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A Newcomer to Health Innovation Shares Her Experience

Aimee Ando, DO

Aimee Ando has always been an early adopter. In her practice, if someone shows her a path forward, she usually takes it.

It makes sense, then, that she joined the inaugural cohort of Penn’s Master of Health Care Innovation program, a two-year online degree at Penn that provides health care professionals with the mentors and know-how to create real change.

“I have a very strong interest in implementation science, especially when it comes to finding the best ways to close the knowledge and time gaps necessary to take up new practices that could improve health care for everyone,” said Ando, DO, a Family Medicine physician within Penn Primary Care.

In just a few weeks, Ando and her fellow classmates will be the first to receive this master’s degree. However, this unique training has already paid off: in October, Ando was named associate medical director of Practice Transformation and director of Diversity and Health Equity of Penn Primary Care. In her new roles, Ando travels to different practices within the health system to get the perspective from different offices and see where progress can be made in delivering even better care.

“We all want to do the right thing by our patients,” Ando said. “That’s the thread between all of our practices and gives me hope.”

In the midst of her first official year in the health innovation world, Ando shares what she’s learned and what she’s been able to do already.

Q: What appealed to you about the Master of Health Care Innovation?

A: I’ve been at Penn Medicine since completing residency in 2012. My first love will always be direct engagement in the art and science of primary care with my patients.

Yet I was at the point in my career where I wanted to have a greater impact on shaping the ways in which we examine and improve upon the current state of how we deliver care. There have been seismic changes in the health care landscape, largely due to access to big data across the populations we serve and the rising health care costs that do not necessarily correlate with high-quality and patient-centered care. Innovation methodology is something I did not learn in medical school, so I knew I needed further training in that space in order to feel confident and competent to affect meaningful change.

Q: What have you taken away from the program that you think is most valuable to your work?

A: The biggest takeaway for me has been that making change is something that is really hard, takes time, yet is worthwhile and, in fact, critical to pursue. Learning alongside colleagues in various specialties and fields in medicine who share the same ethos and commitment to innovation has been invaluable to maintaining the resilience, sense of humor, and tenacity needed to continue to show up fully to the work each day. The relationships that I have made with my fellow classmates as well as learning from faculty that are best-in-class in their respective fields have already provided an immeasurable return on the investments I have made in these last two years.

Q: Is there a change you’re working on that you’re particularly proud of?

A: In the past six months in my new position, I have had great opportunities to work collaboratively with such talented and committed colleagues across Penn Medicine, particularly on practice transformation initiatives that relate to participation in Comprehensive Primary Care Plus (CPC+). I am most proud of my contributions toward enhancing early, high-quality advance care planning in primary care, which we in the primary care service line are partnering with the Center for Health Care Innovation, Penn Palliative Care and the Penn Palliative and Advanced Illness Research Center (PAIR) to do, particularly for our patients who have serious illnesses.

If we can really get it right, our biggest achievement would be the ability to provide high levels of care that we confidently know are consistent with our patients’ personal values and overall goals in life during all aspects of treatment, but particularly at end-of-life.

Q: Now that you’re close to achieving your degree and are already working in an innovation focused-position, what would you say is the hardest part of trying to bring about change?

A: Though completely necessary, bringing everyone forward together is the biggest challenge. We want to create impactful and valuable, cost-effective changes for our patients that all clinicians and staff can get behind. For a variety of reasons, some might never get there, and it might take some digging to get into what lies beneath the resistance. And it’s different for everyone. The job requires both analytical skills and emotional intelligence to see the other side of things, to meet everyone where they are, and really understand their values and provide the resources and supports that are needed.

I hope to continue to be up to the task for the long term and luckily am working on teams all throughout Penn Medicine that have very committed and highly talented collaborators.

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