The fellowship is coming to a close, and though things are still pedal to the metal around here, the fellows are finding themselves taking small moments to reflect on just how far they’ve come since they started their fellowship in September.
If you’re familiar with Health for America, you know that the interdisciplinary nature of the team is a cornerstone of the program itself. It’s no accident that the team is not made up of entirely engineers, or public health experts, or business masterminds. Especially in the face of complex healthcare challenges, a diversity of skills, perspectives, and values is needed, if not imperative.
So this week, the fellows are reflecting on the impact of the knowledge and skills they bring to the table. What did the fellows contribute because of their unique professional and academic backgrounds? How did each of them grow or fill a gap in our experience through their work with Health for America? Today, Amanda and Jake weigh in. You’ll hear from Dan and May soon, too!
I’m not joking when I say that one of the most important reasons I applied for the HFA Fellowship was because the answer to one of the FAQ’s on the Application Page actually used the word “art” (try to find it yourself!). Finally, a healthcare-focused organization that acknowledged the role artists could play in healthcare innovation! This was something I had already started to explore at the University of Utah while co-founding Connect2Health, a volunteer organization which connects underserved patients to social resources. Then and now, I understand that designing healthcare innovation is not so different than choreographing a dance. My ability to e
xecute a smooth creative process (planning the rehearsal strategy, coordinating schedules, organizing dress rehearsals) has lent itself to the logistics of our design process (creating project timelines and strategies, bringing stakeholders together for meetings, coordinating pilot periods). But what’s important here is that as choreographer/healthcare innovator, I also bring to the team the ability to see the tree and the forest—the ability to manage the logistics of the process while staying connected in a deeply empathetic way to the people, stories, and common goals we’re working with.
In reflecting back on the year, though, I realize how far I’ve come in terms of my “healthcare fluency.” Especially as someone coming from outside of healthcare, it’s been so important to couch my contributions and ideas within a deep understanding the healthcare landscape. Being able to demonstrate an understanding of clinical processes or point to relevant data has been key to engaging our stakeholders in meaningful partnerships. It’s a growing fluency I hope to continue to strengthen after my time with HFA is complete.
Before the fellowship, I was still attending school at Marquette University. My background is founded in Biomedical Engineering with an emphasis in prototyping and verification of concepts. In school, I lead a team that developed a bike powered oxygen concentrator, all the way from my initial sketches and idea through the first functioning prototype. Although there are many technical skills that I have learned over time, one of the biggest skills I brought to the fellowship was the engineering mentality. No matter the problem, big or small, engineers are trained to present solutions and rationally evaluate different potential outcomes. In an ambiguous, nebulous start up culture this skill comes in handy often, whether the task is getting the ball rolling on an important email draft or maneuvering through poor experiment outcomes.
The skill that I have developed the most through the fellowship has been my ability to translate. The fellowship puts us in a unique position where often we are communicating between people of wildly different backgrounds. We may hear an anecdote from a patient with no higher education, then convey the spirit of that anecdote to a physician who is fresh out of med school and has been surrounded by highly educated peers their entire life. We may then need to convey the physician’s medical recommendations to a person with a highly technical background with no medical experience, so as to scale the solution. Through all of this, if any information is lost the entire solution is compromised. Coming in as an engineer I was comfortable with all of this information transfer, but it went from a skill that I learned in college to one of my professional strengths because of the diversity of the Health for America fellowship.
Keep your eye on the blog for Dan and May’s upcoming reflections!