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Tune in to episode 1 of the Disability Inclusion: Required podcast.

Foundation Giving for Disability: A Conversation with Dr. Richard Besser and Sandy Ho

“It’s so important that philanthropy is inclusive, and is accountable to communities that we serve and work alongside…It means looking at disability as a dimension in each of the areas in which we work.” —Dr. Rich Besser

For the pilot episode of Disability Inclusion: Required, host Emily Ladau welcomes Sandy Ho, Program Director of the Disability Inclusion Fund at Borealis Philanthropy and Dr. Richard Besser, President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Tune in for a thought-provoking conversation on why it’s essential that philanthropy applies a disability lens across all of their operations and grantmaking. For a deeper dive, be sure to check out our report, “Foundation Giving for Disability: Priorities and Trends.

Our podcast theme music is by Andre Louis and Precious Perez. Thank you to Recording Artists And Music Professionals With Disabilities (RAMPD) for connecting these talented disabled musicians with the Disability & Philanthropy Forum.

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

Click here to tune into other episodes of Disability Inclusion: Required.

Featured Guests

Sandy Ho is an Asian American woman sitting in a power wheelchair. She has round glasses and is wearing a gray sweater over a blue striped collar shirt, and red checkered pants with maroon shoes. She is sitting in a field of grass.

Sandy Ho is a visionary disabled community organizer with a long-standing commitment to grassroots disability justice. Currently, Sandy is the director of the Disability Inclusion Fund at Borealis Philanthropy. In 2022 Sandy received a Disability Futures Fellowship supported by Ford Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Ho was the distinguished 2021 Longmore Lecturer. She is the co-partner in the Access is Love campaign that she leads with Alice Wong and Mia Mingus. In 2015 Sandy was recognized at the White House as a “Champion of Change.” She comes to disability community organizing and activism by way of youth mentoring for young women with disabilities.

Sandy is completing her Master in Public Policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. In 2016 Sandy founded the Disability & Intersectionality Summit, a national biennial conference that is organized by disabled activists and highlights the lived-experiences of marginalized BIPOC disabled people. She identifies as a disabled queer Asian American woman. As the director of the Disability Inclusion Fund at Borealis, Sandy leads a grantmaking strategy of $4M in general operating, rapid response, and capacity building resources to U.S. based disabled-led organizations across the country. You can follow her on twitter @NotYourAvgHo101.

Dr. Richard Besser is President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the nation’s largest health philanthropy. Under his leadership, the Foundation works to help build a national Culture of Health rooted in equity; a culture that provides every individual with a fair and just opportunity to thrive, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have. RWJF is focused on identifying, illuminating, and addressing the barriers to health caused by structural racism and other forms of discrimination, including sexism, ableism, and prejudice based on sexual orientation.

Dr. Besser has been a leader in the national call for equitable COVID-19 response and recovery efforts and is co-chair of the Presidents’ Council on Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy. Before joining the Foundation, Dr. Besser served for eight years as Chief Health and Medical Editor for ABC News, and as a leader at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he worked for 13 years. He served as Acting Director of the CDC during the initial response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic.

Dr. Besser recently retired from pediatric practice after more than 30 years of volunteering in community clinics and he currently sits on the Howard University Board of Trustees. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine. Dr. Besser received his undergraduate degree in economics from Williams College and his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He completed a residency and chief residency in pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore. He and his wife Jeanne, a food writer, have two adult sons, Alex and Jack.