Health Services Delivery Committee

Academic Co-Lead: Maya Ragavan, MD, MPH, MS, Associate Vice Chair of Diversity Equity and Inclusion Research, Department of Pediatrics, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Community Co-Lead: Felicia Savage Friedman, M.ED, E-RYT 500, Founder & CEO, YogaRoots On Location, LLC

Community Co-Lead: Constanza Arena, Community Health and Wellness Coordinator, Casa San Jose

Community Co-Lead: Lynz Sickler, Youth Program Manager, Persad Center; Board Member, Proud Haven

Racism and cultural bias play a devastating role in the delivery of healthcare and in medical education. We know race is only a social construct, yet it remains engrained in education, the criminal justice system, health outcomes, institutional practices, and healthcare systems. Racism intersects with other structural inequities (xenophobia, language injustice, transphobia), which leads to enormous health disparities experienced by marginalized communities.

The Health Services Committee works through the Community Vitality Collaborative at the University of Pittsburgh to promote health systems that ensure equitable, easy, and transparent access to trusted, family-centered, culturally sensitive, and high-quality services that support children in thriving. Our goal is to use strength-based assessments to quantify the impact of high quality, supportive, family-centered, and culturally sensitive health services on child thriving and family health.

We collaborate with practitioners, researchers, and administration across UPMC Children’s Hospital and the University of Pittsburgh to mutually develop solutions that are proactive and inclusive of all of our neighbors across the Pittsburgh region. For example, during the Covid-19 pandemic, we launched the Family Strengths Survey to learn about what was helpful to families during the crisis. The survey collected information weekly, and the data helped to connect people with much needed resources in real time. The CVC has also engaged in several other advocacy initiatives including pop-up, community-based vaccine clinics, community-based health education, co-creation of research around trustworthiness and reciprocity, among others. As part of this group, we have convened the immigrant and refugee equity project (IREP) which including immigrant and refugee serving organizations collaborating around language equity in healthcare and research.

The 2023 inaugural course, Antiracist & Health Equity Solutions, at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine, marks a major milestone in integrating our work to effectively change institutional systems. The course objective is for medical students to learn and understand structural racism and its effects on healthcare delivery. During the learning process, an interdisciplinary team of student and faculty facilitators, who share insights from their perspective as subject matter experts, guide the discussion among medical students. Small group sessions nurture deep and honest conversations about the understanding of racism in medicine and potential strategies to combat it.