About Us

Developing and Connecting People

RIHEL is a nonprofit organization incorporated in the State of Colorado. The major academic affiliates of RIHEL, in which most of the RIHEL faculty hold appointments, include the University of Colorado – Colorado School of Public Health and the University of Denver. We are grateful to the University of Denver for their generous donation of office space and work infrastructure.

RIHEL provides leadership training, builds linkages among leaders, and strengthens the relationships among health professionals, environment professionals, the academic community, the public sector and the private sector. The Institute was founded and sustained for fourteen years by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Financial support for the Institute has been provided by the many sources included in the “Sponsors” section.

Mission & Goals

The mission of the Regional Institute for Health and Environmental Leadership is to develop and connect leaders who work collaboratively in diverse sectors and communities to create and sustain the health and well-being of people and the environment.

The goals of the Institute are to:

  • Develop Leaders: Enhance and develop leadership training in the Rocky Mountain Region.
  • Connect People: Build upon and foster a diverse and multi-disciplinary Institute network among fellows, alumni, Board members, other health and environment professionals and the community.
  • Influence People to Create Better Health and Environments: Address the health and environmental challenges of diverse communities through a portfolio of resources and activities (fellows, alumni, projects, existing and new programs, etc.)
  • Sustain the Institute: Provide the people and financial resources to assure the continuation of the Institute and its mission.

Equity: What Matters to Us

RIHEL values the integrity and dignity of all human lives and the environment that sustains us. We stand for wellness of body and spirit and emphasize work in protection and prevention for our health and the environment. There is no room in our value system for violence or hatred or the behaviors and language that fuel them. We stand for behaviors that foster mutual understanding and believe that leaders must set a high bar for themselves and others in this. We stand for action against violence and hate. We find these values to be self-evident and fundamental to population health. As a training organization, part of our responsibility is to create an inclusive and equitable learning environment where people can engage and interact, free from fear of retribution. We value diversity and inclusion in thought, in action and are open to all, accepting of everyone and their lived experience, so that all may learn. We invite the community to read more about us, our mission and goals and our values on this page.

We support the principle that all people have inherent value and purpose, and matter to the collective ‘Us,’ which include those who have been marginalized in our society including, but not limited to Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), regardless of sex, gender, or orientation. We strive to check our biases (as individuals and in our policies and practices) so that we are not forces of disenfranchisement. We will actively work towards dismantling racism and other forms of systemic oppression and not reinforcing them.

The surges in violence in our communities are rooted in other-ism: racism, sexism and other varieties of dehumanization and hate. The gun violence, extralegal violence and racial/ethnic violence we are experiencing is a public health crisis. This violence impacts us all and illustrates the need for leadership – leadership that draws on our history of nonviolence as the greatest agent of social change. Leadership that demonstrates that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way (John Lewis, 2020).

We have decades of work ahead to learn and to build better ways to thrive together. We are committed to working as a force against other-ism and dismantling the structures that enable its many forms, be they systemically- or individually- mediated. We strive to make our practices and our culture consistent with our values. We denounce all actions that have a foundation in racism, sexism, homophobia or any other version of hatred. These actions do not align with our values and we strive to break down barriers and encourage health and environmental work to dismantle racist systems and model the behaviors and responses we hope to see in our trainees and the community at large.

We treasure equality and we stand for equity because equity is the road to equality. Equity is a foundational aspect of both the practice and the science of public health. You cannot be healthy (socially, economically, physically, mentally, spiritually) unless I am healthy. The COVID19 pandemic cannot have made this more clear.

We support efforts to increase (and oppose restrictions that decrease) access to: opportunities to cast votes, health care, quality education, employment opportunities and living/working conditions free of hazards – especially for those who have not experienced equal access, as these are the equity conditions that pave the road to equality. Public health is what we, as a community, do to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy.

While we treasure independence and self-determination, we are undeniably and completely inter-dependent which brings both survival and joy. We share all the foundations of life – the same air, the same water, the same land. There is no room for violence or hate. There is abundant space for the full engagement of all people.

Version 5: July 23, 2021


The following beliefs are central to the Institute:

What’s important to us about people and communities:

  • The dignity of all people is worthy of our respect.
  • Integrity is the most central RIHEL operating principle. We treat our fellows, alumni, faculty, staff, Board, friends, vendors and the public honestly, honorably and transparently.
  • Our workforce and our communities deserve our very best, and RIHEL is committed to excellence in the products and services that we provide.
  • Diversity intrinsically enhances virtually every aspect of life, and we seek it to enrich our work.
  • Health and environmental leaders accept the challenge to seek environmental justice and health equity.
  • Individuals and communities share the responsibility for health and the environment.

What’s important to us about leadership:

  • Leadership is the behavior by which one influences others in the attainment of a common goal.
  • Leaders speak truth, and encourage and empower others to give voice to their values and goals.
  • Effective leaders lead by example.
  • Effective leaders incorporate coaching (strategic thinking partnerships) throughout their work and relationships.
  • Servant leaders place service before self.
  • Effective leadership requires the courage to take risks.
  • Collaboration and inclusiveness are front line leadership tools for addressing complex problems.
  • Leadership learning is a lifelong process.
  • RIHEL is strongly committed to the future, as are all legitimate leadership endeavors.
  • An appreciation of our humanity and humor can facilitate difficult processes and add joy to life. Creativity, passion, flexibility, and the desire to learn and grow are attitudes that help us grow as individuals, as leaders and as an Institute that develops, connects and leverages people.

RIHEL seeks to be the leadership development resource of choice for the health and environment professions in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. While the public health/environmental health workforce is our central constituency, nearly every industry and sector affects the public’s health or the environment in some way. The leadership challenges to the public’s health are complex, and the government sector cannot successfully address these challenges alone. Accordingly, RIHEL serves the leadership development needs of a broad array of Rocky Mountain industries who are essential partners in the work of creating and sustaining healthy communities. By uniting the public and private sectors, productive relationships and creative solutions to our challenges can be achieved.

The Need For Leadership

There is currently a great need for a new kind of leadership because the challenges to health and the environment have never been greater, and because old paradigms of leadership are no longer effective in our very complex social, political and economic milieu. RIHEL’s leadership development programs seek diverse cohorts of middle- to senior-level professional men and women who are technically competent in their fields. When they have enough experience and future-orientation to have their own visions, these workers are ready for the leadership development opportunities that RIHEL offers.

Institute Activities

The Advanced Leadership Training Program is the flagship activity of the Institute. Approximately forty-five fellows participate in this year-long leadership learning experience. This program is designed to help current and emerging leaders to understand their leadership behaviors, use advanced techniques (such as leading the collaborative process) to address complex problems, become proficient at coaching protégés and colleagues, and create a network of colleagues whose expertise they can draw upon in the decades to come.

The Advanced Physician’s Leadership Program is conducted in close partnership with the Colorado Medical Society. About 40 physicians are accepted into this year-long program modeled after RIHEL’s Advanced Leadership Training Program. These Colorado doctors learn about exemplary leadership practices, collaboration and teamwork, emotional intelligence, negotiation, coaching, and systems thinking. They participate in 360º evaluations and other rigorous assessments.

The Leadership for Healthy Community Design Program is focused on improving the health of people and the environment by building the capacity of Colorado communities to lead, plan and execute healthy community design initiatives or projects.  The program brings together 6-9 geographically-based and multi-disciplinary teams representing communities around Colorado to develop their leadership capacity and explore practical approaches to healthy community design.  The program curriculum includes fundamental leadership skills, collaborative practices, communication skills, teamwork, meaningful community engagement, health equity and environmental Justice, healthy community design principles and practices, and team coaching. In addition, each program team develops and implements a project or initiative that requires their leadership, and addresses a built environment issue in their community through healthy community design principles.

Past Activites

Leadership for Resilience is another of the Institute’s year-long leadership programs. It is designed to address the severe nursing shortage facing Colorado. The Institute is using a team approach to address the complex challenges we face in nursing. The team consists of diverse health care and management professionals, each with unique experiences and skills that can be employed to design innovative solutions. The teams will work closely with faculty and coaches to learn and incorporate the fundamentals of leadership, collaboration, and teamwork into a project they design to address the nursing retention challenges within their organizations.

The Public Health Internet Training (PHIT) course was created to help professionals throughout the health and environment workforce to make better use of the internet to enhance their ability to protect and promote public health and the environment. A special library of powerful websites accompanies the PHIT course on the Institute website.

Two manuals are available from the Institute and can be downloaded from the Institute website. They are workbooks to accompany the PHIT course and the Institute training on Coaching. They are informative and useful resources regardless of whether a person has taken these Institute trainings.

Alumni symposia that address areas of health or environment controversy are held each year. In 2003 an alumni-led symposium on genetically modified foods attracted 100 participants.

The Institute also addresses leadership training needs for select, special groups. Currently the Institute is creating curricula on Crisis Leadership for all-hazards responders, and provides leadership training for maternal and child health professionals in the summer institute of the Rocky Mountain Public Health Education Consortium.

RIHEL Strategic Plan

The RIHEL Governing Board and Stakeholders created the most recent strategic plan for the Institute in February 2016. The plan is updated several times per year at the regular meetings of the Board.