Black History Month at University Hospital Foundation

Brooke Tippens & Keshia Brandon

Brooke Tippens (left) and Keshia Brandon (right) make up the Community Affairs team at University Hospital where they manage community relations and events. The team hosted 119 community events last year to combat barriers to access to care. They stress that Newark has lots of excellent resources, but many people struggle to access those resources – that’s where Community Affairs comes in. Keshia shares, “we’re out in the community not only to promote the great resources available at University Hospital, but to engage them personally, because being heard and seen in our community is a must for developing trust.” Keshia and Brooke both know trust is essential to doing their job well.

A Newark native, Brooke grew up in the Weequahic Section of the South ward. Throughout her career, she has been committed to impacting and improving lives through community engagement and development. Brooke’s goal at University Hospital is “to change the public’s perception by offering engaging community programs, having honest conversations, and ensuring a strong presence in the community.”

Keshia first came to University Hospital in Patient Care Services and is driven by the golden rule to always treat others as you would yourself. She was drawn to UH by her need to help this community feel worthy of the best care possible.

University Hospital and its Foundation made a commitment to serve this community, and Brooke and Keshia are an integral part of staying true to it. We are proud to work with and honor these two Black women who are building trust and making a tremendous impact on the health of our community.

Dr. Lisa Gittens-Williams

Dr. Lisa Gittens-Williams is Director of Obstetrics at University Hospital, and is the Patient Safety Officer and Director of Quality for OB/GYN. As a professor at Rutgers NJMS, she is dedicated to furthering education on maternal safety and quality, health disparities, and health care in immigrant and underserved populations. In her work, she defines health care gaps, provides clinical expertise, develops programs, and advocates for support addressing health inequity.

A strong believer in the power of community, Dr. Gittens serves on the Advisory Board of Greater Newark Health Care Coalition, Partnership for Maternal and Child Health, and the Advisory Board of the Prematurity Prevention Coalition. She is also the Chair for the NJ section of American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) and chair of the Maternal Health Awareness Day Committee for ACOG District III. The leadership positions and community partnerships are instrumental in her personal mission of improving maternal and child health and addressing health inequity.

Dr. Gittens is proud of her collaboration with the UH Foundation, citing the recent support to promote the CDC’s “Hear Her Campaign” and Maternal Health Awareness Day at UH. The campaign empowers mothers to speak up while reminding healthcare teams to listen. Success is seen each time a team member or mother reports a symptom that ultimately saves a life. “Everyday mothers and babies are saved by support from the Foundation. The Foundation supports my work and allows me to work with purpose.”

Dr. Gittens’ favorite quote is from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” When hearing about Dr. Gittens’ life’s work and her approach to positive change in healthcare, it is obvious she upholds the ideals of Dr. King. We are lucky to count Dr. Gittens, an extraordinary person and example of Black excellence, as a colleague and trusted member of our UH community.

Dr. Onajovwe Fofah

Dr. Onajovwe. O. Fofah is Chief of Service for Pediatrics and Director, Division of Neonatal- Perinatal Medicine at University Hospital. He is Professor and Chair of the department of Pediatrics at Rutgers-NJMS. Dr. Fofah has been with UH since 2005 and is a guiding light for expecting mothers and their children throughout their journey. A pioneer in the partnership with UH its Foundation, he says the partnership “allows us to ensure access to care for all the pediatric patients that we care for at UH from birth to adulthood.”

Dr. Fofah is dedicated to his patients and is always on the lookout for programs that can help him and the entire Pediatrics department to better care for their patients. He is incredibly proud of his work to bring the Lead and Mercury screening program to University Hospital, a free program in partnership with NJ DOH Biomonitoring program with funding from the CDC. This multidisciplinary program ensures screening, early detection, intervention through education, and home Lead abatement and remediation. Screening occurs as part of the mother’s prenatal care and continues at the time of delivery for both mom and baby.  Any babies identified as high-risk continue to receive treatment support with NJ Poison Control and follow up for developmental delay through UH’s Early Intervention Program and receive nutritional support through WIC.

Dr. Fofah’s favorite quote is “The children are our future.” His life’s work deeply reflects his commitment to the quote as a growing number of adult diseases often begin during childhood. He delivers on his promise to a healthier, brighter future for our children with his continued efforts to improve complete care for children. Improving children’s health decreases overall health care costs in the long term and leads to healthier adults who contribute positively to society. We are incredibly proud to have and honor Dr. Fofah as a member of our UH family, a pillar in our community, and a symbol of black merit.

Calvin Ledford, Jr.

Calvin R. Ledford, Jr. is President of the PSE&G Foundation and Director Corporate Social Responsibility at PSE&G, where he has worked for over 35 years. He has served with compassion and commitment on the Board of Trustees for the Foundation of University Hospital since its inception, and currently serves as Vice Chair. He volunteers on numerous other boards including New Jersey Hall of fame, Junior of Achievement of NJ, Newark Regional Business Partnership, and Howard University’s Board of Visitors College of Arts and Sciences. He lives by the motto “seek to understand people, while always assuming positive intent”, believing it vital to ensuring people feel valued and heard.

Calvin knows the collaborative efforts of University Hospital Foundation and its Board of Trustees to raise funds for hospital improvements are crucial for the Hospital’s success and impact on the community. He is inspired by UH’s rich history as an anchor institution in Newark, supporting the community and bringing the interconnection of diversity to build a more inclusive environment. “I am proud to be in a position, along with fellow board members, to prioritize initiatives that directly benefit patients and their families in supporting one of the oldest hospitals in Newark with a long history of accepting African American families. Over the course of my life, family and friends that needed to use the hospitals’ services have always had a positive experience regarding their health care needs.

Calvin has been steadfast and pivotal in key moments in the history of innovative advancements at University Hospital. We are incredibly proud to have his support and guidance and to honor him as a transformative symbol of Black Excellence in our community.