“Think Differently,” the MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2) mantra, is embraced by every MI2 associate and encouraged throughout MedStar. As an industrial designer, I try to think differently using the techniques I learned in design thinking. I was drawn to the Health for America (HFA) at MedStar Health fellowship because it follows familiar techniques, including IDEO’s Human-Centered Design Toolkit.
Prior to beginning my HFA journey, these processes had me asking many questions about the human body, patient care, and even healthcare policy. My experience as an HFA fellow helped me understand how my background could impact these areas of medicine. The experience that I gained being an active member of the integrative medicine (IM) internal startup team evolved my ability to think differently into an ability to implement differently.
Recently, at our graduation celebration, Mandy Dorn, our HFA Director, recapped the “superpowers” we developed throughout this year:
Each of these superpowers highly impacted my HFA experience and will continue to enrich my career. As I reflect, my ability to think (& work) differently, desire to continuously learn & share, valuing teamwork & feedback and a thirst to live beyond your walls were, out of the list above, the most central to my astounding personal and professional growth.
Ability to think (& work) differently
The part of this statement that stands out to me is “& work.” By putting thinking into practice, implementation creates a new understanding and new problems to solve. By implementing a “minimum viable product” early, ideas can be adapted based on feedback from potential customers and other stakeholders. Going through this process with the IM team has strengthened my ability to “think differently” about problems in health care. Translating thought into action, I saw my abilities to think and work differently impact MedStar patients, associates, and systems.
Desire to continuously learn & share
A year ago, I had never worked in a traditional healthcare system. However, through my experience with medical and assistive devices, I entered the program with a keen interest in health care. I was curious about the system of medicine and ready to learn.
I took every chance to learn more about IM modalities, hospital operations, and the strategy supporting specialities within the system. During our first few weeks, through crash courses and shadowing, I gathered insights to help me understand the problems the IM team addressed.
Not only did I learn through experience, I also shared my experience as a yoga instructor. Each chair yoga class I taught took my teaching skills to new depths.
Valuing [interdisciplinary] teamwork & feedback
From the start of the fellowship, I was excited to work with Sharon. I knew her healthcare experience would complement my skills and help me navigate the healthcare system. As I was reading one of our fellowship pre-reads—The Health Care Handbook—I had many questions; my pages were well marked up. Sharon helped me to understand the nuances of health care.
Similarly, my design thinking experience helped Sharon as we ideated at 1776. We mind-mapped (one of my favorite things to do) all the possibilities for her project on a whiteboard. Bouncing ideas off of each other to fill up the board, this type of interdisciplinary interaction helped us get each other's perspective on the barriers of a project; our brains were free to create.
A thirst to live beyond your walls
In the past 11 months, I worked with experts from a variety of specialties and roles. From hospital operations to medical hypnosis, I valued my conversations with each person because I learned something new about the function of the healthcare system as a whole. I realized that each person’s role impacted the implementation of a new innovation and could change the point of view to solve a problem. This interdisciplinary collaboration is something I value greatly and I hope to find more on-the-ground experiences to deepen my understanding of the various stakeholders, their day-to-day experiences and, ultimately, how it all shapes health care together.
As I move forward as an HFA alum (and continue to support MI2 remotely in the months ahead!), I can say that this year has helped me to direct and evolve my career, add new skills to my toolbox and learn from each person with whom I worked. As I prepare for my next chapter as a pre-medicine student and continue to think differently about health care, my experience in medicine has just begun.
Read more about Renee Kakareka's experience in her one-page HFA fellowship summary here.