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Helping the Helpers: Penn Medicine CAREs Grants Recipients Bring Community Service Projects to Life


Newswise — PHILADELPHIA—For more than a decade, hundreds of Penn Medicine employees and medical students have used funding from the CAREs grant program to do good in their communities. Penn Medicine’s CAREs grants offer institutional support to employees working with programs and nonprofits in the form of grants that can be used to perform this important work in the community. Whether through providing culturally sensitive care to immigrant populations, supporting early childhood literacy, or helping those experiencing food insecurity, 31 grantees have received funding to support new or recurring projects this past quarter.

The latest projects include Books4Brains: My First Library, a book program at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania’s intensive care nursery (ICN). Started through a CAREs grant in 2021, the program promotes reading to infants, which often improves their future language, reading, and math skills. The program also connects the families to their neighborhood’s local libraries and neighborhood reading captains as part of Read by 4th, a Free Library of Philadelphia-led coalition of family, community, and systems leaders working together to increase the number of students in Philadelphia entering the 4th grade at reading level. In its first year, Books4Brains distributed approximately 1,500 books. Grantee Whitney Zachritz, MSN, CRNP, RN, a clinical practice leader VI at the intensive care unit at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, will purchase more than 300 new books for the program.

“It’s never too early to start reading! The amount and quality of language a child hears on a daily basis influences their language development,” Zachritz said. “Our program goal is to not only promote language nutrition and family bonding while in the intensive care unit by handing out books, but also to lay the foundation for family literacy and connect families to the larger reading community through their local libraries and reading captains.”

Another project from Rebecca Brodie, BSN, an OB/GYN nurse with Clinical Practices of the University of Pennsylvania (CPUP), involves a group called Seeds for Speech. For the past five years, Rebecca has volunteered at the C.W. Henry School garden in Northwest Philadelphia. The garden was established to provide farm and science lessons, along with fresh produce for the school’s community. In cooperation with the school’s speech/language pathologist, volunteers plan to establish a seed-starting station and gardening library. Through the CAREs grant, the program will purchase a seedling cart, seed starting sets, books, and other materials for the garden.

“Seeds for Speech integrates access to healthy food with the development of oral language and STEM activities for kindergarten, first grade, and second grade students who are receiving special education services,” Brodie said. “Through the program, and with help from CAREs, we’re offering students a great hands-on way to learn while producing healthy food for their community at the same time.”

Other Penn Medicine CAREs grant recipients this quarter include:

  • Alliance Restoration Center: Iris Emery, an executive assistant with the Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center Foundation, volunteers at Alliance Restoration Center, which is the combined effort of two New Jersey churches. The organization’s goals are to have a food pantry distribute food once a month to 160 families and to teach English as a second language (ESL) courses. Emery’s funding will go support the food pantry, along with helping to purchase school supplies, bedding, clothing, and basic hygiene kits.
  • Girls on the Go: For the last three years, Jessica Fishman, PhD, director of the Message Effects Lab at the Annenberg School and associate fellow with the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics with a joint appointment in the Perelman School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, has volunteered with Girls on the Go, a nonprofit, tax-deductible 501(c)(3) dedicated to providing free period products directly to students living in Philadelphia’s homeless shelters. Fishman and other volunteers, which include her two teenage daughters, will use this funding to purchase sanitary pads and tampons, which will support menstrual cycles — and months of freedom — for adolescents who might otherwise have been unable to leave their homeless shelters.
  • Penn Evening Clinic at African Family Health Organization: Hadja Diallo, CNM, a nurse midwife in Obstetrics and Gynecology, volunteers for a collaboration between Penn and the African Family Health Organization clinic, which seeks to provide culturally sensitive health, human, and educational services to African and Caribbean immigrants and refugees in the Greater Philadelphia area. Diallo works closely with Michael Beers, MD, the Robert L. Mayock & David A. Cooper Professor in Pulmonary Medicine and lead physician for the clinic. Diallo’s CAREs grant funding will go towards the purchase of point of care glucose testing, laboratory blood collection supplies, personal protection equipment, and other crucial items.

Since the Penn Medicine CAREs grant program launched in 2012, it has supported staff, faculty, students, and trainees across the organization in helping their communities. Over that time, the program has provided more than $960,000 in funding to over 975 service initiatives across the regions Penn Medicine serves.

To view all of the recent CARES Grant recipients, visit For more information on the CAREs Grant or community outreach programs, visit


Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, excellence in patient care, and community service. The organization consists of the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Penn’s Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine, founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school.

The Perelman School of Medicine is consistently among the nation’s top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $550 million awarded in the 2022 fiscal year. Home to a proud history of “firsts” in medicine, Penn Medicine teams have pioneered discoveries and innovations that have shaped modern medicine, including recent breakthroughs such as CAR T cell therapy for cancer and the mRNA technology used in COVID-19 vaccines.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities stretch from the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania to the New Jersey shore. These include the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Chester County Hospital, Lancaster General Health, Penn Medicine Princeton Health, and Pennsylvania Hospital—the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.

Penn Medicine is an $11.1 billion enterprise powered by more than 49,000 talented faculty and staff.




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