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Our Graduates Have Great Success Stories

Alumni of the Department of Health Policy and Management (HPM) are making an impact in all areas of public health. Here are profiles of a few of our notable alumni.

Anna Voelker (MHA ’09) completed an operations-focused postgraduate residency program at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md., at which point she returned to Pittsburgh to serve as operations manager in the Department of Gastroenterology at UPMC. Currently, Voelker is administrative director of ambulatory care at UPMC, and her specialty is outpatient operations. She also holds an adjunct appointment as assistant professor in HPM. She is vice president of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) Western Pennsylvania chapter and chair of the Early Careerist Network for the chapter. Voelker was awarded the 2012 ACHE of Western Pennsylvania Regent’s Award as well as the ACHE National Chapter Innovation Grant for 2012, as she focuses her ACHE efforts primarily on professional development and leadership building for early careerists in the region.

Alyia Smith-Parker (MPH ’12) moved to Washington, D.C., in June 2012 to accept a position as an anti-hunger program associate at D.C. Hunger Solutions, an initiative of the Food Research and Action Center. In her position, she advocates for and shapes polices aimed at improving the health and well-being of children by reducing hunger and increasing the use of the federal child nutrition programs such as school lunch and breakfast and those at summer, afterschool, and child care programs. Smith-Parker represents D.C. Hunger Solutions on a number of boards and coalitions, including the D.C. Public Schools Health and Wellness Advisory Committee, Action for Healthy Kids D.C. Regional School Health Network, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education Health and Wellness Advisory Board of the Coordinated Health Education, and the USDA Food and Nutrition Coalition Afterschool and Summer Meals Committee. She is committed to educating the public about the devastating health impacts of hunger and food insecurity and to implementing strategies to reduce poverty, promote nutrition, and increase access to healthy, affordable foods in low-income areas.

While earning her degree at Pitt Public Health, Elizabeth “Becky” Surma (MPH ’81) developed an interest in long-term care of the aging. She worked in hospital administration in area facilities before opting to serve the community through participation in several boards, including Pitt Public Health’s Board of Visitors, which provides advice on the school’s strategic planning efforts. Surma and her husband John recently donated $1 million to support Pitt Public Health’s Building a Healthier World Campaign. The Surmas’ gift will be offered as a dollar-for-dollar match to other major donations to the building fund. In addition, the couple established an endowed scholarship to benefit Pitt Public Health students who are Pennsylvania residents and have demonstrated interest in long-term health care administration or policies related to aging. “The Graduate School of Public Health changed my life significantly,” said Becky Surma. “My education enabled me to have a career I loved in hospital administration, and also to become an informed volunteer.”

Robert J. Henkel* (MPH ’83) is president and CEO of Ascension Health and executive vice president of Ascension Health Alliance in St. Louis, Mo. Henkel has overseen the operation of a number of health care organizations, instituting changes to improve health, safety, and operational practices that have benefited patients across the country. Henkel joined Ascension Health in 1998 after holding a wide range of executive positions at health care facilities throughout the country, including the Eye & Ear Hospital in Pittsburgh; Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Fla.; and St. Louis Healthcare Network, where he led the discussion and process that resulted in the merger of six St. Louis hospitals and three medical groups. A fellow of ACHE, Henkel has given presentations to organizations such as the World Health Care Congress and at events such as the annual ACHE breakfast with the Healthcare Leadership Network of the Delaware Valley. In 2010, he received a Regent’s Award from ACHE, and in 2011, he was named a University of Pittsburgh Legacy Laureate.
*2012–13 Executive in Residence

Michael Blackwood (MPH ’80) is president and CEO of what is now Gateway Health, where he oversees operations for the company’s two lines of business, Medicare and Medicaid; seeks out strategic opportunities for growth into new markets; and maintains costs while improving health care. His accomplishments include instituting a clinically integrated, medical/social model in Pennsylvania focusing on prospective care management and leading the organization to become the first Medicaid-only HMO nationwide to achieve Excellent status from the National Committee for Quality Assurance. With more than 40 years of health care executive experience, Blackwood served as president, CEO, and board member with HealthAmerica; president of The Pilot Group, a health care consulting firm specializing in managed care; and assistant administrator of UPMC Montefiore hospital.
© 2017 by University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

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