Over its 23 year history, the Commonwealth Fund Fellowship, along with California Endowment Scholars program and Joseph Henry Oral Health Fellowship, has a proven track record of creating physician/other health professional leaders; the Alumni Spotlight interviews showcase the expertise and dedication to care for vulnerable populations as a testament of that success. Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Director, Indians Into Medicine (INMED) Program, Director, Public Health Program, Associate Dean, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Grand Forks, ND
Q. Describe your current role in your organization and your journey to that role.
A. At the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, I'm Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Director of the Indians into Medicine (INMED) Program; and Director of the Public Health Program, which offers a Master of Public Health with three specializations (including Indigenous Health), as well as a new PhD in Indigenous Health. I'm also Professor of Family Medicine. My path to the work I’m doing now hasn't been a straight line from when I did the fellowship. I think that's probably a common experience for many of the alums—we don't necessarily know at that time exactly what we will be doing in the future, and opportunities arise or we identify areas of need that we should be pursuing. So, it's ultimately kind of a circuitous route.
In terms of my own path since the fellowship, I had been working for National Institutes of Health as a staff clinician doing intramural diabetes research. Then I had the opportunity to join faculty at Arizona State University (ASU). They have a very good Indian Legal Program at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at ASU. I taught American Indian health law and policy to law students, business students, and public health students. Then, I also had an opportunity to become the Health Policy Research Director for the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, which represents all the tribes in the state of Arizona—that’s twenty or twenty-one tribes depending on how you count them. That was a wonderful experience, too, doing community-based health policy work: things like developing a sample Tribal Health Code and doing health policy research related to tribal management of Indian Health Service facilities.
Associate Professor, Pediatrics-Cardiology, Baylor College of Medicine; Pediatric Cardiologist, Texas Children's Hospital, Houston, TX
Q: Can you describe your current role in your organization?
A: I am an Associate Professor in the department of Pediatric Cardiology. I'm the Director of Cardiology Transition Medicine Program and the chair of the Scholarship Oversight Committee, which oversees all fellow research in pediatric cardiology. Outside of my own department, I’m part of several diversity and inclusion groups: I’m a Diversity and Inclusion Ambassador to Baylor College of Medicine, which is our partner hospital on the adult medicine side, I am on the Diversity and Inclusion Executive Steering Committee at Texas Children's Hospital (TCH), and I am on the DEI committee as well as a faculty-at-large member of the TCH Medical Executive Committee. Currently, the largest percentage of my time is spent doing research. I am NIH-funded with a K23 early-career grant to improve transitions of care from pediatric to adult care by using mobile app technology. So, a lot of my time is spent in research on health disparities and health equity efforts. I also have clinical time and do teaching for the cardiology fellows when I’m on clinical cardiology service in the ICU. The last part is I'm an advanced imager in pediatric cardiology. I perform and teach fetal echocardiogram and transesophageal echocardiograms in the operating room.
Chief of Staff, National Health, Lung and Blood Institute/ National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD
Q: Can you describe your current organization and your current role? And then talk about how you got to that role.
A: Currently, I'm at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, one of the 27 Institutes/Centers at the National Institutes of Health, which is a federal biomedical research agency committed to supporting discovery science, and turning that science into health for the nation. I'm the Chief of Staff in the Office of the Director, and a Senior Scientific Officer at NHLBI. What that means, really, is that I provide institutional leadership that supports our institute director, and his vision for implementing our mission. I also provide oversight to the operations of the director’s office and provide leadership for complex, multi-disciplinary initiatives that are of high priority for the institute.
It was a very interesting journey to get here; it was not linear journey. I always knew I wanted to become a physician from my earliest days, but I did not know how all the interests that I would have would culminate into a career at NIH and at the NHLBI. I was fortunate that the Commonwealth Fund Fellowship came along when it did, and gave me an opportunity to think about how to address some of the things I am most passionate about and even drove my desire to go to medical school – addressing health disparities and health inequities. After going through the Fellowship, I then contemplated how to integrate all these different domains. I was clinically interested in cardiology, and wanted to pursue that, and I did so after the Fellowship. I had a research interest, being an analytic person that enjoyed the challenge of the problem-solving, and I had a health policy interest that was about changing the way that health and healthcare are delivered in the country. NIH actually allowed me to bring all those interests together.
Vice Chair for Health Equity, Department of Medicine; Clinical Director of Cardiology, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; New York, NY
Q: Please describe your current role in your organization and your career journey to that role.
A: I am Vice Chair for Health Equity, Department of Medicine and Clinical Director of Cardiology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. In working towards ensuring Health Equity, I am engaged in measuring outcomes in cancer care by race, ethnicity, language, and morbidities and in helping to create solutions to any identified gaps in care. I am also involved in pipeline development for URM in cardiology and oncology subspecialties. As Clinical Director, I have responsibilities that pertain primarily to operations in the sphere of cardiovascular services for Memorial Sloan Kettering at the main campus and at the regional sites. I am also the co-chair of our Black Faculty and Scientist Faculty Council, a role which carries a focus on Black faculty career advancement and increasing institutional racial awareness.
My journey to my present roles has come in different stages. My initial leadership role was that of a clinician with administrative and operational responsibilities. I sought opportunities in my professional organizations to make contributions in the sphere of public health. Post my subspecialty training in cardiology, my leadership and management training was through my MPH in minority health policy. All throughout my career I have relied heavily on strategies and capabilities that I was immersed in and developed during my Commonwealth Fund Fellowship at Harvard.