IHA Health Equity Action Day

IHA’s inaugural Health Equity Action Day celebrated hospital and health system efforts to reduce health disparities and offered new insights for the journey ahead to achieve health equity.

Health Equity Action Day

Event Details

Health Equity Action Day was June 18, the day before Juneteenth. The day began with virtual educational programming from 9-11 am, followed by organizational activities for leaders and staff to work on together.

The day offered opportunities to:

  • Hear from thoughts leaders in the field
  • Take concrete action to advance health equity

In support of the event, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a proclamation declaring June 18 as the Illinois Health and Hospital Association’s Health Equity Action Day.

See our member toolkit and brochure.

  • Agenda
  • Speakers
  • Toolkit

9 to 9:15 am: Kick-Off Opening Remarks

  • Brenda Battle, Senior Vice President, Community Health Transformation and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, The University of Chicago Medicine (Emcee for event) 
  • A.J. Wilhelmi, President & CEO, Illinois Health and Hospital Association   
  • Karen Teitelbaum, President & CEO, Sinai Chicago; 2021 IHA Board Chair
  • José Sánchez, President & CEO, Humboldt Park Health, Chicago; Co-Chair, IHA Committee on Health Disparities

9:15 to 9:45 am: Keynote Speaker

  • Keynote Address: Michelle Silverthorn, Founder of Inclusion Nation 
  • Remarks     
    • Governor J.B. Pritzker   
    • Reverend Marshall Elijah Hatch, Sr., Pastor of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, Chicago

9:45 to 10:15 am: Panel Discussion

  • Moderated by Gabrielle Cummings, President, NorthShore University HealthSystem, Highland Park Hospital
  • Panelists:   
    • Diahann Sinclair, Vice President and Head of Diversity, Organization & Community Development, St. Bernard Hospital and Health Care Center, Chicago    
    • Carlos Nelson, CEO, Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation, Chicago
    • Carmen Vergara, COO, Esperanza Health Centers, Chicago   
    • Allison Arwady, MD, MPH, Commissioner, Chicago Department of Public Health  
  • Remarks
    • Darlene Oliver Hightower, Vice President, Community Health Equity, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago  
    • Ngozi Ezike, MD, Director, Illinois Department of Public Health 
    • Emanuel “Chris” Welch, Speaker, Illinois House of Representatives

10:15 to 10:30 am: Official Launch of Racial Equity in Healthcare Progress Report

  • Progress Report Launch and IHA Online Resources Hub   
    • Adam Kohlrus, Assistant Vice President, Quality, Safety and Health Policy, Illinois Health and Hospital Association 
    • Carlos Nelson, CEO, Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation, Chicago
  • Remarks: U.S. Senator J. Richard Durbin 

10:30 to 10:45 am: Call to Action – Closing Remarks

  • Brenda Battle, Senior Vice President, Community Health Transformation and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, The University of Chicago Medicine   
  • Ted Rogalski, Administrator, Genesis Medical Center, Aledo   
  • George Miller, President & CEO, The Loretto Hospital, Chicago; Co-Chair, IHA Committee on Health Disparities
  • Lori Lightfoot, Mayor, City of Chicago 

Allison Arwady, MD, MPH, Commissioner, Chicago Department of Public Health
Dr. Arwady joined the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) in 2015 as Chief Medical Officer before rising to Commissioner in January 2020. As Chief Medical Officer she oversaw the divisions of disease control, environmental health, emergency preparedness and behavioral health. Dr. Arwady has worked on disease outbreaks, immunization promotion, tuberculosis response, lead poisoning prevention, substance misuse and more. Prior to CDPH, she worked for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer. Dr. Arwady is a board-certified internal medicine physician and pediatrician, and she continues to see primary care patients weekly.

Brenda Battle, RN, BSN, MBA, Senior Vice President, Community Health Transformation and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, The University of Chicago Medicine
Battle is responsible for designing and leading UChicago Medicine’s community health management strategy. She develops and implements coordinated, innovative healthcare solutions to address the needs of UChicago Medicine’s patients and surrounding communities. As part of this work, Battle brings together the resources of UChicago Medicine with community groups to address health disparities. She also collaborates with clinical and administrative leaders to foster innovation in UChicago Medicine’s care delivery system by crafting care models that create an environment promoting diversity, inclusion and equity. Previously, she was director of the Inaugural Center for Diversity and Cultural Competence for Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, where she oversaw programs to eliminate health disparities and to promote diversity, cultural competence and health literacy.

Gabrielle Cummings, FACHE, President, NorthShore University HealthSystem, Highland Park Hospital, Highland Park
In addition to leading Highland Park Hospital, Cummings is responsible for Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, as well as Women’s Health. Prior to becoming president, she served as senior vice president of Evanston Hospital where she had on-site support responsibilities for hospital planning and expansion, as well as various departments. She also managed various support service departments at Glenbrook Hospital. Cummings joined NorthShore as an Administrative Fellow in 2002. In 2013, Becker’s Hospital Review named her one of the “Rising Stars: 25 Healthcare Leaders Under 40.” She has served on the boards of CASA of Cook County, Evanston Chamber of Commerce, Women Employed and the University of Minnesota Alumni Association. Cummings is a member of the Illinois Department of Public Health Hospital Licensing Board.

Richard J. “Dick” Durbin, U.S. Senator and U.S. Senate Majority Whip
Senator Durbin, a Democrat from Springfield, is the 47th U.S. Senator from the State of Illinois, the state’s senior senator and the convener of Illinois’ bipartisan congressional delegation.
Senator Durbin also serves as the Senate Majority Whip, the second-highest ranking position among the Senate Democrats. He has been elected to this leadership post by his Democratic colleagues every two years since 2005. Senator Durbin also chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and sits on the Appropriations and Agriculture Committees.  A member of Congress since 1983, Senator Durbin makes approximately 50 round trips a year between Washington and Illinois.

Ngozi Ezike, MD, Director, Illinois Department of Public Health
Dr. Ezike is the first Black woman appointed to lead the Illinois Department of Public Health in the agency’s 143-year history. A board-certified internist and pediatrician, she previously worked for the Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) for more than 15 years. She also was medical director at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. Prior to joining CCDPH, Dr. Ezike served as Austin Health Center medical director, where she actively engaged with the community on a variety of health initiatives. She has delivered inpatient care at John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County, as well as primary and preventive care in community and school-based clinics. Dr. Ezike was awarded the 2020 Lester H. McKeever Individual Service Award from the Chicago Urban League and the Health Innovator Award from Erie Family Health Center.

Marshall Elijah Hatch, Sr., DMin, Pastor, New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church
A native of Chicago’s West Side, Hatch has been pastor of the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church since 1993. He was ordained as a minister and appointed as pastor of the Commonwealth Missionary Baptist Church in North Lawndale In 1985. Hatch was one of three scholars appointed a Merrill Fellow at the Harvard Divinity School in 1998. In 2006, he received the Weston Howland, Jr. Grant and Award for Civic Leadership from Tufts University. Hatch has a long history of civic engagement: He spearheaded numerous community outreach programs, including the Westside Isaiah Plan, Ezra Homes, Pilgrim Village Homes-Washington Boulevard and “Passports to The World,” biennial overseas African missions trip for the church’s inner city youth. He also launched a visitation and correspondence ministry for incarcerated individuals. Hatch’s landmark book, “Project America: Memoirs of Faith and Hope to Win The Future,” was published in 2012.

Adam Kohlrus, BA, MS, CPHQ, CPPS, Assistant Vice President of Quality, Safety and Health Policy, Institute for Innovations in Care and Quality, Illinois Health and Hospital Association
As a leader in IHA’s Institute for Innovations in Care and Quality, Kohlrus has worked closely with hospitals across Illinois over the past decade. He provides leadership support on initiatives for readmissions, healthcare-associated conditions, patient safety, population health and health equity. Kohlrus also leads the Institute’s state and federally funded quality improvement grants. Prior to joining IHA, he served in the Peace Corps as a community health volunteer in Swaziland and Guyana before working at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C. Through his work abroad and domestically, Kohlrus has demonstrated proficiencies in quality improvement, community development, project management, curriculum development and data analytics.

Lori E. Lightfoot, Mayor, Chicago
Following her historic election as 56th Mayor of Chicago, Mayor Lightfoot has undertaken an ambitious agenda of expanding opportunity and inclusive economic growth across Chicago’s neighborhoods and communities. Her early accomplishments include landmark ethics and good governance reforms, worker protection legislation, and closing a record $838 million budget gap, as well as key investments in education, public safety and financial stability. In response to the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, Mayor Lightfoot has led a coordinated, citywide response to effectively address the virus and its broader public impact, including the creation of the Racial Equity Rapid Response Team and COVID-19 Recovery Task Force, among other actions. 

George N. Miller, Jr., MHSA, FACHE, President and CEO, The Loretto Hospital
With more than 30 years of experience, Miller is an expert healthcare strategist, community health advocate, and quality and performance improvement executive. He leads The Loretto Hospital is a nonprofit safety net hospital located in the Austin neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago—and the only safety net hospital in Illinois to conduct clinical trials. Serving primarily as an executive leader for more than half of his career, Miller has demonstrated a successful track record of improving safety net and community hospitals. Under Miller’s leadership, the hospital developed a residence program in psychiatry and now is a teaching hospital. In 2008, Miller was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC). He was repointed in 2011 by President Barack Obama. Before joining Loretto, Miller was CEO at CommUnityCare the largest federally qualified health center in Texas. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Illinois Health and Hospital Association.

Carlos Nelson, CEO, Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation, Chicago
Nelson has led the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC) since 2003. He grew the non-profit from a one-person operation to a staff of nearly 30 full- and part-time associates, with over 100 volunteers. The organization uses comprehensive community development strategies to improve the quality of life of residents and revitalize the underserved South Side communities that make up greater Auburn Gresham. Under Nelson’s leadership, GAGDC recently won the highly competitive $10 million Chicago Prize from the Pritzker Traubert Foundation. Nelson serves on several committees, advisory councils and boards including the Local School Council for Richard J. Oglesby Elementary School, Advisory Board of the Chicago Development Fund, and Chicagoland Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors.

Darlene Oliver Hightower, JD, Vice President, Community Health Equity, Rush University Medical Center
Hightower is responsible for the implementation and evaluation of community health equity programs aimed at improving the health of individuals in the communities Rush serves. She oversees the Office of Community Health Equity and Engagement, which includes three school-based health clinics, an adolescent family center, community benefit reporting, Rush’s Anchor Mission work and cradle-to-career healthcare pipeline programs. Hightower is also a member of the executive leadership team for West Side United, a cross-sector, collective impact collaborative aimed at improving health and economic vitality on Chicago’s West Side. Prior to joining Rush, she was National Vice President of Programs for Public Allies, Inc. Hightower is a Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health Fellow, University of Chicago Civic Leadership Academy Fellow and Administrative Law Judge for the Chicago Department of Human Relations.

J.B. Pritzker, Governor, Illinois
Governor Pritzker was sworn in as the 43rd governor of the State of Illinois in 2019 with the largest margin of victory over a sitting governor in more than a century. After taking the oath of office, Governor Pritzker began working with Democrats and Republicans to accomplish one of the most ambitious and consequential legislative agendas in state history. He passed a balanced budget with a bipartisan majority, making historic investments in education and human services, while restoring fiscal stability to Illinois. Governor Pritzker also won bipartisan passage for legalization of adult-use recreational cannabis and for Rebuild Illinois, the largest investment in state history to upgrade roads, bridges, rail, broadband and universities in every corner of the state. A national leader in early childhood education for over 20 years, Governor Pritzker has made childcare and preschool more affordable for tens of thousands more Illinois families.

Edward J. “Ted” Rogalski, FACHE, Administrator, Genesis Medical Center, Aledo
Rogalski directs operations at Genesis Medical Center, a 22-bed critical access hospital in Aledo, Illinois. He is also a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives. During his 23 years with Genesis Health System, Rogalski has held a number of leadership positions. He is currently chair-elect for the Illinois Health and Hospital Association (IHA) Board of Trustees and treasurer for the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network. Rogalski has also served as co-Chair IHA’s Small and Rural Hospital Committee. An active community volunteer, he serves or has served on the boards of the American Hospital Association, Regional Policy Board, Vera French Mental Health Center and Mercer County YMCA.

José R. Sánchez, President and CEO, Humboldt Park Health
Sánchez is a senior healthcare executive with over 40 years of experience in operational, strategic and fiscal management of multifaceted healthcare systems. He is currently the only Latino CEO of a Chicago hospital—Humboldt Park Health (HPH). Under his leadership, HPH (formerly known as Norwegian American Hospital) has maintained financial stability and growth throughout his tenure, consistently exceeding benchmarks in quality, safety and patient satisfaction. Sánchez has successfully orchestrated the hospital’s preparation for three accreditation surveyss by The Joint Commission. In January 2021, Sánchez led a major re-branding initiative which renamed the hospital to reflect the diverse and inclusive community it serves along with the tagline, "Advancing Health Equity."

Michelle Silverthorn, JD, Founder and CEO, Inclusion Nation
A recognized expert in organizational inclusion, Silverthorn believes that diversity and inclusion needs a new voice for a new generation. She has worked with Fortune 500 companies, tech start-ups, non-profit organizations, universities and numerous companies across every industry. From thousand-person conferences to 20-person workshops, Silverthorn equips her audiences with the knowledge and skills to finally move forward on diversity  and inclusion. Silverthorn transitioned to education after practicing law at large law firms in New York and Chicago. She has trained thousands of people on racism, bias, equity and inclusion, and has written several articles on those topics, including a well-received op-ed for the Chicago Tribune on unconscious bias. Silverthorn is a TEDx speaker and the author of Authentic Diversity, How to Change the Workplace For Good. She has also been featured in NPR and PBS. Originally from the Caribbean, Silverthorn has worked on several continents as a reporter, researcher and teacher.

Diahann Sinclair, Vice President, Organizational and Community Development, St. Bernard Hospital and Health Care Center
Sinclair is a key member of St. Bernard’s leadership team, overseeing core functions of the hospital. Since joining St. Bernard in 2012, Sinclair has led some of the organization’s most critical projects, including construction of the hospital’s new 70,000 square-foot outpatient center in 2016. For the past eight years, she has been an ambassador for St. Bernard, creating vital connections between the hospital and various constituencies. During the pandemic, Sinclair oversaw the hospital’s mobile unit activation, helping those hit hardest by COVID-19 get tested and vaccinated. She is passionate about advancing equity in the healthcare field and delivering patient care that is culturally relevant. Sinclair is an active board member of a number of community organizations, including Teamwork Englewood, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives and Catholic Charities. Before joining St. Bernard, she was Vice President of Operations for Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives.

Karen C. Teitelbaum, President and CEO, Sinai Chicago
With expertise in business development, strategy and turnaround work, Teitelbaum is a nationally recognized leader focused on ensuring corporate viability and growth through driving operational excellence and transformation of care. As president and CEO of Sinai Chicago, the city’s largest private safety net healthcare system, she oversaw a successful turnaround of financial, philanthropic and operational performance. Teitelbaum has recruited and developed a high-performing, nationally recognized diverse executive team. She is an influential participant in state and national legislative policy-making agendas, and has formed strategic relationships with non-healthcare partners, creating assets in underdeveloped urban areas. Teitelbaum is the 2021 Chair of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association Board of Trustees, having served as Chair of the Finance Committee and a member of the Executive, Governance and Health Equity Committees. She is also a mayoral appointee of the Chicago-Cook County Innovation Workforce Development Board and recipient of several accolades, including the Weizmann Institute “Women of Science” award. 

Emanuel “Chris” Welch, Speaker, Illinois House of Representatives
A member of the Illinois General Assembly since 2013, Welch became the first Black Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives in 2021. As a state representative, he focused on improving education, creating jobs, helping the most vulnerable and streamlining government. Speaker Welch was the chief sponsor of several pieces of historic legislation, including the Homeless Bill of Rights. Speaker Welch is also a leading voice for adding Black and Brown people to the boards of publicly held corporations after sponsoring landmark legislation that requires Illinois corporations to annually disclose their board composition. He has received several awards, including the prestigious Zeke Giorgi Award from the AFL-CIO. Prior to joining the General Assembly, Welch served 12 years on the Proviso Township High School Board of Education.

A.J. Wilhelmi, President and CEO, Illinois Health and Hospital Association
Wilhelmi has led the Illinois Health and Hospital Association (IHA) since January 1, 2016. IHA represents more than 200 hospitals and nearly 40 health systems as they care for their patients and communities, advocating for a sustainable, patient-focused healthcare system that provides high-quality care and promotes healthy local communities. As president and CEO, Wilhelmi is strengthening IHA's ability to address the many needs of members. Wilhelmi and IHA collaborate with state leaders, legislators and other key stakeholders to develop workable solutions to support patients, hospitals and the state’s healthcare delivery system. From 2012 to 2015, Wilhelmi served as IHA’s Chief Government Relations Officer. During that period, IHA achieved major advocacy accomplishments, including enacting landmark legislation on hospital tax exemption, expanding Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act and preserving Medicaid funding. Wilhelmi was an Illinois State Senator for the 43rd district from 2005-2012, serving as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during that time.

Carmen Vergara, COO, Esperanza Health Centers, Chicago  
A native of Chicago's Little Village neighborhood, Vergara oversees operations at Esperanza Health Centers, a nationally recognized Federally Qualified Health Center that cares for more than 45,000 patients a year. As a healthcare executive, Vergara is passionate about health equity and serving communities in need. She serves on the Chicago Board of Health, as well as the boards of Firebird Community Arts and OPEN Center for the Arts. Recognizing the importance of Latinx representation, Vergara coaches and mentors emerging leaders in efforts to bring much needed diversity into the healthcare landscape. 


FAQs flyer

Copy for internal communications

Email Invitation for Legislators

Day-of Activities and Resources

  • We are sharing day-of activities and resources for hospital leaders and staff to work on during the afternoon portion of Health Equity Action Day.

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