In May 2016, I boarded a cross-country Amtrak train from Toledo, Ohio to San Francisco, California where I would spend the summer interning at Sutter Health. As I journeyed across America, I read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, a novel narrated by Sal Paradise, a young writer seeking adventure and inspiration. Like Sal, “I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future.” When I boarded the train in Toledo, the vision of my future was clear: complete my summer internship, finish graduate school and begin an administrative residency program centered on traditional hospital operations.
As the train pulled away from the station, it was impossible to anticipate the alternative career paths I would be introduced to during my internship in San Francisco. Weeks later, I sat in a San Francisco coffee shop doing project work when another customer began a casual conversation. He described his job recruiting young innovators to join a healthcare startup in Berkeley. This conversation sparked a realization that my skill set did not solely prepare me for a career in hospital operations. Instead, my educational background and skills were a springboard to a possible career in healthcare innovation and many other fields that had never crossed my mind.
When I boarded the train home after completing my three-month internship, I reflected back on Jack Kerouac’s novel, knowing I had crossed the dividing line between my youth and my future. I traveled back home with a re-envisioned future, changed and inspired by my experiences out West. Instead of applying to traditional post-graduate administrative residency programs, I would search for career opportunities in the healthcare innovation sector.
2017 to 2018 - Innovation Here and Now
My quest for a career in healthcare innovation led me to the Health for America (HFA) at MedStar Health fellowship, an 11-month life-changing experience in Washington, DC. I arrived at MedStar in September 2017. Now that my time as a fellow has concluded, words cannot express how much I have learned.
Before starting the HFA fellowship, I had a baseline understanding of telehealth, innovation, design, and entrepreneurship. While I had heard each term used in various contexts before starting the fellowship, I had little insight into the significant role each discipline plays in today’s healthcare environment. Over the course of the fellowship, I have had the opportunity to work and learn alongside internal and external leaders in each field. Each conversation, no matter how brief, has challenged me to “think differently” in the words of my favorite MedStar Institute for Innovation mantra.
2018 - Continuing My Journey Northeast
Through my fellowship work with the MedStar Telehealth Innovation Center (MTIC), I have caught a glimpse into the future of virtual care at MedStar Health and at-large. My experiences with MTIC along with the HFA curriculum have furthered my understanding of concepts such as human-centered design, lean startup, and agile methodology. I firmly believe the success of my work relies on my ability to hypothesize about the ever- changing, consumer-driven and tech-enabled healthcare landscape.
Unlike Sal Paradise who found his future in the West, I have found my future in the Northeast, at MedStar Health, where I will continue my work with the MTIC team post-HFA. As I begin a full-time position with the team, I know my one-way trip to DC was just the ticket.
Read more about Sharon Rodriguez's experience in her one-page HFA fellowship summary here.