Keynote Speakers + Presenters (2018)

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Neal Bisno, Executive Vice President, SEIU

Neal Bisno was elected Executive Vice President of SEIU in May 2016 after serving as president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, the state’s largest union of nurses and healthcare workers, representing nearly 25,000 front-line staff in hospitals, nursing homes, home and community-based services, and state facilities. Bisno has been working in the labor movement since 1989 and his efforts have helped thousands of nurses and healthcare workers improve their work environment and the care they provide to their patients.

Since 1995, Bisno has helped quadruple the size of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania through a relentless focus on organizing and by driving long-term strategy to turn the politics of the state around, helping thousands of hospital and long term care workers win $15/hour.

Bisno is known as the primary architect of Act 102 of 2008, the landmark law prohibiting mandatory overtime for Pennsylvania healthcare workers. Under his leadership, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania members were major grassroots advocates for passage of the Affordable Care Act and helped lead the successful fight to expand Medicaid in Pennsylvania, which extended lifesaving healthcare coverage to 500,000 uninsured residents.

Bisno lives in Pittsburgh with his partner Lisa Frank and their son, Sam.


Elisabeth Poorman, MD

Elisabeth Poorman wanted to be a doctor since she was a kid. She remembers going to the Field Museum in Chicago, standing in a giant replica of heart and listening to a recording of its beating. It felt like being let in on a secret, a secret that she could use to stop heart attacks one day. Like a real super hero.

But along the way she felt less sure. She worried about the ways that doctors change during their training, from the cut-throat competition in college to the hierarchical nature of training, which distances residents from their patients and their colleagues.

She studied the history of science in college, which gave her a foundation for thinking about how science can sometimes function as a religion in society, preventing people from questioning their beliefs. Less and less sure of her path, she worked with many different nonprofits, including on a leprosy history project in Brazil. It was there that she decided she needed a skill to bring to people who needed help.

Elisabeth went to Emory University for medical school, working at Grady Hospital, a busy and important safety net hospital where need always outpaced resources. It was a place populated by true warriors for justice and compassion, and it shaped her thinking about the power of medicine forever.

She trained in internal medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance, where she now primarily works with immigrants and patients with addiction. It was a place, like Grady, with fairness and advocacy at the core of its mission.

To Poorman, medicine was always an act of social justice or injustice. “We engage with the ethical quandaries of our role, our patients’ circumstances, our community, or we perpetuate the pathologies of power.”

Poorman’s writing explores the view from a resident and later, primary care doctor, grappling with what it means to provide ethical care in a dysfunctional and often unethical system.

“There are untold joys in medicine. Every day, at least one patient thanks me for looking into her eyes and reassuring her. Patients tell me things large and small that they have never told another soul, the “holy secrets” that confirm our shared humanity and our infinite diversity.” — From Congrats, Med School Grad! Now It’s Time To Find A Therapist

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