Collaborating outside of hospital walls: Q&A with Ascension's 1st chief community impact officer

On March 4, Tamarah Duperval-Brownlee, MD, assumed her new role as St. Louis-based Ascension's first chief community impact officer. The newly created role focuses on improving coordination and collaboration between healthcare organizations and community partners to improve the overall health and well-being of people who live within Ascension's markets.

Here she discusses her new responsibilities as well as initiatives she plans to lead to improve the health of Ascension's patients outside the hospital.

Question: What are your key responsibilities as chief community impact officer?

Dr. Tamarah Duperval-Brownlee: I'll lead Ascension's transformation of select hospitals to healthy villages, which integrates healthcare and non-healthcare partners to optimize the health and well-being of a community. In addition, our team will collaborate with partners to advance health equity through community health improvement and investment in addressing social determinants of health to enable fulfillment of our strategic goals.

Q: What excites you most in your new role?

TDB: We, as providers, have the chance to reimagine ways of working as we strive to better serve those who trust us with their care. We know that healthcare is transforming, as consumers are requiring an integrated healthcare experience, and acute care hospitals are no longer the center of the healthcare continuum. This presents the unique opportunity to focus on primary care and partner to build programs addressing social determinants of health for a community, such as affordable housing, education and access to healthy foods.

Q: What are some key initiatives you plan to roll out as chief community impact officer?

TDB: A couple priorities will be to embrace the role of the patient navigator and platforms that ensure we deliver compassionate, personalized care to persons living in poverty and those most vulnerable. In addition, we will invest in programs that address social factors and identify health partners who play an integral role in impacting people's health, which will align with our strategy to transform healthcare and provide relevant services for patients and families.

Q: What are some areas of opportunity for health systems to truly become their community's partner in care?

TDB: It is imperative that healthcare providers listen to the people they serve and be intentional about building and enhancing relationships with like-minded services and organizations. Along with our community partners, we share the same mission, which aims to improve health conditions, address social factors that impede a person's goal to be well and access healthcare services (such as transportation, affordable housing and accessing healthy foods), and providing a different model of care that builds on access, quality and enhanced experiences.

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