October 20, 2023
 Jack Cardinal, (781) 960-5208,  

Community Catalyst Honors Emerging Health Justice Leaders at NYC Celebration 

Restuccia Health Justice Fellowship builds power and capacity to reshape the U.S. health system

Watch Reflections from 2022-2023 Graduates Here

Group of eleven Restuccia Health Justice fellows poses with their awards
Restuccia Health Justice Fellows gather in New York for fellowship graduation event. Photo (left to right): Simona Charles (Better Family Life), Candace Brown (Better Family Life), Leslie Diaz (Disability Policy Consortium), Missy Genadri (Children’s Defense Fund), Medha Ghosh (Coalition for Asian American Children and Families), Seciah Aquino (Latino Coalition for a Healthy California), Marilyn Reyes (Peer Network New York), Jerry Marcel (Disability Policy Consortium), Mar Velez (Latino Coalition for a Healthy California), Terrance Cauley (Better Family Life), Luisa Cuautle (Make the Road New York)

(NEW YORK, NY) – On Saturday, Sept. 30, two cohorts of health justice advocates and their respective organizations graduated from Community Catalyst’s Restuccia Health Justice Fellowship program. Community Catalyst is thrilled to acknowledge the graduates’ hard work to transform their organizations and will continue to foster and support the growth and reach of diverse advocacy organizations and their leadership to build the power of people to create a health system rooted in race equity and health justice, and a society where health is a right for all. The graduates come from a national cohort of organizations from various states as well as a regional cohort, The Restuccia Health Justic Fellowship – New York, which is supported by NYHealth’s Empowering Health Care Consumers program.  

“It is an honor to celebrate the accomplishments of the 2023 Restuccia Health Justice Fellowship cohort and the progress these organizations will continue to drive in their communities and with the health system as a whole,” said Emily Stewart, executive director, Community Catalyst. “The Fellowship is a distillation of how Community Catalyst works in partnership to build power with communities with an emphasis on shared learning and building strategies together that will advance health justice. We are so grateful for the privilege of partnering with such tremendous leaders and organizations and for how these partnerships so deeply shape our work.” 

“Whether it is racial injustice, gender inequities, our broken immigration system, poverty, or any of the countless conditions that impact someone’s ability to be healthy, it is critical that we have advocates that truly understand that, seek to dismantle those systems, and build a health system that truly works for all,” New York Assemblymember González Rojas said. “I am excited to congratulate you, and I look forward to working with you out in the field to truly fight for health, dignity and justice for all.”  

“As we confront health inequities, it’s imperative that we remain focused in ensuring that those closest to the pain are closest to the power,” Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley said. “I’m incredibly grateful that each of you has been called to do this work and answered the call. Each of you represents the potential for truly transformative change that will save lives.” 

“During our time together, every single one of the fellows navigated immense personal and professional change without shying away from embracing their role as existing and emerging leaders in the health justice movement,” said Alexis B. Major, director of the Restuccia Health Justice Fellowship at Community Catalyst. “The fellows showed up as their authentic selves and transformed their teams, their organizations and themselves. They taught and us at Community Catalyst an immense amount and I am grateful and proud to have been on this journey with each of them.”

Two people pose together during the Restuccia Health Justice Fellowship graduation ceremony
Restuccia Health Justice Fellowship event in New York

Both cohorts of the Fellowship focus on supporting health justice leaders and organizations in building the power to reshape the health system so it is reflective of and responsive to communities and advances health and wellness for everyone, particularly people who are most harmed by the health system today. 

  • Reflections from graduates of the Fellowship can be seen here
  • Photos from the event can be found here

“We learned that our voices are important and necessary to move our health care system toward a more just and equitable place,” shared Leslie Diaz with Massachusetts-based organization Disability Policy Consortium.  

The Fellowship is also focused on centering race equity in all of its programmatic work, with an emphasis on supporting the leadership of BIPOC-led organizations. It seeks to help eradicate structural barriers by diversifying and strengthening leadership within the health justice movement. 

“We are three women of color femmes in the policy and advocacy space,” said Rosa Flores, director of programs for the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California. “When we get to show up authentically and make that effort to share our lived experience along with our professional and academic experiences, it can be incredibly powerful and inspiring for our communities and allies, and I think it helps us connect well to other people. Restuccia helped us understand that at a deeper level.” 

Jerry Marcel with Disability Policy Consortium said the Fellowship helped his organization improve its anti-racism committee meetings, foster a more inclusive and supportive environment for BIPOC staff and bring more conversations about race to the organization’s board.  

Luisa Cuautle a health campaign associate with Make the Road New York and NYHealth Fellow said the Fellowship ensured her team had a baseline understanding of concepts like institutional racism and how structures like this affect her own life and the lives of people the organization serves.

Person speaks in front of crowd of attendees of the Restuccia Health Justice Fellowship Graduation event
Restuccia Health Justice Fellowship event in New York

The Fellowship offers multifaceted support, including coaching from top experts in organizational management, health systems, advocacy, race equity and leadership development to help advocacy leaders implement their organizational goals and transformation.  

“We were able to identify actionable steps and a feasible plan of seeing our organizational transformation come to life,” said Candace Brown, a therapist and social worker with Missouri-based organization Better Family Life. “We are proud to say that we were able to successfully achieve the goals that we set for ourselves when we entered the Fellowship, and it was because of the support we received.”  

Terrance Cauley of Better Family Life said the Fellowship helped his organization build on some of the foundations it’s already laid, like their cultural competency and cultural responsiveness model, through evaluation and research. “Being a part of the Restuccia Health Justice Fellowship has been the highlight of my past year,” Terrance said. “It’s really reassuring the various people who we’ve come in contact with in the last year that have opened my eyes up to a whole new way of thinking about how we engage in this process.” 

The following organizations graduated from the Restuccia Health Justice Fellowship 2022-2023 cohorts: 

The Restuccia Health Justice Fellowship – National (Class of 2022-2023) 

The second cohort of The Restuccia Health Justice Fellowship – National includes disability rights, anti-poverty and immigrant equity organizations. Each of the three teams engaged in organizational transformation to: 

  • Better Family Life (Missouri): Adopt a culturally responsive service delivery model with a race equity lens. 
  • Disability Policy Consortium (Massachusetts): Foster deep, visible culture change at all levels of operations and priority setting efforts based on the strategic implementation of racial justice frameworks and practices within their organization. 
  • Latino Coalition for a Healthy California (California): Implement a racial equity framework that applies to human resources practices and policies, recruitment, retention of team members and the organization’s development approach.  

The Restuccia Health Justice Fellowship – New York (Class of 2022-2023) 

The first inaugural cohort of NYHealth Fellows brought together a community of emerging health advocacy leaders from multi-issue organizations working on harm reduction, health care access, Asian American and Pacific Island and immigrant equity, and youth mental health. As part of The Restuccia Health Justice Fellowship – New York, each organization engaged in work to facilitate organizational transformation to: 

  • Children’s Defense Fund New York: Address New York’s youth mental health crisis by expanding access to school behavioral health services under Medicaid. 
  • Coalition of Asian American Children and Families: Improve access, quality and oversight of language services in New York’s health care system through a pilot to use a Community Language Advisory Board within New York City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation (H+H).  
  • Make the Road New York: Enable access to health care coverage for all immigrants by expanding New York’s Essential Health Plan for all low-income New Yorker’s who qualify. 
  • Peer Network New York: Create equity and inclusivity for peer workers in New York by changing policy and practices at NY public health agencies to gain access to better pay and benefits. 
  • The JED Foundation: Strengthen NY’s school-based mental health services by developing state policies that support higher education institutions’ approach to mental health and suicide prevention, intervention, postvention and equitable access.

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About Community Catalyst: 

Community Catalyst is a national organization dedicated to building the power of people to create a health system rooted in race equity and health justice, and a society where health is a right for all. We’re an experienced, trusted partner to organizations across the country, a change agent to policymakers at the local, state, and national level, and both an adversary and a collaborator to health systems in our efforts to advance health justice. We partner with local, state and national organizations and leaders to leverage and build power so that people are at the center of important decisions about health and health care, whether they are made by health care executives, in state houses, or on Capitol Hill. Together with partners, we’re building a powerful, united movement with a shared vision of and strategy for a health system accountable to all people. Learn more at