College of Health Adds Population Health Program Managers, Executive Assistant

Stephanie Rovito, Yuriko de la Cruz and Jeanne Kassis collectively bring population health experience and institutional knowledge to Lehigh’s new College of Health.

Story by

Stephen Gross

Photography by

Christa Neu

Lehigh’s new College of Health has filled three more staff positions, naming Stephanie Rovito and Yuriko de la Cruz as population health program managers and Jeanne Kassis as executive assistant.

Rovito and de la Cruz began their new roles Sept. 16, while Kassis started in August.

“We are thrilled to welcome Yuriko, Stephanie and Jeanne to the College of Health senior leadership team,” says Whitney P. Witt, inaugural dean of the College of Health. “Collectively, they bring valuable experience in the field of population health and vast institutional knowledge. They will be instrumental in implementing the vision of the college, preparing for our first cohort of faculty and students, and building community partnerships.”

Portrait of Stephanie Rovito

Stephanie Rovito

As population health program managers, Rovito and de la Cruz say their initial priorities are collaborating with units across campus to promote the college to prospective faculty and students, launch a community health summit by the spring, develop and enhance external partnerships domestically and abroad and create curriculum for the undergraduate bachelor of science and certificate programs.

“Right now, it's all hands on deck as we work to launch the college. We are filling various roles that include creating materials from marketing to strategic plans, presenting to potential students and meeting with faculty candidates. We want students and faculty to know the vision of the college and that we are here to support them should they choose to study or work at the College of Health,” Rovito says.

While Rovito and de la Cruz have the same title, and Rovito acknowledged there will be some overlap in their duties, the two will also have the freedom to fully define their roles as the college evolves.

Wading into uncharted waters is nothing new for Rovito, who began the health department at Reading Hospital and, more recently, was the director of population health at the Pennsylvania Department of Health, where she worked with the Secretary of Health to build their health innovation program.

“It's kind of my thing to start new,” Rovito says. “I like being at the ground level and helping to build the framework.”

Population health was one of Rovito’s main focuses while she worked on health innovation at the state Department of Health. She says she examined the social determinants of health, health equity, racial disparities and opioids.

Prior to her work in Pennsylvania, Rovito worked as a grant writer at Norwalk Hospital in Connecticut.

Portrait of Yuriko de la Cruz

Yuriko de la Cruz

De la Cruz comes to Lehigh from Lehigh Valley Health Network, where she was a practice operations transformation specialist, partnering with ambulatory care practices. She says she affirmed her love for public health while earning her undergraduate degree in public health from West Chester University and later joining the Peace Corps as a community health volunteer in the Dominican Republic after graduation.

Following the Peace Corps, de la Cruz spent time in Newark, New Jersey, as a community health program coordinator at La Casa de Don Pedro and then as a community outreach worker at University Hospital. She later developed her grant-writing and capacity-building skills at PROCEED, Inc. by working on a New Jersey state-funded program that worked with addiction-prevention providers and also through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of a national program working with HIV prevention providers. She pivoted into health care when she did her graduate-level practicum at the Neighborhood Health Centers of the Lehigh Valley in Allentown, which exposed her to the growing field of population health. 

As eager as de la Cruz is to get started in her new position, she says she’s also looking forward to the new ideas students bring as they enroll for the 2020-2021 school year.

“I am excited to see what ideas students have and seeing that partnership develop with faculty and the rest of the COH team,” de la Cruz says. “If some of those ideas take foot nationally or globally and we’re able to say, ‘Wow, that happened here at Lehigh,’ that would be really cool.”

De la Cruz says she likes to dream big, and she’s in the perfect position to do just that as construction continues on the Health, Science & Technology Building—the future home of Lehigh’s College of Health.

Portrait of Jeanne Kassis

Jeanne Kassis

“One of my hopes is that we're able to transform the Lehigh Valley as we prepare the next generation of population health leaders,” de la Cruz says. “How do we also transform the Lehigh Valley so that it's an incubator, if you will, of population health? When it's done well, these are the outcomes: seeing all parts of the community flourish like the schools, businesses, parks and recreation, just seeing so many promising aspects of the Lehigh Valley bloom and be as healthy as possible. This transformation needs to be equitable and inclusive so we don’t leave people behind. We want to develop an understanding that health is not just health care and that we’re all connected.”

Kassis, meanwhile, brings a wealth of Lehigh knowledge to the college, having been at the university for 12 years. She joins the College of Health after spending nearly a decade in the Office of Interdisciplinary Programs within the College of Arts and Sciences. Kassis started at Lehigh with the Iacocca Institute, working for the Global Village for Future Leaders. Currently, her main focus is on faculty searches for the College of Health.

“It's very exciting to be part of the team that is building the foundation for a new college,” Kassis says. “I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with such amazing people and am looking forward to fall of 2020 when we welcome our first cohort of students to the College of Health.”

Story by

Stephen Gross

Photography by

Christa Neu

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