Press Release

Mary Pittman is Recognized as One of the 100 Most Influential People by Modern Healthcare

The Public Health Institute is proud to announce that its president and chief executive officer Mary A. Pittman, DrPH, has been recognized by Modern Healthcare as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare for 2021. Mary was chosen for her strategic thinking and leadership of PHI through the COVID-19 pandemic and her long work as an influential voice in public health practice and policy.

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Mary Pittman

Oakland, CA – The Public Health Institute is proud to announce that its president and chief executive officer Mary A. Pittman, DrPH, has been recognized by Modern Healthcare as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare for 2021. 

Under Mary’s unflagging leadership, PHI has effectively and nimbly become one of the leading independent non-profits working to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Through her strategic thinking and ability to pivot staff, programs and work to address the pandemic, PHI has more than doubled in size and budget over the last year and a half. She has led PHI’s work in partnership with more than 2400 grassroots organizations and community based organizations (CBOs) in 29 states and 220 counties, to support vaccination equity access, partnering with trusted messengers in communities of color and rural, immigrant/migrant and low-income older adult populations. In California, PHI quickly became the leading organization that more than 20 major California foundations looked to for leading outreach on COVID-19 testing and vaccine delivery. Mary has also played a vital role in building the public health workforce: PHI hired more than 670 COVID case investigators and contact tracers – 60% come from the communities they serve and 93% are bi- or multilingual. During COVID, as some communities’ saw death rates from opioid addiction skyrocket, under Mary’s leadership PHI received state funding to expand its successful work in bringing access to medication assisted treatment to 200 hospitals across California. From the outset of the pandemic, Mary guided PHI through its swift implementation of initiatives that stopped COVID transmission, helped administer hundreds of thousands of vaccines, and saved lives.

Mary has long been known as an influential voice in health practice and policy and for her leadership in creating healthier communities. She works closely with other state and national leaders and advocates for accounting for the social determinants of health in all of PHI’s work, to better address health disparities and inequities. She also has long worked to highlight the intersection of community health and prevention with healthcare, focusing on moving upstream to address the root causes of disease. Under her leadership, PHI has emphasized support for the Affordable Care Act and the Prevention and Public Health Fund, the integration of new technologies, the expansion of global health programming, addressing health workforce shortages, and taking on the impacts of climate change on public health.

“Mary was uniquely positioned to tackle the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic with innovative approaches reflecting her deep commitment to health equity and social justice,” noted Dr. Molly Coye, former state health officer of California and New Jersey and former chair of the board of the American Public Health Association. “Drawing on a lifetime of service that began with the epidemic HIV epidemic in San Francisco in the 80’s, included directorship of the California Association of Public Hospitals and the American Hospital Association Health Education and Research Trust, and culminated with the broad domestic and international programs of the Public Health Institute, Mary represents the very best of public health leadership.”

This prestigious recognition program acknowledges and honors individuals who are deemed by their peers and the senior editors of Modern Healthcare to be the most influential individuals in the industry, in terms of leadership and impact. 

“Last year’s complexity is reflected in our 2021 Most Influential People in Healthcare honorees. The year was dominated with vaccines that promised a return to normal. But that treatment faced ire and rejection from some, creating divisions in communities and even the healthcare workforce,” said Modern Healthcare editor Aurora Aguilar. “Meanwhile, the financial sector threw around its weight in healthcare, causing some pushback from the industry and regulators who say private equity and venture capital’s goals conflict with healthcare’s mission. Still, there’s no denying that new players affected the business of healthcare in 2021.”  

The complete ranking can be found in this week’s issue of Modern Healthcare magazine, and a feature article and profiles of the winners are available at

Originally published by Modern Healthcare

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