National Innovation Award Goes to UConn Health Leaders Program

UConn Health Leaders (UCHL) is the proud national winner of the Quality and Practice Innovation Award from the Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM).

UConn Health Leaders Win National Award

The UConn Health Leaders program leadership team on stage on May 18, 2024 in Boston proudly accepting the Quality and Practice Innovation Award from the Society of General Internal Medicine.

The UCHL leadership team accepted the Society’s Quality and Practice Innovation Award at its national meeting on May 18 in Boston.

Award of UConn Health Leaders displayed on screen in BostonThe Quality and Practice Innovation Award recognizes UCHL as a role model practice and applauds it for improving care within the quality domains of safety, effectiveness, patient-centeredness, timeliness, efficiency, and equality. This award also recognizes the UCHL team, composed of general internists and members of both UConn Health and UConn that have successfully developed and implemented an innovative system of practice improvement in ambulatory and inpatient clinical practices.

UCHL was created in 2019 through a partnership between students and faculty at UConn School of Medicine to better address unmet social needs in the community that impact a patient’s ability to achieve equitable care.

The student-powered program was co-founded by UConn medical students and is overseen by UConn Health’s Dr. Christopher Steele. UCHL has been helping curb patient health inequities by screening patients with iPads in UConn Health’s outpatient care waiting rooms and hospital to uncover social determinants of health — non-medical factors that can influence health outcomes, such as unemployment, food insecurity, or transportation instability — in real time.

Dr. Christopher Steele
Dr. Christopher Steele (center) of UConn Health and UConn School of Medicine.

For those identified with needs, UCHL’s innovative survey automatically populates community partnerships that address those disparities. For example, if someone identifies as food insecure, the survey populates to offer the resource Hands on Hartford, which is a local organization dedicated to addressing this need. Student advocates work to connect the patient with any necessary social resources.

“The program provides direct patient care experiences that allows students to both learn how unmet social needs impact health outcomes but be the change agent to make the difference,” applauds Steele.

Student volunteers in UCHL from across the University are taught what health disparities and social determinants of health may exist, how to identify them, and how to help fix them. Each student volunteers for ten, 4-hour shifts at a UConn Health primary care clinic or the hospital.

Impressively, the program has already trained more than three hundred volunteers to screen 9,000 patients, with 6,000 patients screening positive for one social determinant of health for a total of 10,000 identified. Of those risk factors identified, over 2,000 were addressed through warm handoffs with community partnerships.

This award honors the innovative work of UCHL and its leadership team. The leadership team honorees included Steele, UCHL co-founding medical student turned UConn internal medicine resident Dr. Henry Siccardi, along with ten UConn medical students including recent Class of 2024 graduate Dr. Zoha Sarwat. Plus, seven UConn undergraduate students and alumni were honored including recent UConn graduate Rose Karvandi who is starting UConn School of Medicine this August.

Learn more about UConn Health Leaders and how you can support the work of the volunteering students.