December 11, 2019 | Erin Bluvas, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lexington Medical Center is a place of new beginnings for Danielle Thomas. The December graduate (Master of Public Health in Health Services Policy and Management) was born there in the 90s. A little more than two decades later, she returned – this time as a public health professional rather than a patient.
Though she was born in South Carolina, Thomas graduated from high school in Palm Beach, Florida and attended Florida State University to earn a bachelor’s degree in family and child sciences. As an undergraduate, she completed a practicum in the occupational therapy department at a local hospital, sparking her passion for quality improvement in healthcare.
“I am passionate about equitable healthcare access, health outcomes and patient advocacy,” Thomas says. “During my undergraduate degree, I focused mostly on the clinical side of healthcare where I encountered many barriers to healthcare that a lot of the patients I assisted faced. I knew I couldn’t just know about these barriers; I had to be a part of the solution.”
She chose UofSC because of the Arnold School’s emphasis on community involvement and partnerships with other healthcare organizations. Thomas was excited by the idea of using community engagement to strengthen public health services in the Midlands and felt encouraged by the faculty members support and their commitment to open-mindedness. After beginning her program, Thomas connected with clinical associate professors Kelli Kenison and Bankole Olatosi, who inspired her to be a leader in public health and, in turn, inspire future leaders.
“Dr. Kenison instills the importance of collective action in public health and taught me to embrace every challenge with a growth mindset and is always willing to talk through new ideas and challenges. Her love for public health is simply infectious and I know, without a doubt, my passion for public health has grown by having her as my mentor,” Thomas says. “Dr. Olatosi Inspired my love for healthcare data and analytics. He taught me analytics skills that have prepared me to be successful in my future career.”
During her program, Thomas served as a graduate student with UofSC Student Health Services and Lexington Medical Center’s Physician Network. She also completed a residency project at the Lexington Medical Center, examining quality improvement for clerical staff trainings and evaluations and demonstrating that patient satisfaction extends far beyond provider interactions in the examination room.
“I have always had a passion for self-improvement projects, books and challenges,” says Thomas. “Therefore, healthcare quality improvement allows me to take something I love personally and do it professionally.”
Beginning in January, she’ll get to do it full time. Lexington Medical Center hired Thomas to join the organization as an Operations Analyst. In this role, she will engage in systemwide process improvement projects for Lexington Medical Center’s Physician Network.
“I am excited because this opportunity combines both my strong interests for healthcare data analytics and quality improvement,” says Thomas, who has also prepped for the role by completing a certificate in healthcare quality and safety through the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. “I get to interact with healthcare providers, staff and patients to ensure that our organization is continuously providing high quality of care.”
Long term, Thomas would like to teach a healthcare quality improvement class at the graduate level. In the meantime, she has some advice for those considering a master’s program in the near future.
“Engage in learning about an aspect of public health that may be unfamiliar or challenging to you,” she says. “The most successful leaders in public health are those who can hold a conversation with everyone at the ‘public health table’.”