News Release

Connecticut Health Foundation Launches Academy for Health Equity Advocacy & Leadership, Selects Inaugural Class

HARTFORD, CT – The Connecticut Health Foundation recently selected the 2017 inaugural class for its Academy for Health Equity Advocacy & Leadership (AHEAL). The Academy is an intensive leadership development program designed to train the next generation of strong, adaptive and diverse leaders to drive sustained health systems change in Connecticut.

For years the foundation has understood the importance of developing leaders to advocate for and advance health policies for those who have a limited voice in Connecticut. “With a rapidly changing political landscape, we need leaders who are willing and ready to challenge the status quo and pressure the system to make the needed improvements to move us toward a more equitable system,” said CT Health Vice President of Program, Tiffany Donelson.

The 18-month Academy begins with an intensive two-day orientation in January 2017 and continues with a series of multi-day seminars. The participants will receive in-depth training on topics such as policy making, state budget process, strategy development, coalition building, working with communities on advocacy efforts, and measuring advocacy success. Participants will benefit from continuous mentorship and experiential learning opportunities throughout the program.

“The foundation’s commitment to advancing health equity at a systems level recognizes the importance of supporting health advocacy leaders in championing health equity by educating decision-makers, creating coalitions and/or organizing communities to tackle the issues they face,” said CT Health President & CEO Patricia Baker. “We are very excited for the launch of the Academy and look forward to role these leaders will play in the elimination of racial and ethnic health disparities,” finished Baker.

While the foundation has a longstanding history of developing leaders through its flagship Health Leadership Fellows Program, the Academy demonstrates an evolution of the program that is responsive to the evolving landscape of health and advocacy in Connecticut. “After 10 years of successfully developing health leadership fellows who are doing great work in health equity across the state, we are excited to be continuing our legacy with this next class of “Ambassadors for Change,” said Donelson. “We are confident the leaders selected for the AHEAL class will greatly benefit from the Academy and go on to influence the future of health equity policy, improving the welfare of Connecticut’s most underserved communities,” she added.

AHEAL participants are established leaders who were selected based on their demonstrated leadership and work to expand health equity by engaging in sustained systems change efforts throughout our communities. Members of the 2017 Academy for Health Equity & Leadership include:

  • Ingrid Alvarez-DiMarzo, M.A., Connecticut State Director of the Hispanic Federation
  • Robyn Anderson, Program Director at Advanced Behavioral Health, Inc. for the Multidimensional Family Therapy, Training, Consultation and Quality Assurance Program for the State of Connecticut and Pastor of the Blackwell AME Zion Church
  • Nancy Boone, Director of the Connecticut Alliance for Basic Human Needs
  • Darcey Lynn Cobbs-Lomax, Executive Director of Project Access of New Haven (PANH)
  • Faina Dookh, Project Manager at the State Innovation Model Program Management Office
  • Gina Federico Muslim, Manager of Community Solutions’ Hartford properties
  • Alejandro Melendez-Cooper, President of the Hispanic Alliance of Southeastern Connecticut and Chairperson of the Hispanic Health Council.
  • Nichelle A. Mullins, President & CEO of the Charter Oak Health Center
  • Bernard Thomas, Founder and Executive Director of the Hartford Knights

About the Connecticut Health Foundation

The Connecticut Health Foundation (CT Health) is the state’s largest independent health philanthropy dedicated to improving lives by changing health systems. Since it was established in July 1999, the foundation has supported innovative grant-making, public health policy research, technical assistance and convening to achieve its mission – to improve the health of the people of Connecticut. Over the past 15 years, CT Health has awarded grants totaling close to $59 million in 45 cities and towns throughout the state.

In April 2013, CT Health announced its five-year strategic plan to transition to expand health equity as a focus. For CT Health, health equity means helping more people gain access to better care, especially people of color. Better care includes physical, mental, and oral health.

For more information about the foundation, please visit