Emerging Leaders in Healthcare: Lindsay Zimmerman of Upfront Healthcare

MHE PublicationMHE September 2023
Volume 33
Issue 9

Lindsay Zimmerman, Ph.D., M.P.H., vice president of Bartosch Patient Activation Institute at Upfront Healthcare, is one of the 12 up-and-coming leaders in healthcare included in the annual Managed Healthcare Executive feature.

We are thrilled to present this year’s list of 12 emerging leaders in healthcare. Managed Healthcare Executive editors picked the emerging leaders from a list of almost 40 nominees. They come from the full gamut of U.S. healthcare, including companies harnessing the ever-increasing amount of healthcare data, community health worker organizations addressing social determinants of health, and enterprises devoted to improving Medicaid program access and quality. These leaders are tackling the challenges of the 21st century with creativity, dedication and insight. They give us confidence in the future of healthcare.



I earned a Ph.D. in health informatics from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Illinois Chicago in epidemiology. 

Prior to Upfront, I led large-scale projects at health systems, nonprofits and innovation centers focused on optimally leveraging social factors to proactively engage patients to become partners in their healthcare. I also co-founded Socium Health, a National Science Foundation-funded collaborative to research and prototype patient engagement and care coordination solutions.

Career turning point: My perspectives on health and healthcare have been shaped directly by my experiences at Cook County Health (CCH), Chicago’s safety-net hospital, and The Night Ministry, a nonprofit dedicated to providing housing, healthcare and human connection to community members struggling with poverty or homelessness.

At CCH, I witnessed, firsthand, all of the social and neighborhood factors affecting the health of women. To put this in context, I saw how difficult it was for an uninsured mother of two, working three jobs, to afford healthy food to keep her blood pressure under control and to take time off work to attend her monthly checkups. At The Night Ministry, I listened to young people and adults tell their stories about the complex challenges facing them each day and the importance of local, free and accessible healthcare.

Biggest challenge of the job: I lead Upfront’s Bartosch Patient Activation Institute, an applied research center dedicated to solving healthcare’s most complex challenges by combining research, data and design with human insights to achieve best-in-class patient activation outcomes. In this role, I spearhead a specialized team committed to transforming our vision of equitable healthcare into a reality.

The biggest day-to-day challenge is also what makes the work the most rewarding: The problems we’re trying to solve are not simple. This work requires synthesis across multiple fields, a focus on the core principles of behavior change, and an entrepreneurial and iterative mindset. But I am dedicated to minimizing one of the biggest problems in healthcare and our society: inequitable access to care and preventive services. With a lens on improving health equity, I am focused on creating a curated, targeted and human-centered experience to activate all patients to the care they need.

Long-lasting COVID-19 effect: At the height of the pandemic, Hartford HealthCare (HHC) turned to Upfront to lead the charge for connecting Connecticut residents to equitable vaccine access. The goal: to implement a turnkey solution that could engage patients across risk groups and seamlessly connect them to vaccine distribution sites and ensure no patients fell through the cracks. 

The results are a true standout achievement by our team: 2 million patients received personalized microsites and more than 41% of patients engaged with the sites to schedule at least their first dose, a rate four times the industry benchmark. HHC contacted 39% of the Connecticut total population and vaccinated 11% of residents.

What I would change about U.S. healthcare: In the short term, we need to stop blaming patients for social, structural and societal drivers of health. I am consistently surprised by the pervasive narratives in our society blaming the health disparities we see on personal failures and biology. We must consider the larger historical and structural factors that shape the distribution of money, power and resources, which inform individual health behaviors, access to health care and the downstream prevalence of risk factors and health outcomes.

Book everyone in healthcare should read: “An American Sickness” by Elisabeth Rosenthal reviews the perspectives of different stakeholders in the U.S. healthcare system and highlights the misaligned incentives of our current system.

Guilty pleasure: Eating in bed!

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