Building a Culture of Health: The RWJF Vision

The gap year chronicles continue. About a month ago, I had the opportunity of listening to Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey MD, MBA speak at the University of Pennsylvania. This particular event was part of a seminar series being held by The Center for Public Health Initiatives at Penn. Who is Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey? She is the CEO and President of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care. When I found out she would be speaking on campus, I was more than excited to attend this event for several reasons:

1. During undergrad, I did the Summer Medical Dental Education Program (SMDEP),  a national program established by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It’s goal is to increase the representation of minorities in the medical and dental workforce to address the gaps in health disparities.

2. I LOVE what the Robert Wood Johnson foundation is about – providing grants to examine social and economic factors that can impact health, poverty, and access to health care, among other things. As I may have mentioned in the past, this is related to the work/ research I currently do full-time. I mean just awesome work in general.

3. Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey is the first woman and the first African-American to head the foundation. Um what? A black woman in power? I’m with it!

4. Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey is also a fellow alum of the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton Business school) – woot woot!!

5. I’m tryna get like her – yep, she’s my career crush.

I got to chat with Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey! Clearly in the moment.

She shared the new vision of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Building a culture of health and delved into what that meant. She also shed light on some of the health issues we currently face, one being childhood obesity. Despite these stark realities, she provided hope – it is up to us, the people, to change our current trajectory. It is up to us to build a culture of health and it starts with a vision. Her talk was very inspiring and as she gave examples of everyday people and community leaders striving to change their community, I felt empowered. You can read more about these individuals here: The RWJF Culture of Health Prize Winners.

Click to enlarge and view texts.

I’m incredibly glad I went to the talk. What made it even more awesome, is when a few weeks later during my last med school interview, my faculty interviewer brought up the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She mentioned she loves the work they do and would love to get a grant for a current community project she’s working on. You can imagine how thrilled I was. I was freaking ECSTATIC! One, because I could actually talk about this topic (note: My interest in the RWJF is not mentioned anywhere in my application, it came up organically due to my interest in health disparities) and two, I was like YES! My faculty interviewer and I have similar interests.

You can learn more about the RWJF vision of building a culture of health in the video below. Ciao!


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