Delaware’s largest health care system Christiana Care recently filled a number of important leadership positions across their organization, including the election of Penny Saridakis as Chair of the Trustees. Saridakis got involved with Christiana Care after a career in banking, stemming from a desire to help the hospital that had helped so many friends and family members with cancer and other serious illnesses. Intrigued by the hospital’s cancer work as well as its efforts to inspire healthy eating and lifestyles, Saridakis approached Christiana Care in 2009 to see what she could do to help.
Saridakis’s volunteer activity with Christiana included serving as co-chair of The Friends of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute from 2009 to 2014, and last year, with fellow trustees, she launched the Young Friends of Christiana Care, a program for high school students that focuses on leadership, learning and philanthropy.
TSD spoke with Saridakis to hear about plans for her tenure as lead Trustee.
Town Square Delaware: Please tell us what the Trustees do on behalf of Christiana.
Penny Saridakis: The Trustees of Christiana Care Health System is an engaged and diverse group of community representatives committed to advancing Christiana Care’s mission as volunteers, advisors, philanthropists and advocates. As someone who has now been involved with the Trustees for a few years, I am continually impressed with the expertise, passion and energy that Members bring to their roles.
Trustees are involved in a number of activities in the community, ranging from supporting educational initiatives to providing philanthropic support to programs dedicated to the health of our neighbors and our state.
Over the years, the Trustees have had a positive impact in the community through the work of leadership councils at Christiana Care. In particular, the Friends of Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute has raised over $2 million in support of forward-looking programs, including the Center for Translational Cancer Research and the Special Needs Fund.
This past fall, the Friends changed up the annual fundraiser into something more informative, and I am proud to say the evening was an enormous success. At our “Evening of Hope” some 200 attendees learned about advances in gene editing and the potential impact on curing disease and raised more than $100,000 to benefit the cutting edge work of the Gene Editing Institute at the Graham Cancer Center.
Some Trustees also serve on the Heart & Vascular Leadership Council, which has supported an innovative program called the Blood Pressure Ambassadors, whose goal is to reach at-risk individuals in their neighborhoods and to improve cardiovascular health through blood pressure screenings.
There are also Leadership Councils comprised of trustees and community friends which support women’s and children’s health, and the Swank Memory Care Center, Delaware’s first and only comprehensive outpatient center for patients with memory disorders and their families.
TSD: What are your goals as Chair?
Saridakis: My primary goal as Trustee Chair is to continue to build on the successes of the Trustees. I believe that when people are passionate about a particular cause, it drives their engagement and ultimately their impact in our community. I want to continue to work with the Trustees to support our community in ways they find rewarding and that advance Christiana Care’s mission of service. As Trustees, we have the responsibility — and the privilege — of serving as ambassadors for Christiana Care, to elevate awareness, encourage engagement and inspire support for this health system that touches so many of our lives and stands ready to do so today and every day.
3. TSD: What drives your personal interest in health care, and how did you become involved as a supporter of Christiana Care?
Saridakis: As a native Delawarean, I focus my efforts on helping to improve the quality of life in Delaware. I’ve come to know that Delaware’s small size creates powerful opportunities for us to have a real impact. While many of the Trustees do not touch the lives of patients directly, they do have the ability to impact our community.
Throughout my life, I’ve known many people who faced cancer and other illnesses. I decided to get involved with the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute to see what I could do to increase prevention awareness and help raise funds for valuable research taking place at the Center.
In the past nine years of my involvement with Christiana Care, I have experienced the positive impact of our efforts. Christiana Care is a national leader in eliminating health care disparities, particularly in cancer. They are the ideal of optimal quality and safety, as recognized by consecutive Everest Awards, and Christiana Care is a dedicated community partner, as demonstrated through health-based social programs such as Camp FRESH for at-risk teens and the First State School for students who are medically fragile.
TSD: When you are asking for support for the hospital, what will be your key messages?
Saridakis: Christiana Care is a respectful, expert, caring partner in the health of its patients and is an integral part of our community now and in the future.
Under the leadership of President and CEO Dr. Janice Nevin, Christiana Care Health System is committed to ensuring that patients have an exceptional experience and receive care of the highest safety and quality. What may be news to most people is that Christiana Care Health System is also dedicated to keeping the community healthy even outside the walls of the hospital. They proactively educate our community on how to eat healthy and live active lifestyles in programs such as Camp Fresh for teenagers, the Women’s Health Lecture Series, and Dance Your Heart Out, a wonderful community health fair and dance party. Christiana Care also educates young people about making safe choices in violence-prevention programs such as You Only Live Once.
To improve the health of our community in other innovative ways, Christiana Care is leading efforts to transform the entire health care delivery system. A particularly exceptional example is Care Link, Christiana Care’s unique care management program that harnesses information technology to assess health data on an individual, from clinical activity to lab results to pharmaceutical use, to identify and act on relevant predictive patterns and influence the path of an individual’s care, in real time.
Christiana Care is leading the way to ensure that people in the community receive the right level of health care at the right time and in the right place. That is why I find this work so inspirational and why I welcome my friends and neighbors to join me in this rewarding effort.
TSD: Tell us something people might not know about Penny Saridakis!
Saridakis: I gave birth to 4 children in 19 months – the math only makes sense when there are multiples involved!
Penny Saridakis was formerly Vice President, Global Marketing at MasterCard International in New York and has a BA in Economics from Boston College and an MBA from Columbia University. After having four children — a son and then triplets — she has increasingly focused on quality of life issues; health, in particular. As a past contributor to Town Square Delaware, Saridakis authored several articles about health and nutrition.
Saridakis is a past member of the board of directors of the Grand Opera House, has worked on the last two Holiday House Tours for the Delaware Art Museum and co-chaired the 2016 tour, and is a past Board Member of the Delaware Theatre Company. Penny and her husband Chris can often be seen on the banks of the Christina River cheering on two of their children who are involved with the Wilmington Youth Rowing Association.