Highmark Appoints Dr. Whitney Perkins Witt as New Vice President, Social Determinants of Health (SDoH), Operations and Strategy

PITTSBURGH, PA (Jan. 24, 2023) Highmark Health announced today the appointment of Whitney Perkins Witt, PhD, MPH, as vice president of social determinants of health (SDoH), operations and strategy. In this pivotal leadership role for Highmark, Dr. Witt will direct SDoH interventions, research and evaluation, advanced data analytics, provider collaboration, health innovation and technology, and thought leadership.

Social determinants of health are the conditions in which people live, work, learn, and play that can impact up to 80 percent of an individual’s health before the healthcare system can intervene. By digging deeper into ‘non-health’ related questions, Highmark is leading the way in helping members and patients move past health care to focus solely on health.

“We’re pleased to welcome Dr. Witt and her long-standing history of success to Highmark,” said Nebeyou Abebe, senior vice president of social determinants of health at Highmark. “The importance of understanding social determinants and minimizing the barriers that stand before our communities and members is at the core of our work. I’m confident that Dr. Witt’s unique skill set and robust experience will lead to positive advancements in the health and well-being of our members while reducing health disparities.”

Dr. Witt brings nearly 30 years of experience to Highmark and has led multidisciplinary teams to develop and implement strategic health initiatives, conduct research, launch innovative technical assistance programs, and develop and create digital clinical tools using advanced data analytics. In addition, she has expertise, particularly with SDoH, to improve cost, quality, and patient-related outcomes.

Before joining Highmark, Dr. Witt served as the vice president of AmeriSpeak, which is NORC at the University of Chicago’s premier multi-client, panel-based research platform, where she oversaw the development and growth of AmeriSpeak-centered business among Federal sponsors.

Prior to her experience at NORC, she served as a professor and Inaugural Dean of the College of Health at Lehigh University. As Dean, she established the first undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs in population health and increased the diversity of university faculty by recruiting, hiring, and promoting talent from different racial, cultural, economic, and ethnic backgrounds.

“I could not be prouder to join the Highmark team at this exciting time,” said Dr. Witt. “I am very impressed with and support Highmark’s ‘Living Health’ focus on social health, along with physical and behavioral health. The organization is at the forefront of implementing and evaluating interventions to address the SDOH and whole-person care. I look forward to collaborating with my new colleagues to address the social determinants of health and improve health equity.”

Before joining Lehigh, Dr. Witt served as the Director of the Center for Maternal and Child Health Research at IBM Watson Health. She led multimillion-dollar Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) research projects and technical assistance programs, among other critical initiatives. While at IBM, Dr. Witt also led teams to develop award-winning, innovative healthcare delivery solutions using advanced data analytics, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. In recognition of this work, Dr. Witt won several Watson Health and IBM-wide prestigious honors. In addition, she is an IBM Certified Practitioner of Cognitive Solutions.

Dr. Witt is a 26-year American Public Health Association (APHA) member and recently the Chair of the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Section. As an industry leader, she provides thought leadership to over 2,500 maternal and child health professionals. Additionally, Dr. Witt has extensive experience with teaching, mentorship, and service at the graduate level and has held full-time academic appointments at Harvard Medical School, Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.

She earned her Doctorate and Master’s degrees in Health Policy and Management and Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Pediatric Health Services Research at the Harvard University School of Medicine, and a Bachelor’s degree in Law and Women’s Studies at Hampshire College.

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