Category: Health and Health Care

3 - The Power of Community Partnerships in Advancing Health Literacy in Older Americans

Hospitals and health groups are keenly interested in improving the health of Americans as they age. Healthcare delivery organizations cannot solve this issue alone. Community organizations bring in years of experience, knowledge, and trust among their constituents. Hospital and community partnerships can  leverage public with private resources, and focus available resources on a community’s most important health needs[1].

 In concert with the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy, Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) of Northern Virginia, and Mount Vernon at Home have partnered to leverage their reach and resources through a program called ACTIVE (Adult Community That is Very Energetic). ACTIVE is a community outreach program designed to provide activities and health information to the senior population of the northern Virginia area. Inova Mount Vernon Hospital is located in an area with over 17,500 Americans aged over 65 [2], making it a ripe test site for ACTIVE.  Activities over its inaugural year have included: exercises, Medicare eligibility, healthy living lectures, and nutritional cooking demos.

In its introductory year ACTIVE saw high interest: averaging approximately 30 attendees per month, and receiving consistently high satisfaction in surveys. Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, Mount Vernon at Home, and AARP’s continued collaboration demonstrates the importance of leveraging community partners in tackling the health issues of today.


[1]           R. Weech-Maldonado, K. J. Benson, and L. D. Gamm, “Evaluating the effectiveness of community health partnerships: a stakeholder accountability approach.,” J. Health Hum. Serv. Adm., vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 58–92, 2001.

[2]           “QuickFacts Alexandria city, Virginia (County),” U.S. Census Bureau, USA, Jul. 2016.


Thomas Pianta

Chief Growth Officer
Inova Mount Vernon Hospital
Alexandria, Virginia

Tom Pianta has over 25 years of experience in clinical healthcare, healthcare management, clinical trial management, and business development. Tom has worked extensively with physicians, scientists, administrators, government, and pharmaceutical industry professionals.

Tom is currently the Chief Strategic Growth Officer for Inova Mount Vernon Hospital in Alexandria, VA. In this role, Tom leads the strategy and business development functions for a community hospital.

Tom has held previous roles in healthcare administration, consulting, and government contracting for CMS. Tom has been a member of the Maryland Council on Heart Disease and Stroke, and the reporting design committee for GBR for the MD HSCRC. Tom was elected the charter President of the newly-formed Maryland State Quality Improvement Council for Stroke.

Mr. Pianta received a Master of Physical Therapy degree from Emory University School of Medicine in 1990. Tom received a Bachelor of Science as an Honors Scholar in Psychology from The University of Connecticut in 1986.

Amber SultaneNightengale

Associate State Director for Community Outreach
AARP Virginia

Amber Sultane is the Associate State Director for Community Outreach for AARP Virginia. She leads community outreach and education projects, organizes local events, and recruits, trains, and engages AARP members as community volunteers. Prior to joining AARP in 2001, Amber worked on Capitol Hill as a Legislative Assistant to Congressman Bobby Scott of Virginia. She has worked on electoral campaigns in Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey and she was one of the first participants in AmeriCorps’ National Civilian Community Corps, a nationwide community service program.

Curt McCormick

Marketing Executive
Inova Mount Vernon Hospital

Curt McCormick serves as the Marketing and Communications Executive at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital in Alexandria, VA. In this role he has lead marketing responsibilities for all hospital marketing, communications and community outreach activities.

Among the major service lines Curt supports at the hospital are the Inova Joint Replacement Service, the Inova Rehabilitation Center, and the Inova Wound Healing Center. Curt also leads marketing efforts at the Inova HealthPlex – Lorton, a full service 24/7 emergency facility administered by Inova Mount Vernon Hospital.
Prior to his time at Inova, Curt served as the Director of Communications for MedStar Health and the MedStar Health Research Institute, in Columbia, MD. In this role Curt had lead communications and media relations responsibilities for the Baltimore and DC region’s largest healthcare provider.
Curt brings a long and proven track record of healthcare marketing and communications experience to his role at Inova, including his time in previous positions at Geisinger Health in Danville, PA, Providence Hospital in Washington, DC, and with the American Hospital Association in Washington, DC.

Barbara Sullivan

Executive Director
Mount Vernon At Home

Barbara Hughes Sullivan was born and raised in Ocean City, NJ. She attended George Washington University, in which she earned a BA degree in Business. In 1985 she married Barry Sullivan, moved to the Mount Vernon District and raised three sons. In 2001, she joined Paul Spring Retirement Community to head the marketing/business development team. She focused on senior issues and continued her education in the area of eldercare. In 2008, she passed her certification with the Commonwealth of Virginia, Board of Long-Term Care Administrators In May of 2010, As an advisor, she was active in the growing village movement to help seniors stay in their homes. She served on MVAH Board of Directors from 2008 to January 2010 and was appointed as Executive Director of Mount Vernon At Home in August of 2010.

Ms. Sullivan served on the Board of Directors for the Mount Vernon Lee Chamber, was voted President and Chairman of the Board in 2006, 2007. She was awarded the Pro-Aging Award by the Guide to Retirement Living, Honoring Exceptional Professionals in the Field of Aging, and in 2008, the Citizen of the Year award from the Mount Vernon Lee Chamber of Commerce. In 2011, Ms. Sullivan was awarded the honor of Lady Fairfax for the Mount Vernon District. She is an active member with the Chamber outreach programs, Social Justice ministries for seniors at Good Shepherd Church and former Chairman of the Board for the Inova Mount Vernon Hospital Development Council and current member of Inova Mt Vernon Patient Advisory Council. Barbara currently serves as the Co-Convener of Ventures in Community, a faith based and nonprofit consortium based in Fairfax County. She also serves as Co-President of WAVE, Washington Area Village Exchange.

Nygel Williams

Graduate Student in Masters in Healthcare Administration
University of Maryland

Nygel holds a bachelor's of science in health science from Saint Louis University (Go Billikens!). Currently, he is an administrative intern at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital where he handles a variety of projects including the Inova and AARP ACTIVE program for older adults. Prior to starting his MHA at Maryland, Nygel spent a year as the Villers Fellow for Health Care Justice at Families USA in Washington, DC.During his time as the Villers Fellow, Nygel worked on national health care policy issues including Affordable Care Act policy, Medicaid, and health equity; contributing to a variety of blogs, fact sheets, and issue briefs. In addition to his policy work, Nygel provided technical assistance to state advocates and enrollment assisters to advance health issues at the state level across the US. Nygel is incredibly passionate about health and health care, especially for African-Americans and veterans. He worked with the Legacy Leadership Institute for Public Policy, connecting retirement age Maryland residents with the opportunity to serve their community as part of the state legislature. In addition, Nygel served on the Graduate Student Government as the Vice President for Community Development. When he's not studying or working, Nygel loves to cook and is an avid sports fan.

Sheila Barnes

Director of Administrative Services
Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, Virginia

Sheila Barnes has been the Director of Administrative Services for Inova Mount Vernon Hospital for over twenty years. Ms Barnes leads the Medical Staff Office as well as Volunteer Services. She directs, coordinates, and facilitates the operational affairs of the 550 member Medical Staff comprised of departments of Anesthesiology, Emergency Medicine, Family Practice, Hospitalist, Medicine, Mental Health, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Pathology, Pediatrics, Radiology and Surgery.

Ms Barnes is also responsible for the strategic growth, business planning and fundraising development of the Inova Mount Vernon Hospital Auxiliary. Partner with the IMVHA Board of Directors to annually raise over $300,000.00 annually in support of the hospital. This is accomplished through community events, vendor sales, a Thrift Shop and a Gift Shop.

Ms Barnes has her BBA and MBA degrees from Concordia College.