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“Notes from the Field” is a special newsroom feature, highlighting industry professionals working to transform healthcare. In this edition, we spoke with Vivian Anugwom, Director of Health Equity at Allina Health.
Q: Tell us about your role as the Director of Health Equity at Allina Health?
I recently went from being the Health Equity Manager to the Director of Health Equity at Allina Health, which is part of the population health leadership team. I think that alignment in and of itself demonstrates the importance of health equity work right now. As we continue on this path towards value, we need to ensure that we’re providing high-value, high-quality care for our patients and incorporating an enterprise-grade equity throughout our care delivery mechanisms. I’m working alongside other teams and partners to help develop the strategies and infrastructures needed to ensure that we are not only identifying disparities but addressing them effectively. One great example is the partnership with Health Catalyst where we co-created a dashboard that will help us monitor the disparities we’ve identified as well as progress towards improvements in those key areas. We’ve had shared learnings across teams that help us see what it looks like to ensure that, even in our data and analytics, we are integrating an equity lens, for example with our COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
Q: What is one thing you’ve learned over the past year?
I’ve realized the importance of intensely focusing on progress over perfection–in all aspects of my life. Once you find something that you’re passionate about or a goal you’re working toward, it’s important not to focus only on the end result, but on the constant movement forward–and even any bumps that come along the way. That’s where you can really learn and grow.
Q: Have you found your pandemic silver lining?
As sad as it is, the pandemic helped to shine a light on disparities that have existed for a long time. It highlighted the fact that we didn’t have natural mechanisms to support certain communities. It’s also shown us what it looks like to respond quickly, be innovative, and learn along the way. Personally, the pivot to working from home forced me to structure my days in a way where I can be fully present in each aspect of my life.
Q: Who is your mentor – and why?
I’ve had a few mentors throughout my career and they’ve all supported my growth and evolution as a leader. There have been a number of people that were the right person to mentor me at the right time, whether it was supporting me in going to back to school or helping me understand what it means to be a leader in healthcare. Because health equity is such a new field, there aren’t a lot of best practices, but I’m still learning what skills and knowledge gaps there are in helping to advance the field.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in health equity?
I would actually say I pursued a career in healthcare because I wanted to help people. I’ve had a number of different roles in the field and couldn’t ignore the opportunities to address glaring inequities. I’ve always found a way to incorporate health equity into the work I was doing. Right now I have health equity in my job title, but I think health equity is a part of everyone’s job, or it should be. I am a healthcare leader–I just happen to be the health equity leader right now.
Q: What is the biggest opportunity to improve healthcare?
The biggest opportunity in healthcare is to create environments that are responsive to the unique needs of our patients and communities. We need to meet people where they are and then be agile enough to respond in a respectful manner. I think that would solve a lot of the current issues.
Q: What is the greatest challenge facing healthcare?
In many ways, the pandemic has allowed us to accelerate our pre-pandemic strategies. I think the greatest challenge will be sustaining our ability to solve problems and innovate quickly while recovering from a stressful couple of years.