Health Leadership Fellows


Our vision of improving health care for older adults and young children impacted by poverty depends on the work of advocates in the community. When the leaders at local non-profits share a sense of purpose, they can work together to solve the region’s toughest health issues.

Every day, there’s growing pressure on those leaders to deliver better health outcomes at lower costs, in a health care sector undergoing vast regulatory and technological changes. On top of that are the challenges faced by many non-profits: working within silos results in gaps or duplication of services, inefficient use of data and missed opportunities to share best practices.

To build a network of skilled leaders who will take on these challenges collaboratively, the Foundation created the Health Leadership Fellows program. The goal of the Health Leadership Fellows Program is to develop and strengthen a network of collaborative leaders with organizations and systems that serve young children impacted by poverty and older adults. One of our earliest and longest-running programs, the Fellows program has trained hundreds of non-profit professionals on leadership, communication and collaboration since 2005.

Each cohort of fellows is made up of about 40 professionals from health-related and safety net organizations throughout western and central New York.

The intensive 18-month program includes four two- to three-day residential sessions on topics including personal leadership, leading change, communicating as a leader and results-based leadership and collaboration. Ongoing learning happens between sessions, where fellows work together on an inter-organizational project in small teams. Each fellow also gets executive coaching and access to the program’s learning materials.

Graduates of the Health Leadership Fellows program continue their collaborative work as members of the Fellows Action Network. To learn more about the history of the Fellows program, watch the “History of the Health Leadership Fellows Program” or download “Building Lasting Connections: An Investment in Leadership.”

For a brief overview of the program, watch the video below:



More than 300 leaders in western and central New York have graduated from Health Leadership Fellows since the program began.

Taking what they’ve learned from the expert faculty, residential sessions, leadership assessments and coaching sessions, fellows have used new information, relationships and ideas to improve health care for the most vulnerable people in our regions.

In fact, many of the projects begun by fellows have thrived and grown, as alumni continue their collaboration through the Fellows Action Network. Today, their projects are still benefiting the health of older adults and children impacted by poverty.

Through a Social Network Analysis, we have been able to see a picture of how relationships cultivated through the Fellows program have resulted in collaborations, and how those collaborations have improved health outcomes.

For example, one successful network formed by FAN members is the Trauma-Informed Community Initiative of WNY Coalition. It began in 2008, when a small group of Health Leadership Fellows began developing ideas for a volunteer network to provide services informed by an understanding of trauma.

The initial group included three members of the first class of fellows: Jim Casion, now retired CEO of Baker Victory Services; Kate Grimm, M.D.; and Dennis C. Walczyk, CEO of Catholic Charities. Today, seven fellows are members of the coalition.

With funding from the Health Foundation, the group is working to develop and implement a Greater Buffalo Trauma-Informed System of Care Community Plan.

Many of the collaborative projects initially begun and funded through the Health Leadership Fellows program have expanded their scope and impact through the Fellows Action Network. In addition to the Trauma-Informed Community Initiative of WNY Coalition, these projects include:

  • The Erie County Anti-Stigma Coalition, a group of prominent mental health groups and community thought leaders in Western New York working to identify and address the stigmas associated with mental illness.
  • A health care worker interview tool designed to hire and retain a better qualified workforce serving older adults with disabilities in central New York.
  • “Ask Me 3,” a health literacy effort that teaches children what questions to ask their healthcare professional in 12 Buffalo public schools.
  • A pictorial tool for “Prescription 4 Health,” an inter-organizational effort to assist primary doctors and pharmacists communicating with patients about their medications.
  • Town Square for Aging in Amherst, New York, an ambitious joint project between two organizations headed by Fellows graduates to help older adults remain safely at home for as long as possible and reduce their dependence on hospitals, nursing homes and specialized long-term care facilities.