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Inaugural Arts and Sciences Symposium Brings Together Experts and Leaders for a Conversation on Health Equity


The inaugural Arts and Sciences Symposium featured a panel of Johnson & Johnson leaders

Drexel University President John Fry moderated a panel of leaders from Johnson & Johnson discussing how their organization connects passion and purpose to reimagine the future of healthcare.  


May 31, 2024

The College of Arts and Sciences partnered with the College of Medicine, College of Nursing and Health Professions and Dornsife School of Public Health to present the 2024 Arts and Sciences Symposium: The Race to Health Equity on May 15.   

Health Equity and Wellness, one of Drexel’s Areas of Excellence and Opportunity (AEO), involves topics and expertise related to community health, prevention and mental wellbeing across programs, research, partnerships and clinical practice. This AEO is focused on improving outcomes, diversifying methods and expanding access across populations, especially local communities and underserved populations. The symposium highlighted the important work that Drexel and its partners, like Johnson & Johnson, are doing in this space to better serve our communities.  

Drexel Faculty Put Expertise into Action 

The symposium began with a panel of Drexel faculty members who shared their expertise on health and wellness and discussed the various efforts they are leading across the University and the surrounding community to improve outcomes for patients and residents.   

Moderator Veronica D. Carey, PhD, CPRP, CDE©, assistant dean of diversity, equity and inclusion and associate clinical professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions, began the panel by introducing terms and concepts surrounding health equity and wellness.  

“Health disparities are preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by socially disadvantaged populations,” Carey explained. “Health equity is achieved when anyone can attain their full potential for health and wellbeing. Equity is the absence of unfair or avoidable differences among groups of people, whether those groups are defined socially, economically, demographically or geographically or by sex, gender, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation.” 

Panelist Naomi Goldstein, PhD, professor of psychological and brain sciences, is the founder and director of Drexel’s Juvenile Justice Research and Reform Lab. Goldstein’s work integrates psychology, public health and criminology, partnering with agencies at a system level to change policies and practices on a large scale.  

“My team is an interdisciplinary group that partners with community stakeholders — police departments, school districts, the DA’s office, defenders, individuals with lived experience in the justice system, for example — to codesign policies and practices to improve outcomes for young people who are either in the system or at risk for entering the system,” she explained.  

Panelist Judy Ensslin, MS, RDN, LDN is the program director of Drexel’s PA SNAP-Ed/Eat Right Philly program, housed in the College of Nursing and Health Professions. “Eat Right Philly is the official nutrition education program of the School District of Philadelphia,” Ensslin said. “We provide services including lessons, cooking activities, gardening and wellness initiatives — basically providing the education and tools to give our participants the confidence they need to make healthy decisions.”   

Annette Gadegbeku, MD, is the associate professor family, community and preventive medicine and associate dean for community health in the College of Medicine, where she works to build interprofessional activities, educational services and research that support and health equity and community engagement among community stakeholders. 

Gadegbeku spoke about the importance of community collaborations such as the mini-courses the College of Medicine leads at the nearby Science Leadership Academy Middle School that introduce students to health and science concepts as well as career opportunities in healthcare. “We really want to bring people together to promote health and health science because we need it,” she stressed. “We need more people to be in the healthcare workforce; we need a more diversified healthcare workforce. [Students] need to be excited about it very early on.”   

“What drives my work is the need for healthcare professionals to understand how social determinants affect the overall health and wellbeing of the patient,” said panelist Monica Harmon, MSN, MPH, RN, assistant clinical professor of undergraduate nursing in the College of Nursing and Health Professions and executive director of the Community Wellness HUB, which offers free health and wellness education to local residents of West Philadelphia’s Promise Zone, including the Mantua and Powelton Village neighborhoods.  

The Community Wellness HUB has facilitated partnerships with Drexel and the community to address the needs of its residents, breaking down barriers and fostering unity. “We take time to understand and give people the space to open up,” Harmon said. “They have to know that we are about them.”  

Each of these efforts exemplifies Drexel’s commitment to inclusive community engagement, the importance of meeting people where they are and addressing the social determinants of health. 

Johnson & Johnson Leaders Demonstrate Passion and Purpose

Drexel’s Vice President for Health and Health Equity, Loretta Sweet Jemmott, PhD, MSN, RN, FAAN, opened the second half of the symposium with a panel of leaders from Johnson & Johnson discussing how their organization connects passion and purpose to reimagine the future of healthcare.  

Jemmott shared how her experience over the last decade leading health equity and community engagement efforts at Drexel was built on the belief that a person’s zip code should not impact their health outcomes. “It’s really about the voices of the people,” Jemmott said. “Ultimately, people want to be included. They want respect. They want to be valued. They want to be shown dignity. Our job is to bring the community into the ‘room where it happens.’”  

Drexel University President John Fry moderated the panel, with Johnson & Johnson Chairman and CEO Joaquin Duato, two Drexel alumni who work at the company: U.S. Patient Engagement Strategy Leader, Innovative Medicine, Danielle DeFeo, MBA '02 and Vice President and Head of Cross Therapeutic Area Delivery, Innovative Medicine Michelle Kramer, MD, MPH '07, and Global Head, Global Health Equity Howard Reid, MBA

“Health is at the center of what we do at Drexel,” said Fry, emphasizing the University’s role as an anchor institution in West Philadelphia. “It’s almost half of our university’s teaching and research activity.” 

According to Duato, as the leader of a complex organization, sharing the common purpose of impacting human health is essential to the company’s efforts to mobilize people around health equity and measure and track their results. “Everyone has different ways they’re passionate about it, and at the same time, we share a common set of principles.”  

Duato detailed the three principles that are central to J&J’s identity and powerful to every employee of the company: putting patients first, taking care of its employees and working within communities. “Understanding that we have an impact on patient lives is something super powerful to everybody working at Johnson & Johnson. 

Kramer, whose role at the company focuses on delivering global clinical studies for a variety of diseases, is part of the company’s bold initiative to eradicate racial and social injustice on the public health front by eliminating health inequities for people of color.  

“So far, through our Race to Health Equity program, we have invested more than $80 million, reached more than four and a half million people of color through awareness programs, and provided training and support for over 600,000 healthcare providers,” Kramer said. “The intent is to engage the local community... listen to what their priorities are and co-create programs that meet their prioritized needs.” 

Reid leverages Johnson & Johnson’s full capabilities and resources to close gaps in healthcare by promoting human-centered, culturally conscious care. He helped align the company’s priorities and scaled health equity efforts for maximum impact. “My focus is to make clear where we want to make an impact and to work through the community to bring feasibility and partnership to the table,” he explained.  

DeFeo oversees a Johnson & Johnson’s initiative to enlist patients in the HIV and LGBTQ+ communities to understand their health equity issues and works to change healthcare by working within the community.  

“Many patients have told me, ‘Nothing about us without us,’” DeFeo reflected. A priority of her role is making sure patients are actively involved in their care. “It’s in that camaraderie and peer relationship that they can create change and become more powerful.” 

Fry concluded the panel by asking Duato to share career advice with students. “I’ve been at Johnson & Johnson 35 years, and I’m the first non-U.S. born CEO in the company’s 140-year history,” he replied. “It shows that Johnson & Johnson is open to having someone like me as the CEO. My advice is that it’s not so much about the job that you are going to do. It’s more about what type of company you are going to join. Choose a company because you’re passionate about it and feel good about working there. Be a lifelong learner who is open to opportunities.”