, Ph.D., has been the director of the Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics (CHPRE) and a professor of health policy at George Mason University since March 2010. He has been intimately involved in health reform debates, policy development, and communication with the media and policy makers for 25+ years, after he was senior advisor for health policy at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the Clinton Administration. Since that time he has testified frequently before Congress and state legislatures, published extensively and spoken to a wide range of hospital associations, hospital systems, physician groups, boards of directors, and health policy leadership forums around the country. After OMB, Nichols was a principle research associate at the Urban Institute, vice president of the Center for Studying Health System Change, and director of the Health Policy Program at the New America Foundation. In addition to his positions at GMU, Nichols is on the Board of Directors of the National Committee for Quality Assurance and in 2016 was appointed by the Comptroller General to serve on the Physician-Focused Payment Model Technical Advisory Committee (PTAC), which advises the Secretary of HHS on Medicare payment policies.  Nichols was an advisor to the Virginia Health Reform Initiative and is now the payment reform advisor to the Virginia Center for Health Innovation. Nichols was an innovation advisor to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation at CMS in 2012 and has recently been the principal investigator on PCMH evaluation studies as well as in more general studies of how to use payment and delivery reform to achieve triple aim and health equity goals. Recently, he has become focused on how payment models may be used to incentivize sustainable investments in social determinants of health. Nichols’ first job was teaching economics at Wellesley College from 1980-1991, where he became associate professor and economics department chair, after receiving his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Illinois in 1980. Nichols got his B.A. from Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, and his M.A. in Economics from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. He lives in Arlington, Virginia, with his wife Nora Super of the Milken Institute.

Ana Novais, M.A., has served as the deputy director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) since July 2016. She has worked for RIDOH since 1998, first as an education and outreach coordinator focusing on children’s health issues, specifically lead poisoning prevention and immunization, and later as the chief for the Office of Minority Health, charged with assuring that the Department addressed the health needs of Rhode Island’s racial and ethnic minority communities. Since March 2006, as the executive director of health for the Division of Community, Family Health, and Equity, she lead the department’s efforts to achieve health equity by focusing on the areas of health disparities and access to care, chronic disease management and prevention, environmental health, and maternal and child health; and by developing and implementing the “Rhode Island Health Equity Framework,” a plan of action for achieving health equity at the state and local levels through the “Health Equity Zones” initiative. In August 2015, Novais become the executive director of health, charged with implementing RIDOH’s strategic priorities across all divisions and assuring the alignment of departmental resources and operations with these priorities. She is fluent in Creole, Portuguese, French, Spanish, and English. Novais holds a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, UCLN, Belgium, and is a graduate from the Northeastern Public Health Leadership Institute, University at Albany, and Leadership RI. She has worked in public health for more than 30 years, including 5 years in Africa (Cabo Verde), 5 years in Portugal, and 23 years in the US.

Samuel Ross, M.D., M.S., is the president of Bon Secours Baltimore Health System and chief community health officer, Bon Secours Mercy Health. Bon Secours Mercy Health (BSMH) is one of the largest health care systems in the nation. BSMH owns and operates health care facilities in Ohio, Maryland, Kentucky, New York, South Carolina, Virginia and Florida. Along with managing an acute care hospital in the heart of West Baltimore, Ross is also responsible for a vast network of community outreach divisions that focus on positively impacting outcomes that influence the social determinants of health, i.e. affordable housing, education, job skills, behavioral health, substance abuse and rehabilitation. He is a tireless and passionate advocate for improving health disparities, inequities and access to care in the communities Bon Secours Mercy Health serves. He is a past member of the Maryland Hospital Association Executive Committee, where he served as vice chair, and previously chaired the Women/Minority Business Initiative for the Maryland Hospital Association (MHA). He currently is a member of the MHA Nominating Committee. In 2018 he was appointed to the Governor’s Commission on Service and Volunteerism. He also currently serves on Catholic Health Association Health Equity and Disparities Committee and Maryland Catholic Charities Risk Oversight Committee. Ross is one of Baltimore’s most dynamic health care executives. He served as Board Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Baltimore branch, and is the immediate past Board Chair for 340B Health. Ross is a former Board member for Americas Essential Hospitals and chaired the membership committee. In the March 2018 issue of Becker’s Hospital Review, Ross was named one of 50 great African American leaders in healthcare to know. He was recognized by The Daily Record in 2013 as one of the Top 20 Most Admired CEOs in Maryland. He served on the former Baltimore City Police Commissioner’s African –American Advisory Council, the board of Behavioral Health System Baltimore, and in 2015 he co-chaired the Mayor’s Heroin Treatment and Prevention Task Force. Prior to his arrival to Baltimore and Bon Secours, Ross was a member of the staff of Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas, Texas where he served in varied positions for over 14 years including: executive vice president & chief medical officer of the Medical Staff/House Staff Division.

Kathy Stack, is currently the chief executive officer at KB Stack Consulting, working with partners in federal, state, and local government and in the academic, non-profit and philanthropic communities that collaborate to improve the impact of social programs using evidence and innovation. She had a distinguished career in the federal government, including 27 years at the White House Office of Management and Budget, where she served under five Presidents.  While at OMB, she oversaw budget, policy, legislation, regulations, and management issues for the Departments of Education and Labor, the Social Security Administration, the Corporation for National and Community Services, and major human services programs including Head Start, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, child welfare, and food and nutrition assistance. Under the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations, Stack was instrumental in the design and implementation of “tiered evidence” grant programs, such as the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program and the Education Innovation and Research program. She played a central role in the development of cross-agency initiatives, including Pay for Success and Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth, which utilize innovation and evaluation to build evidence about how to improve outcomes for vulnerable populations while increasing return on investment for taxpayers. In addition, she devised strategies for sharing data – while preserving privacy protections – across federal agencies to produce high-value analytical products such as The College Scorecard. After retiring from the federal government in 2015, Stack served for several years as Vice President at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation where she focused on building federal, state, and local government capacity to link data and evaluate programs and launched projects to identify the most effective strategies for treating opioid addiction. She is a valued resource for agency officials and Congressional staff seeking ways to improve the design and implementation of innovative, evidence-focused initiatives that require coordination across agencies and levels of government. Stack is a graduate of Cornell University and a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.


William York, is the executive vice president of 2-1-1 San Diego, and one the most successful 2-1-1 providers in the nation. With his diverse expertise and knowledge in business management, care coordination service and information exchanges, and funding models, coupled with his spirit of collaboration and partnership, York has successfully secured 94% the organization’s $14 million budget in fee-for-service contracts and business partnerships. Joining 2-1-1 in 2007, York has dedicated his focus and leadership to developing strong teams to manage the many operational hubs of 2-1-1 San Diego as well as the region’s Community Information Exchange. Overseeing 150 staff, York guides and directs multiple teams to meet the organization’s mission and goals. Under York’s leadership and vision, these teams built and launched the region’s first ever Community Information Exchange to bridge health and social services to address social determinants of health and improve upstream impacts such as health outcomes, equity and quality of life through a collaborative and multi-dimensional platform that provides case planning and facilitated connection to services for providers and clients, ongoing resource navigation, and data and outcomes. York’s stewardship of the Community Information Exchange has gained national recognition for social and technological innovation, including establishing cross-sector collaboration, community partnership, engagement and interoperability among human, health and social service providers. Prior to 2-1-1, York served 10 years as the pperations director for American Express in Boston, Massachusetts. York is a member of the board of directors of Oasis, a nonprofit that focuses on ensuring today’s aging population has access to healthy living resources. He is also a member of the Truman National Security Project Advisory Board, the San Diego Veterans Coalition board of directors, Zero8Hundred board of directors, and was recognized in 2015 as the San Diego Veteran of the Year by California State Assembly member Toni Atkins and by the San Diego Veterans Museum and Memorial Center.


Sarah J. Dash, MPH, is the president and chief executive officer at the Alliance for Health Policy. She drives the mission and vision of the Alliance, as well as advances and maintains the reputation of the organization as the leading nonpartisan resource for policymakers and health leaders in an evolving health policy environment. Sarah joined the Alliance in 2014 as the vice president for policy and became president and CEO in May 2017. Sarah has long been an influential force in shaping health policy, having served as a senior aide on Capitol Hill and as a member of the research faculty at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms. Sarah holds a master’s degree in public health from Yale School of Public Health and a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and literature from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sarah also holds an Executive Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Georgetown University.