The principal of EFS Supervision Strategies, LLC, will work with the RISE Association to help guide our Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) Community.

Ellen Fink-Samnick, MSW, ACSW, LCSW, CCM, CRP, DBH(s), a national expert on SDoH, will offer RISE content guidance to empower growth of SDoH educational offerings and overall program efforts. She will also serve as the chair of the annual RISE Summit on Social Determinants of Health.

Fink-Samnick’s experience with SDoH dates to her first job as a social worker in East New York in the mid-1980s at the cusp of AIDS and HIV. Although the community was once home to a thriving middle-to-upper class population, when she began to work there in 1983 the area had rapidly transformed into neighborhoods with an aging population that lived among gang violence, drug users, and poverty.

Back then, and like now, she found success bridging the gaps focused on honest discussions with community partners, other facilities, and other professionals about the problems within the community and how they could work together to leverage what they all brought to the table and improve the lives they served. 

Her career later would take her to Queens Hospital Center, where she ran one of the largest hospital-based AIDS programs in the New York Metropolitan Area.  Like all health care organizations across the country, she worked to address the needs of a poor, disenfranchised, and vulnerable population. Once again, success involved the same approach she used as a social worker: “We sit down, we start talking the same language, we share our challenges, we share our opportunities, and we brainstorm about where we can access funding,” she said.

Those discussions led to her hospital receiving the first Ryan White grant for $500,000 to grow a coalition and interagency clinic to serve a gap in service for AIDS and HIV patients. Eventually, she moved to the metro Washington, DC area, where she worked with patients in that region to address their needs.

“Every population I have worked with has somehow been a face of the social determinants,” she said. “If ever there has been a time for every sector of the community to work together and define new ways, new funding, new resources, new program planning, new ways to have interoperability to make it better for the patients and the populations and the communities we serve, the time is now. And I think this community can do that and make a meaningful difference.”

Although social determinants have been around for centuries, Fink-Samnick said the hospital industry began to pay serious attention to them when the Affordable Care Act established readmission penalties through the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program in 2012. COVID-19 has now amplified all the gaps and barriers that exist between the “haves and have-nots.” The have-not population has grown bigger due to the pandemic. Millions of people are unemployed, lack health insurance, and face food and housing insecurity.

“I would go as far as to say the face of social determinants is now the norm rather than the exception of our health care population,” she said.

Despite the challenges, Fink-Samnick sees opportunity for improvement because it forces the industry, collectively, to truly address the social determinants of health. And the SDoH Community, she said, can spearhead the movement.

“We can make things happen and create sustainable, value-driven, actionable plans together.”

7 things to know about Ellen Fink-Samnick

1. Entrepreneur: She started her business, EFS Supervision Strategies, LLC, in Burke, Virginia, 16 years ago after a long career in social work and case management. The company offers organizational training, mentoring, and consultation services to empower the interprofessional workforce.

2. Life-long learner: Ellen is currently a Doctor of Behavioral Health student with the Cummings Graduate Institute of Behavioral Health Studies. She expects to earn her degree in June 2023. She obtained her BA in Sociology and MSW-Clinical Practice, School of Social Work from the State University of New York at Buffalo and earned her post-graduate certificates in administration and supervision from the Hunter College School of Social Work.

She also holds several professional licensing and certifications, including Board Certified Case Manager, Commission for Case Manager Certification (CCMC); Academy of Certified Social Workers, National Association of Social Workers; Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Commonwealth of Virginia, and Certified Rehabilitation Provider, Commonwealth of Virginia.

Her academic affiliations include roles as subject matter expert for Western Governors University, and adjunct faculty for the University of Buffalo’s School of Social Work, and George Mason University’s Department of Social Work.

3. Prolific writer: Ellen has authored countless articles and several books, including The Essential Guide to Interprofessional Ethics for Healthcare Case Management, The Social Determinants of Health: Case Management's Next Frontier, and the soon-to-be-released End of Life Care for Case Management. She also is a regular contributor to RAC Monitor and ICD 10 Monitor.

4. Speaker extraordinaire: Ellen is a sought-after speaker for national conferences. You can hear her regularly through her work as a panelist for Monitor Mondays and Talk Ten Tuesdays.

5. Well-known moderator: In her spare time, she moderates Ellen’s Ethical LensTM on LinkedIn and Case Managers Community for the Case Management Institute.

6. Award winner:  She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Award of Service Excellence (2016) from the Case Management Society of America (CMSA), Distinguished Case Manager of the Year (2002); Case Management Society of the National Capital Area; Distinguished Master Social Work Alumni (2017) University at Buffalo: School of Social Work.

7. Social media maven: You can follow Ellen on LinkedIn: Ellen’s Ethical Lens; Twitter:@epflcswccm and the Blog: Ellen’s Ethical Lens