Arturo Brito, MD, MPH, is the new CEO of The Nicholson Foundation. A community pediatrician with a background in public health, Brito formerly worked as Medical Director and Senior Vice President of the Children’s Health Fund in New York City and, most recently, Deputy Commissioner of Health in New Jersey.
When did you decide that your focus on improving the lives of children would reach beyond the traditional pediatrician’s office?
My interest has always been in making a difference, and as a pediatrician I learned that by making a difference in a child you can have positive life-long impact. My focus on vulnerable populations first developed in medical school at the University of South Florida, where disparities in healthcare and associated outcomes among different populations were evident. And my own experiences as a minority have also been influential. I was born in Cuba and spent most of the first seven years of my life in Nicaragua before coming to the United States. As a family, while we had many struggles. We persevered because of my parents’ resourcefulness and their commitment to my brothers and me.
How does your background — as both a clinician and as a physician working in public health — inform your work at The Nicholson Foundation?
Clinically and administratively, I have always worked with vulnerable populations, and I’ve seen firsthand the varied health challenges facing different people. I’ve worked in southwestern Alaska with Yup’ik eskimos, in South Florida with uninsured children and families, and in other parts of the country in both rural and urban communities. These experiences have helped me understand that, to make an impact, innovation is needed and must be tailored to the situation on the ground. What drew me to The Nicholson Foundation was this very focus on helping vulnerable populations through innovative approaches.
What is your vision now for The Nicholson Foundation?
One of the first things we did when I arrived was to look at our goals and objectives and create a framework for a strategic plan focused on the Foundation’s two priority areas, health and early childhood. We want to maximize our resources by aiming to make the biggest impact we can. We want to use our communication strategies to help others understand the plight of vulnerable populations in New Jersey. When people think of New Jersey, they think of wealth, not of poverty, but there are significant pockets of poverty here that are not getting needed attention. We are driven to make sure those voices are heard.
What role do you see foundations in New Jersey playing to improve health and healthcare?
I’m encouraged to see more and more foundations working as partners with grantees these days, rather than simply writing a check and waiting for the outcomes to develop. This is another aspect of The Nicholson Foundation that drew me here — the technical assistance given to grantees, especially looking at outcome data that’s meaningful and can really demonstrate impact.
When you are not working, what are you passions? What will you be doing on a sunny afternoon off?
I love to spend as much time as possible outdoors, hiking, just having some time to relax and think about life. I also love reading a good book in an array of topics – anything from fiction to life stories, and of course medically-oriented books. I find that inspiration for new ideas on how to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable populations comes from all kinds of sources. A book that may not be directly related to health care may nonetheless inspire me to think about healthcare in a different way.