Inaugural “Health and PLAY” Institute to Launch at the 2021 Virtual Play Conference

Inaugural “Health and PLAY” Online Institute

Weekly Webinar Series beginning April 5, 2021
Mondays at 5:30pm EST/4:30pm CST/2:30pm PST

The inaugural “Health and PLAY” Institute is a weekly webinar series featuring leading healthcare professionals and researchers from across the country.  The weekly panel presentations will examine the synergies between play and health through five distinct pillars:


  • The Science of Play: What We Know – Examining the history of play science and its relationship to human interaction, brain development and as a potential medical intervention.
  • The Role of Play in Society – Exploring the role of play from a population viewpoint and the role of non-profit advocacy groups and state government.
  • Healthcare Professionals’ Wellbeing: Burnout, Compassion Fatigue and Play – Pulling back the curtain on the widely recognized and growing epidemic of healthcare professionals’ “burnout” and compassion fatigue with an eye toward using Play as a tool combat “moral injury.”
  • Play and the Ecosystem of Health – Considering the role of play in addressing the pillars social determinants of health and the role of non-profit advocacy groups and health foundations.
  • Using Play as Bridge Between Technologies – Looking at health technology platforms and discussing how aspects of “Play” can be a bridge to consumer engagement and/or better health outcomes.

Meet Our Experts


Michael Suk, MD, is a leading advocate on health and nature, outdoor recreation as a gateway to better health, and play for life champion as our Chair and Moderator for the Health and Play Institute. Dr. Suk is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon, Professor and Chair of the Musculoskeletal Institute at Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania. In addition to his role as a Steering Committee Member for the US Play Coalition, Dr. Suk also serves on numerous Boards including the American Medical Association, Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Healthcare Associations and SHIFT at the Center for Jackson Hole. Previously he served as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the US Department of the Interior and Senior Advisor on Health and Recreation to the National Park Service.

The Science of Play: What We Know

Stuart Brown, MD, is Founder of the National Institute for Play.  His background in psychiatry, the evolution of human and animal play, as well as his clinical research into the causes and prevention of violence, have shown him that authentic play is a state of being which can be accessed and used by everyone, and that play is as important to humans as vitamins or sleep.

Jessica M. Black, PhD, is pioneering and directing advancement of cognitive, educational and social neuroscience into social work research, education and training. Dr. Black is an Educational Neuroscientist and an Associate Professor at the Boston College School of Social Work. She is Chair of Children, Youth and Families Concentration and is the Chair of Teaching Excellence.

Jenny Radesky, MD, is a Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician whose research focuses on family digital media use, child social-emotional development, and parent-child interaction.  She uses a combination of observational, qualitative, and passive sensing methods to examine how parents and young children use mobile media throughout daily routines.  She authored the 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics digital media guidelines for young children.

Anthony T. DeBenedet, MD, is a gastroenterologist with an interest in lifestyle, integrative, and behavioral-science approaches in digestive health and general well-being.  He is author of Playful Intelligence: The Power of Living Lightly in a Serious World (2018) and The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It (2011).  His interviews and writings have run in various media outlets, including the New York Times, Psychology Today, the Today show, the Washington Post, and TIME Ideas.


The Role of Play in Society

Erwin Tan, MD, is Director of Thought Leadership – Health at AARP and a board-certified internist and geriatrician. He previously served as the director of Senior Corps at the Corporation for National and Community Service, where he oversaw the RSVP, Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion programs.

Hon. Jerome Loughridge, (INVITED) is Secretary of Health and Mental Health for the State of Oklahoma. He serves in a voluntary capacity as head of the Health Cabinet in the Administration of Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt. In this role, Loughridge is responsible for oversight of the State’s major health-directed agencies, including the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and the State Department of Health, along with multiple agencies, boards and commissions. He is also responsible for leadership of the State’s health entities as an integral part of the Governor’s Covid-19 Response Task Force.

Sarah Griffin, PhD, professor of Public Health Science at Clemson University, has over twenty years of experience in public health with a specific interest in eliminating health disparities. Dr. Griffin serves as Principal Investigator of the Greenville Health System (GHS) School-Based Health Center implementation study for OnTrack Greenville. She is also Co-Principal Investigator for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention obesity prevention initiative with rural health extension


Healthcare Professionals’ Wellbeing: Burnout, Compassion Fatigue & Play

Marie Brown, MD, is a practicing internist, an associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at Rush Medical College, the director of practice redesign for the American Medical Association, and the immediate past governor of the American College of Physicians (ACP). Dr. Brown is a frequent guest lecturer at academic, national and international health care conferences. Her areas of expertise include: practice transformation, joy in medicine, adult immunizations, medication adherence and diabetes.

Brooke Buckley, MD, FACS, board certified general surgeon and national expert on physician well-being. Dr. Buckley has dedicated a significant portion of her training and professional life to organized medicine and taking a broader look at medical care delivery, with specific interests in emergency surgical care, health-care delivery to rural communities, and physician wellbeing.

Caroline P. Cárdenas, MSN, MA, RN, CBCN, is a doctoral candidate in psychology researching the effects play has on helping professionals experiencing compassion fatigue. She has served as an oncology and hospice nurse for over 15 years. She is the creator of The Hula Hoop Girl where she guides helping professional through the experiential process of play to evoke joy and restore well-being. Caroline is featured in the documentary film, “PLAYING FOR KEEPS,” where she is highlighted as a high performing healthcare professional, who prioritizes play as essential to a more joyous life.

Michael Tutty, PhD, MHA is the Group Vice President of Professional Satisfaction and Practice Sustainability at the American Medical Association (AMA). Mr. Tutty leads AMA’s efforts to enhance practice efficiency, to improve professional satisfaction and to advance the delivery of high-quality care.


Play and the Ecosystem of Health

Garth Graham, MD, MPH, (INVITED) is a leading authority on social determinants of health. President of the Aetna Foundation and Vice President of Community Health for Aetna, Inc., Garth is also a cardiologist and public health expert.


Daniel Hatcher, Director of Community Partnerships of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, where he manages technical assistance services and resources for out-of-school time sites as they work to achieve national standards for healthy eating and physical activity. Daniel oversees community-based and out-of-school partnerships at the Alliance.

Alex Maiersperger is Co-founder of Advancement League, a social movement and membership organization helping healthcare leaders put Health, Everywhere. They are known for bringing leaders inside and outside of traditional healthcare together, combining career development and community impact in new ways that shape a healthier future.

Martin Tull, (INVITED) Senior Director of Partnerships and Development, American College of Lifestyle Medicine. Unlike typical healthcare, lifestyle medicine focuses on collaborative patient-provider relationships and positive, evidence-based lifestyle changes as the basis of care. This broader range of treatment options empowers patients with hope and control over their health.


Using Play as Bridge Between Technologies

Amy Babington is Vice President of Client Success & Strategy at Force Therapeutics, leading a team that is responsible for supporting the patient and provider end users of the Force platform. In her tenure, she has been an integral part of the team to build out important functions and determine the needs of Force’s client base and market.

Brittne Nelson-Kakulla, PhD, is Senior Research Advisor- Consumer Insights at AARP.  She is a consumer-focused leader experienced in research, strategic planning, project management, statistical analysis, and data analytics. Her most recent research looked at tech trends and gaming attitudes and habits of adults over 50.

Meaghan Praznik, is a health and wellness, social media expert and Head of Communications & Partnerships, AllTrails. She is a 13-time IRONMAN finisher and qualifier for the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii and IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships.


The Conference on the VALUE of Play
The Play Conference, as it is commonly known, is an annual educational conference presented by the US Play Coalition. The latest research and practices in the field of play are presented at the conference, which brings together play researchers, park and recreation professionals, educators, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians and parents from across the U.S. and beyond. The 2021 Virtual Conference on the Value of Play: PLAY IS SURVIVAL includes keynote and featured speakers, round tables on critical issues and trends, research symposium for academics, educational sessions for practitioners, action and research grant opportunities, PLAYtalks and PLAYinstitutes, networking, EPIC play breaks and more.