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April 20, 2016 / Rebekah Seder, Editor

Philanthropy Fellows in the Field: Building new skills for a career in public health

By Jessica Finkel
Philanthropy Fellow at Kaiser Permanente 

Jessica is a Master’s student at the University of Maryland. She is working toward an MPP degree focused on nonprofit management and leadership.


As I entered my final year of grad school, I knew that now was my opportunity to further my professional development in a way that only a fellowship experience would provide. Along came the amazing opportunity to serve as a Philanthropy Fellow with Kaiser Permanente, working with the Community Benefit department. Prior to my fellowship, I only knew Kaiser as a healthcare organization, but I have learned there is much more to the organization. Kaiser works on the ground, creating educational programming and funding opportunities to improve total health for the communities it serves. It strives to find innovative ways to eliminate health disparities among groups.

I can tell in the past 5 months of my fellowship how much I have grown professionally and intellectually. Not only have I worked with incredible people, but I have been able to explore my interests within the public health realm to see how public policy and public health work together. From day one, I became part of the team and have benefited from the passion and excitement each person brings to their work. As part of my fellowship, I have worked on the creation of the Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) with a team of consultants and KP staff. Using primary and secondary data analysis, and data triangulation, together we created a thorough process to identify top priority needs within the Mid-Atlantic States. Just recently, we presented our methods and findings to the rest of the Community Benefit team, and the response was overwhelming. It has been extraordinary to see how the CHNA has transformed from conversations and brainstorming into something that Kaiser is going to use to move forward in their strategic refresh and community planning.

My fellowship has been one of the most invaluable experiences I have had during my Master’s program. Not only have I gained a rich understanding of various methods of data analysis, but I have also found my passion in policy and public health: how health disparities within minority populations impact individuals and communities. I have also seen how a truly effective team operates, and learned how vital it is to ensure that everyone is at the decision-making table. I have seen first-hand how collective decisions positively shape Kaiser’s grant making and impact in the community. Looking forward into my own career, this experience has provided new insight into how a large organization operates, strengthened my data analysis abilities, and taught me the importance of making organizational decisions collaboratively.


The Philanthropy Fellows program is WRAG’s signature partnership with the University of Maryland’s Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership. WRAG Members: Interested in hosting a Philanthropy Fellow? Contact Rebekah Seder to learn more about the program. Applications are due by May 13.

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