Philadelphia is in many ways a city of Eds and Meds — a nucleus in the eastern part of the country for health care innovation.

And our young people play a critical role in that. There’s Jeffrey Hom, a Penn scholar who cares for patients at the Philadelphia VA, and is working to expand access to health care in underserved neighborhoods. Or Kristen Dama, a local lawyer who played an integral role in expanding Medicaid in Pennsylvania. And Ricky Solorzano, a startup leader who built a 3D printer that can create living tissues.

Welcome to this month’s edition of Who’s Next, a feature we at Billy Penn use to highlight some of the most dynamic under-40 leaders in Philadelphia. These winners were nominated by their peers as people who are making a positive impact at work and in their communities and are part of the next generation of movers and shakers in the city.

In the last year, Billy Penn has highlighted more than 175 of the city’s up-and-coming leaders through the Who’s Next feature, from lawyers to artists to musicians to chefs. Now, meet these young people who are changing the health field for the better, in alphabetical order:


1. Adrian S. Banning, MMS, PA-C

Title: Assistant Clinical Professor, Physician Assistant Department at Drexel University

Age: 35

Who’s Next because: Banning has been a full-time faculty member at Drexel since 2008 and also practices clinically part-time in adult behavioral medicine. Her academic interests include using and applying evidence-based medicine effectively and improving communications between patients and providers. Banning was nominated for Who’s Next because her students say she’s passionate about empowering them to be agents not just of care, but of compassionate care and change. Her goal is to inspire the next generation of physicians assistants to use and communicate evidence wisely with their patients. Part of that is ensuring patients are actively involved in their own care through better communication of medical information, and that should include better use of art, graphic design and social media. Find her on Twitter at @theartofebm.


2. Ben Cocchiaro, MD, MPH

Title: Family Medicine Resident at University of Pennsylvania

Age: 28

Who’s Next because: Cocchiaro earned his MD and MPH from Drexel and has worked in harm reduction, mosquito control, quality assurance and as an itinerant musician in Rome and Guatemala. But he was nominated largely for his work as a board member with Prevention Point Philly, an organization that aims to reduce the harm of substance use and sex industry work by promoting health, empowerment and safety. Cocchiaro also works with the House of Grace Catholic Worker free clinic in Kensington. He has a special interest in helping those affected by homelessness, drug use and opiate addiction.


3. Kristen Dama

Title: Supervising Attorney, Community Legal Services

Age: 37

Who’s Next because: Dama works as a supervising attorney in the Public Benefits Unit at Community Legal Services, where she divides her time between individual clients and systemic work, including legislative and administrative advocacy and class action litigation. Dama has a special focus on Medicaid and public health services, and took a lead role in pushing for Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania, ultimately winning health insurance coverage for about half a million people in the state. Before law school at the University of Pennsylvania, she worked as a lobbyist for NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire. Dama was also a Public Interest Scholar, and her law school’s faculty awarded her the Benjamin R. Jones Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Public Interest.


4. Jessica DePermentier

Title: Human Resources, Clinical Practices of the University of Pennsylvania Health System

Age: 30

Who’s Next because: DePermentier works in healthcare administration as a human resources professional at Penn Medicine where her colleagues say she’s dedicated to improving patient experiences through better employee training. For the past four years, DePermentier has served as a coach and mentor for other young healthcare professionals, and she says she has a special focus on helping them implement new ideas that better serve patients. She holds a master’s degree from St. Joseph’s University and in her spare time volunteers at city organizations like Manna, Ronald McDonald, Philabundance and Cradles to Crayons. The person who nominated her said: “She is a great example of the dynamic young talent that are helping to shape the way we deliver quality care to patients.” 


5. Jeffrey Hom, MD, MPH

Title: Fellow, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program

Age: 33

Who’s Next because: Hom is a board-certified internist and fellow in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studies domestic health policy and cares for patients at the Philadelphia VA. His research focuses on access-to-coverage and access-to-care issues for underserved populations. He also works with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and colleagues across the city and state to improve the care provided to patients with hepatitis C. Hom also serves on the board of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, is a member of the Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps and has participated in the Philadelphia chapter of New Leaders Council. The person who nominated him said: “He has an obvious drive for people, leadership, and making the world around him better.” 


6. Kiasha Huling

Title: Associate Director of Outreach and Social Work, Sayre Health Center

Age: 34

Who’s Next because: A graduate of both Penn and Temple, Huling developed the first social work program at Sayre Health Center in West Philadelphia in 2011. The program employs therapeutic support, case management and advocacy to improve access to care and overall wellness in the area. She’s also a field instructor and trains aspiring social workers for Temple and Widener Universities. She serves on Sayre’s Health Center’s Outreach Committee, the Early Childhood Policy Council at PHMC, the Planning Committee of the Laura Sims Skate House and is a member of the 60th West Market Business Association. Said the person who nominated her: “She helped my family understand and get insurance when no one else could help because of a complicated scenario. Kiasha’s impact on Sayre Health Center and the Cobbs Creek community is noteworthy and on the rise.


7. Deanna Jenkins

Title: Business Analyst at Independence Blue Cross

Age: 30

Who’s Next because: Jenkins currently works as a business analyst at Independence Blue Cross in the Risk Analytics department, where she focuses on provider outreach to improve patient health outcomes and risk score accuracy for Medicare and Commercial Exchange members. Prior to her current role, she was an administrative fellow at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and was a graduate student intern with the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. She also serves on the boards of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Orchard Project, and is chair-elect for the Junior League of Philadelphia’s annual Empowering You Health Fair, which is held in April. The person who nominated her said: “It is refreshing to have someone as young as Deanna who marries her passion for community service through board participation with her healthcare interests.” Follow her on Twitter at @MsDJ1985.

megan mariotti

8. Megan Mariotti

Title: Assistant Director of Operations, Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation

Age: 32

Who’s Next because: Mariotti is the assistant director of operations at the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation, a group looking to improve how health care is delivered to patients. The goals of the center include making improving the quality, affordability and accessibility of health care. Before joining the Center, she worked as a senior clinical project manager in the Department of Quality and Safety at Atrius Health in Boston, where she led Accountable Care Organization quality reporting and chronic disease management efforts. At Geisinger Health System in Danville, Mariotti was a quality improvement specialist and nurse practitioner in a pediatric weight management program. Mariotti also runs the blog Healthy Bites and sits on the board of the HSC Foundation in Washington, D.C. The person who nominated Mariotti said: “Megan is a tireless advocate for improved healthcare.” Follow her on Twitter at @megmariotti.


9. Becca Nock

Title: PhD Student

Age: 25

Who’s Next because: A registered nurse and PhD student at Penn, Nock is interested in how data and tech can be used to improve healthcare for older adults. She’s a predoctoral fellow in the Center for Integrative Science in Aging at Penn’s NewCourtland Center for Transitions in Health. She’s worked there as a research assistant since 2013, and she’s working to help prevent older adults from being readmitted through research on software to help discharge planners identify the best place for older adults to go for care after they leave the hospital. She was also on the planning committee for Startup Weekend Health Philly in 2014 and 2015.


10. Carla Norelli

Title: Director of Culinary Operations for the Vetri Community Partnership

Age: 33

Who’s Next because: A graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu culinary program at the Orlando Culinary Academy, Norelli is now Director of Culinary Operations at the Vetri Community Partnership where she has a special focus on healthy eating and healthy living. She works directly with schools to help them serve better lunches to their students à la the Eatiquette program, a school lunch program that has kids eating nutrient-rich scratch-made meals at round tables in a family-style fashion. Under her direction, Vetri Community Partnership has grown to partner with more than 45 schools in Philadelphia and Camden. She also teaches an introductory culinary arts training class to eighth and ninth-grade students at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Culinary Literacy Center. The person who nominated her said: “Her can-do attitude and health focus has been a driving force in VCP’s expansion over the past year and a half.”


11. Max Perelman

Title: Co-founder at Biomeme

Age: 39

Who’s Next because: Perelman leads the business operations at Biomeme, a Philly-based company that has developed a platform transforming a smartphone into a mobile lab for advanced DNA diagnostics and real-time surveillance. The mobile platform allows users to isolate and analyze DNA in a device that connects to a phone and then manage results in the cloud. Applications are being explored in human health, biothreat surveillance, genetic testing, education and research. Before starting Biomeme, Perelman spent 15 years in a number of positions and industries, including environmental consulting and green building technology imports, documentary filmmaking, management consulting, as well as eCommerce and enterprise systems development. Find him on Twitter at @Perelmax.


12. Tiffany A. Reid, MSN

Title: Clinical nurse II at University of Pennsylvania at Rittenhouse

Age: 30

Who’s Next because: Reid provides patient care to brain injury, multi-trauma, neurologic, vascular and orthopedic patients as a clinical nurse at University of Pennsylvania at Rittenhouse. A family nurse practitioner candidate, Reid has also worked as an adjunct clinical professor at Widener University during the summer and fall 2014 semesters. She has been featured on BET and Centric for promoting healthy living among African American teenagers and pushing the need for meningitis immunizations. Reid is using that platform to develop a nonprofit that offers STI/STD screening and teenage pregnancy literacy for underserved communities. She’s also a member of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Sigma Theta Tau Nursing Honor Society and Delta Sigma Theta Public Service Organization (Alpha Chapter).


13. Ricky Solorzano

Title: Co-founder, BioBots

Age: 26

Who’s Next because: Solorzano is a co-founder of BioBots, a Philadelphia-based startup that is building tools to make it easier to engineer biology. Specifically, the company is creating bioprinters that can print living tissues and could revolutionize organ and tissue donation. Solorzano built the prototype BioBots 3D bioprinter in his dorm room after he was frustrated by the high cost and inaccessibility of equipment. As CTO, he continues to lead the development of next generation products by uniting robotics, software and biological engineering. The company has raised $1.5 million to date. Solorzano was recently featured by Forbes on its national “30 Under 30” list.

Anna Orso was a reporter/curator at Billy Penn from 2014 to 2017.