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  • Jun 26, 2018

Cambridge Health Alliance Honors Bon Ku, MD, with Art of Healing Award

Pictured from left – Cambridge Health Alliance CEO Patrick Wardell, Tina Martin, reporter and host for WGBH, event honoree Dr. Bon Ku, Jim Braude, host of Greater Boston on WGBH, and CHA Foundation President Mary Cassesso at the Alliance’s Art of Healing Award Dinner at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge on June 21. Phot by Jeff Thiebauth.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), an academic community health system serving Cambridge, Somerville and Boston's metro-north region, honored Bon Ku, MD, an emergency room physician and the assistant dean for health and design at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, with its annual Art of Healing Award on Thursday, June 21, at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge. Dr. Ku, who was celebrated for his dedication to addressing health disparities for vulnerable populations, is the founder of JeffDESIGN, a first-of-its-kind program that teaches emerging physicians to apply human-centered designto health care challenges.

The award was presented during CHA's signature fundraising event, which raised more than $525,000 to benefit CHA and its critical community health mission. The Art of Healing Award celebrates visionary men and women who transcend boundaries, joyfully embrace humanity, and profoundly inspire the healing of body and spirit. Past honorees include David Williams, PhD, of the T.H. Chan Harvard School of Public Health, John Rosenthal, founder of Stop Handgun Violence, former Mass. Governor Michael and Mrs. Kitty Dukakis and Donald Berwick, MD, former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Tina Martin, host and reporter for NPR affiliate WGBH, emceed the program, and Jim Braude, host of Greater Boston on WGBH, served as the auctioneer.

Like many in America, Dr. Ku grew up without health insurance. The son of Korean immigrants, he spent his adolescence working in his family's restaurant, bussing tables and washing dishes alongside undocumented workers. Serious injury or becoming sick was a constant worry for him and his family. His empathy for those he grew up with and for other vulnerable members of the community is what led him to become an emergency room physician.

Dr. Ku has spoken widely on the intersection of health and design thinking (TEDx) and serves on the Design and Health Leadership Group at the American Institute of Architects. In 2016, he received the Health Care Innovators Award from the Philadelphia Business Journal.

"Bon brings his students into the community to understand the obstacles they face, and he knows that life expectancy depends on what zip codes you live in -- the difference can be 20 years," said Mary Cassesso, president of the CHA Foundation and chief community officer. "Like CHA, he cares deeply about community and public health issues such as homelessness, the opioid epidemic and immigrant health and, through his teaching, works to create solutions to address the social determinants of health."

Cambridge Health Alliance is an academic community health system committed to providing high quality care in Cambridge, Somerville and Boston's metro-north communities. CHA has expertise in primary care, specialty care and mental health/substance use services, as well as caring for diverse and complex populations. It includes three hospital campuses, a network of primary care and specialty practices and the Cambridge Public Health Dept. CHA patients have seamless access to advanced care through the system's affiliation with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. CHA is a Harvard Medical School teaching affiliate and is also affiliated with Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard School of Dental Medicine and Tufts University School of Medicine. For more information, visit

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