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Dr. Stella  Safo

Dr. Stella Safo

HIV Primary Care Physician & Founder of Just Equity for Health

Dr. Stella Safo

HIV Primary Care Physician & Founder of Just Equity for Health


"Dr. Safo is an exceptional speaker. Our only wish was that we had more time with her during her speaking engagements so she could elaborate even further on her explanations and examples. She is an incredibly inspiring speaker—her combination of authenticity, candor and powerful intellect dazzles her audiences."

- New York State HIV Primary Care and Prevention Conference

"This is the kind of speaker we should be having for grand rounds. She gave a fantastic presentation with so much useful info that should have been seen by everyone in the Department. I would highly recommend Dr. Safo to colleagues in the future. She is compelling, kind, responsive and thoughtful in her presentations and handles the audience with care and respect."

- San Francisco Department of Public Health

A board-certified practicing HIV primary care physician and public health practitioner, Dr. Stella Safo is dedicated to ensuring everyone has access to the best healthcare. As a Black woman practicing medicine, Dr. Stella Safo knows firsthand that systemic inequities are baked into healthcare delivery. That’s why redesigning our healthcare system to ensure that everyone has access to the best care is her life’s passion. She believes that now is the time to call attention to and to work hard to address those inequities.

And that is exactly what she has done. Dr. Safo is a Ghanaian-American, board-certified practicing HIV primary care physician and public health practitioner who has led teams dedicated to healthcare improvement in various settings. In 2021, Dr. Safo created Just Equity for Health, a health care improvement company that uses advocacy, education and care model design to ensure equitable care delivery across all sectors of medicine.

Trained at Harvard for her B.A., M.D. and M.P.H., she completed internal medicine training at Montefiore’s Primary Care Social Medicine program with a fellowship in HIV care through the HIV Medicine Association.

As the former Senior Medical Director for Clinical Transformation at Mount Sinai Health System, Dr. Safo and a multidisciplinary team oversaw the system-wide redesign of Sinai’s 50+ primary care practices. This work included leading a practice transformation team to work within Sinai’s diverse eight-hospital system and launching a year-long learning collaborative of physicians and staff to share real-time insights.

She then went on to lead a national health care consulting research group as Chief Clinical Transformation Officer at Premier Inc. There, she oversaw the Applied Science and Implementation Research teams that utilized Premier’s large health care database and real-world research to identify novel clinical findings that impact patient care. These findings were translated to health systems across the U.S. through a health care leaders collaborative that Dr. Safo led.

Currently, Dr. Safo is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Mount Sinai where she holds dual appointments in Medicine and Medical Education. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Montefiore Medical System where she serves as the current Director for the Social Medicine Curriculum. Her research areas focus on qualitative analyses of challenges to healthcare delivery for vulnerable populations around the world. She has lectured nationally and continues to teach and mentor students and trainees. In addition to consulting on projects around equitable care model design and to a commitment to social justice work, Dr. Safo also provides clinical care to HIV+ and LGBTQ+ patients in New York.

She also continues to be an advocate for gender and racial equity in medicine. In 2019, she joined seven of her colleagues in filing a federal lawsuit against Mount Sinai Health System for gender, age and race discrimination. Through her efforts, she has become a national voice on how to address racism and sexism in medicine, and this collective activism led to the New York City Council passing legislation in 2021 to create a Gender and Racial Equity Advisory Committee. She has continued these efforts with ongoing advocacy to ensure antiracist policies are enacted on the federal level, through her efforts with the Coalition to Advance Antiracism in Medicine.

In addition to being published in several peer-reviewed journals, including JAMA Open Network and AIDS and Behavior, Dr. Safo has written for such popular medical media as STAT and KevinMD.com on gender equity and physician wellness. Her advocacy efforts have been featured in The New York Times, AP News, and The Wall Street Journal. Her television appearances include MSNBC, CNN, Black News Network, Yahoo Finance and Cheddar.

In 2020, Modern Healthcare named Dr. Safo one of that year’s Minority Clinicians to Watch and she was named as a notable figure in healthcare by Crain in 2021. She is a current New York Academy of Medicine Fellow.

Speaker Videos

Coronavirus Vaccine: Patients Most Concerned are African American and Latino | Yahoo

On COVID-19 Third Vaccine

Ready to Exhale | Micro Self Care with Dr. Stella Safo

Speech Topics

Health Equity: Giving Everyone the Opportunity for Good Health

Is it possible to create a healthcare system where health equity—loosely defined as the attainment of good health for all--is embedded into all aspects of care? Unequivocally, yes, says Dr. Stella Safo. In this keynote, the HIV primary care physician, public health practitioner and founder of Just Equity for Health shares how health inequities impact patient care and an organization's mission. Why is health equity, with its current diversity, equity and inclusion focus, bound to fail in corporate and healthcare settings if it does not include patients at the design table, she asks? Using examples of gender and racial equity, Dr. Safo explores how we can move from theoretical discussions of implementing equitable care to actual, real-world experiences that positively impact patient lives.

Improving Healthcare Delivery Through Lessons From Infectious Diseases

Infectious diseases in the form of epidemics and pandemics may be the new normal as our world changes. Rather than fearing them, there are lessons from communicable diseases management that may inform how healthcare is designed for chronic diseases and acute care delivery. Drawing from the lessons of COVID-19 and Mpox (formerly monkeypox) and rooted in her work as an HIV clinician and advocate, Dr. Stella Safo shares some lessons we can glean from HIV/AIDS for improved healthcare design, including how to co-design healthcare with impacted communities; how to allow the lived experience of marginalized groups shape health delivery legislation; and methods to prevent healthcare worker burnout through advocacy and system changes.

For Us, For Them: Health Equity, Climate Change & the Urgency of Now

The impact of climate change and environmental pollutants on health is lasting and affects historically marginalized communities in particular. Using a health equity lens, HIV Primary Care Physician, Public Health Practitioner and Founder of Just Equity for Health Dr. Stella Safo explores how climate change and environmental pollutants reflect the systemic disinvestments in the health of populations by race, geography and class. Dr. Safo will use lived experience and real-world cases to examine how community and healthcare worker advocacy can address the inequitable impact of climate change on health. This keynote will provide a health justice framework that empowers listeners to engage in the root-cause analysis work needed to collectively slow the differential impact of climate change on the health of communities.

Overcoming Healthcare & Public Health Worker Burnout Through Civic Engagement & Advocacy

Healthcare workers and public health practitioners are facing burnout in record numbers, leading to scarcity in the healthcare and public health workforce. Causes for burnout include years of disempowerment, the corporatization of healthcare, distrust in public health services and a growing administrative burden not supported by adequate reimbursement models. Without a robust healthcare and public health workforce, the health of our communities, especially for those who have been historically marginalized, will worsen. Yet, it does not need to be the path forward, as giving healthcare and public health practitioners tools for advocacy is one way to maintain their investment in care. In this keynote, Dr. Stella Safo, HIV primary care physician, public health practitioner and founder of Just Equity for Health, discusses how civic engagement can decrease burnout and return healthcare and public health practitioners to what matters the most — helping the sick and safeguarding the public's health. She'll offer evidence-based and lived-experience examples of how civic engagement can be rolled out in health spaces, including nonpartisan voter engagement activities and letter-writing to elected officials.

More Than a Talking Point: Advancing Equity in the Workplace

Corporations that have cultures of diversity, equity and inclusion are thriving. When everyone is included and all voices are heard, there are higher rates of engagement, productivity and innovation. And yet, many companies have never gone past the talking stage when it comes to implementing DEI programs that result in appreciable improvements. Using examples of gender and racial equity, Dr. Stella Safo, HIV primary care physician, public health practitioner and founder of Just Equity for Health, explores how we can move from theoretical discussions to implementing antiracism and gender equity-based programs and operations. Doing so, Dr. Safo says, will improve employee engagement and strengthen long-term retention. 

Storytelling and Advocacy: Tools to Change the World

Sharing her own story of growing up poor in West Africa to receiving her undergraduate, medical and public health degrees from Harvard University and establishing her own healthcare improvement company, Dr. Stella Safo discusses how individuals' stories and lived experiences can galvanize leaders, organizations and elected officials to make changes that improve healthcare for all. She'll cover how her work for civic engagement in healthcare is organizing public health and healthcare workers to take a more active role in addressing the social determinants of health issues that negatively impact their patients' overall health and well-being. Dr. Safo will also draw lessons from her work advocating for policy change in the New York City and state legislatures to protect women and minority healthcare workers from workplace discrimination. This talk can be tailored to students, medical trainees, junior healthcare and public health workers interested in learning how the power of their voices and advocacy can help change the world.