Community Leaders Challenging Health Inequities Selected for the 2020 Class of the Healthy Communities Fellowship

January 31, 2020

Six experts addressing the social determinants of health across the United States will participate in a year-long media and communications fellowship program


Tsion Ghedamu

Washington, DC, January 31, 2020 – The Aspen Institute today announced the 2020 class of the Healthy Communities Fellowship, a program designed to amplify the voices of community leaders addressing health inequities through the lens of the social determinants of health (SDOH). “With increased attention on the power of SDOH, we need to learn from more community leaders who have deep expertise and can positively shape the field” says Katie Drasser, Managing Director of the Aspen Global Innovators Group.

The second cohort of six fellows includes advocates for maternal health, rural health, public health prevention, promotion of healthy families, water rights, and combating of homelessness. They will participate in a year-long program designed to sharpen and amplify their messages through public speaking, writing, and networking.

As the previous Healthy Communities cohort stated, “individually, we might be concerned about immigrants or indigenous people, people living in disinvested neighborhoods or returning from jail. But if we do not address the root causes of health for all, our efforts will wither.” This initiative is in partnership with the Aetna Foundation and is a part of their commitment to making community health and wellness central to the company’s charge for a better world.

This initiative is in partnership with the Aetna Foundation and is a part of their commitment to making community health and wellness central to the company’s charge for a better world.

Meet the Healthy Communities Fellows:

The 2020 Healthy Communities Fellows come from New York, California, District of Columbia, Colorado, and the Navajo Nation within Arizona. They will participate in a curated media and communications training developed by the Aspen New Voices Fellowship to bring new conversations and ideas on the social determinants of health to major public platforms, including Aspen Ideas: Health and the Aspen Ideas Incubator. Learn more about the fellowship at

Melissa Bosworth- Aurora, Colorado
A self-described thought disrupter and warrior for nonprofits, Melissa is the Principal of Vertical Strategies, Executive Director of the Eastern Plains Healthcare Consortium, and Assistant Professor at Regis University. She is committed to creating nonprofit sustainability through navigating uncertainty, and inspiring students who have a similar passion. She has spent the last 20 years working in human service and healthcare related nonprofits. As a pianist and previous music therapist turned administrator and teacher, Melissa brings a unique perspective when it comes to creating solutions for social justice. Influenced by her son, students, and nonprofit professionals, she aspires to never stop working for a more just world.

Adrienne Crawford- Washington, DC
Adrienne Crawford is a Certified Nurse Midwife who believes black women thrive with culturally competent care. She practices at Community of Hope in Washington DC, where some of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates exist in the United States among African American communities. Adrienne is working to change this reality. Passionate about women’s health and reproductive justice, Adrienne brings over 15 years of experience in women’s health and is also a Board-Certified Lactation Consultant. She works every day to combat the disparate maternal and infant mortality rates in the African American community.  

Genoveva Islas- Fresno, CA
Genoveva is the Founder & CEO of Cultiva La Salud. Genoveva is a public health advocate fighting to advance heath equity in California’s San Joaquin Valley where too many families have suffered the loss of loved ones from preventable causes.  Genoveva is a recognized Culture of Health Leader by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Erasma Monticciolo – Brooklyn, NY
Erasma is a native New Yorker who grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn, where she co-founded Power of Two in 2015. As the Executive Director, she uses science and community experience to mitigate the negative impact of intergenerational family trauma to build resilient and thriving communities. Through her work, Erasma lives her values every day, ensuring that children in New York City’s most vulnerable communities have opportunities to dream and achieve beyond their present circumstances.

Emma Robbins- Los Angeles, CA & Navajo Nation in Arizona
Emma Robbins is a Diné artist and social justice fighter, working with her community on the Navajo Nation to secure access to safe drinking water. After losing a grandmother to cancer caused by uranium contamination in the water and growing up in one of the areas with the highest concentration of water poverty, Emma went on to lead the Navajo Water Project, collaborating with communities to help the 30% of those on the reservation without running water. Emma weaves her art into her work to raise awareness about the need for clean water on Native Nations. Emma’s favorite part of her work is working with fellow Indigenous women to combat the water crisis.

Mirtha Santana- Brooklyn, NY
Mirtha Santana is a long-time resident of the low-income community of Bushwick Brooklyn, Mirtha knows from personal experience the impact of affordable housing. Her commitment to homelessness prevention stems from her deep belief that no child should be sleeping in a homeless shelter. Mirtha joined RiseBoro Community Partnership in 2007 and immersed herself in services for low-income, disenfranchised and homeless families. She also held positions in community outreach and workforce development. In her tenure, Mirtha has grown the programming and services immensely and now holds the position of Vice President of Riseboro’s Empowerment Division.

The Aetna Foundation is an independent charitable and philanthropic arm of CVS Health (NYSE:CVS). As a national health foundation, we promote wellness, health, and access to high-quality health care for everyone. For more information, visit

The Aspen Global Innovators Group widens access to health and prosperity for people living at the world’s margins. Our network of innovators brings overlooked challenges into plain sight, then creates programs, policies and partnerships to address them. Breakthrough programs include: New Voices Fellowship, which brings expert voices from emerging countries into the global development discussion; AMP Health, which works with health leaders in under-resourced countries advancing to the last mile; the Artisan Alliance, supporting the world’s most untapped start-up community; and Spotlight Health, a premier creative forum on health at the Aspen Ideas Festival. For more information, visit

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners.


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