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Primary Care, Health Equity & Population Health: Meet 5 Leaders

Dec. 19, 2018


How do you revolutionize how people get and stay healthy? One project, one day, one person at a time.

Meet five of the people working on The University of Texas at Austin campus, at clinics around town and even in community members’ homes toward the shared goal of making Austin a model healthy city.

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Primary Care Focused on ‘Turning the Ship’

Brandon Allport, M.D., MPH, is a primary care physician at Lone Star Circle of Care at Collinfield. At Dell Med, he serves as an assistant professor in the Departments of Population Health, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics.

Why Dell Med?

I was really excited by the idea of working at a new medical school that is interested in rethinking how we practice medicine, promote health, interact with communities and teach new physicians. There has been increasing awareness that the system in which we work is in need of drastic improvements and revisions, but changing long-established systems is like trying to turn a big ship around. At Dell Med, we have the opportunity to start with a clean slate and help shape an enlightened future for health and medicine.

Why did you choose to go into primary care?

Primary care is the practice setting with the highest potential for impact on the overall health of individuals and populations, especially for vulnerable populations. In primary care, we have the opportunity to prevent health problems before they develop, to screen patients so that we can catch and treat health problems early. We also address social determinants of health — social conditions like housing and food insecurity that affect health but that other providers rarely address. We form valuable and rewarding relationships over time with patients which can last a lifetime or even generations. We also have our ear to the ground to the community's health and can pick up on systemic or societal issues that need to be addressed at higher levels.

What previous experience is informing your work here in Austin?

I most recently worked at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. My clinical work there was performing internal medicine consultations for adult surgical and psychiatric inpatients at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and supervising pediatric residents providing primary care to an urban underserved population of children. I also completed a clinical research fellowship during which I studied the importance of fathers for child health, and I completed a Master's in Public Health with a focus on health systems and global health.

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A Community Doctor Training the Next Generation

Anne Cioletti, M.D., is a primary care physician at CommUnityCare Southeast Health and Wellness Center. At Dell Med, she serves as an assistant professor in the Departments of Internal Medicine and Population Health.

Why Dell Med?

Dell Med was an easy choice for me. Between the innovation and enthusiasm around a new school and growing residency program, I was quickly eager to be a part of the team.

I love ambulatory medical education at Dell Med. I have the opportunity to help train and motivate the future internists and potentially primary care physicians, sharing enthusiasm and knowledge both ways.

What do you love about your work in primary care?

I knew in medical school that I was attracted to the longitudinal care and relationship-building that comes with primary care. I enjoy partnering with my patients to develop care plans and deciphering the complicated verbiage and plans of health care. I had planned on doing a geriatrics fellowship, but as I was completing a primary care residency, I realized general internal medicine was for me.

I love the patients I see at CommUnityCare — the opportunity to see some of the most vulnerable and under-resourced people of Travis County is humbling and incredibly rewarding. Although difficult, it truly embodies why I became a physician.

What previous experience do you bring to your role in Austin?

From the beginning of my career I have been dedicated to training future primary care doctors and helping them learn how to improve medicine. I was working at George Washington University as an associate program director for the internal medicine and primary care track residency. My role was focused in quality improvement curriculum development, and I partnered with the Graduate Medical Education Office as the vice chair, working on our institutional Clinical Learning Environment Review (CLER) committee.

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Shining a Light on Local Voices

Ricardo A. Garay serves as a program manager in the Department of Population Health at Dell Medical School.

Why Dell Med?

I continue to believe that the school has a unique opportunity to shift paradigms, flip traditional power roles and challenge conventions. I felt that my unique trajectory could provide Dell Medical School with an immigrant story that reflects resilience, creativity and solidarity.

What previous experiences inform your role here?

I was born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. My grandfather played a pivotal role in the creation of a state hospital in Honduras. My father has his doctorate in pharmacy and my mom managed our family pharmacy for many years. I was incredibly fortunate to have been born into a family where health and health care were a main discussion.

Before joining Dell Medical School I worked at a non-profit called Migrant Clinicians Network here in Austin. I managed a program called Health Network that connected clinicians with migrants from more than 110 countries to ensure that treatment for pre-existing conditions continues wherever the patient goes. This work was a great exercise in humanity and empathy. To this day, I remain moved by the stories of migrant farmworkers, asylum seekers and many other dreamers; I’ve been inspired to imagine better global health care for everyone regardless of income, race, gender or other social constructs.

I continue to believe that the school has a unique opportunity to shift paradigms, flip traditional power roles and challenge conventions. I felt that my unique trajectory could provide Dell Medical School with an immigrant story that reflects resilience, creativity and solidarity.

Ricardo A. Garay

What do you find most rewarding about your work in Austin?

There are great challenges and many barriers to overcome here in Central Texas — it is difficult sometimes to live in a country that vilifies immigrants; a state with so many folks without health insurance and proper access to health care; and a city that remains one of the most economically segregated in the nation — yet I find these challenges to be motivating.

I find hope hearing the voices of folks who continue to work together and create moments of beauty through solidarity. I am surrounded by inspiring stories of immigrants and other pioneers in neighborhoods like Rundberg and Dove Springs. Personally, I am attracted to stories of those most affected by health disparities because if positive change can occur there, then I will have participated in making a difference where it matters most. The Department of Population Health’s Community Strategy Team, the Social Identity Series of community events and the work around community health workers are all examples of some of the areas that keep me excited about Dell Medical School’s mission to make Austin a model healthy city.

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Keeping Health Equity Central to the Mission

Jewel Mullen, M.D., MPH, serves as associate dean for health equity at Dell Medical School, and is an associate professor in the Departments of Internal Medicine and Population Health.

Why Dell Med?

The school’s goals are the same reasons I decided to become a doctor: to model community health improvement, to develop better ways to provide patients the care they need and deserve, and to nurture learners to serve society throughout their careers. Lots of people talk about how broken the health care system in the U.S. is. I wanted to be part of the team that is working on the fixes and putting them into practice here in Austin and Travis County.

How do you approach improving health equity in Austin?

Pushing for equity is not a project for me. It reflects how I live, and how I have always approached being a doctor. I believe that everyone should have a fair opportunity to be as healthy as they possibly can. As one of Dell Med’s senior leaders, my role is to ensure that a focus on achieving equity is not an add-on to the mission. I work to keep equity central to what we do in education, in patient care, in research and in our work with communities.

Lots of people outside of Austin talk about how attractive a place it is to relocate, to live, to work and to play. But obviously, that is not the reality for everyone who lives here. I am grateful about the willingness of partners from community organizations and the medical school to speak out about the people and communities who can be harmed by or left out of Austin’s successes.

Lots of people talk about how broken the health care system in the U.S. is. I wanted to be part of the team that is working on the fixes and putting them into practice here in Austin and Travis County.

Jewel Mullen, M.D.

What previous experience do you bring to your work here?

My most recent job prior to coming to Dell Med was in Washington, D.C., as a senior official at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Before that, I was the public health commissioner for the state of Connecticut. But for years prior to those government positions, I practiced internal medicine and I directed a neighborhood health center. From that combination of roles: practitioner, administrator and policy maker who has devoted much of her career to collaborating with community partners, I know what it takes to help lead a mission like Dell Med’s. I have tackled clinical, public health, financial and social challenges to improve health, and had successes along the way. And I know the importance of keeping patients and communities at the center of that work.

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A Native Austinite Brings Home Global Lessons

Aliza Norwood, M.D., is a primary care physician at CommUnityCare Southeast Health and Wellness Center. At Dell Med, she serves as an assistant professor in the Departments of Internal Medicine and Population Health.

Why Dell Med?

As a native Austinite, I had always hoped to be a part of a medical school in Austin. When I read the mission and vision of the Dell Medical School, I knew I had found a match because my values aligned with the school’s mission to work with the local community and think outside the box to address the root causes of disease and health care inequity.

I am honored to have the opportunity to give back to the community that raised me and to train leaders who will make Austin an epicenter for innovative medical education and community-centered health care delivery.

What previous experience do you bring that informs your work here?

My most recent job was abroad, as a hospitalist and primary care provider at the only hospital in Saipan, a U.S. commonwealth in the Pacific near Guam. There, I worked on a number of population health and telemedicine projects, including a collaboration with local schools to teach middle school students about diabetes; precepting UCSF internal medicine residents; and developing a program with physicians at UC San Francisco and at Dell Med to provide free consultative services in neurology and orthopaedic surgery for patients living in Saipan.

I am honored to have the opportunity to give back to the community that raised me and to train leaders who will make Austin an epicenter for innovative medical education and community-centered health care delivery.

Aliza Norwood, M.D.

What makes primary care the best specialty for you to practice?

Primary care doctors have a unique opportunity to collaborate with other health care professionals and with their community to improve public health and address the determinants of health and inequality in health care. Access to primary care can prevent or mitigate the consequences of chronic disease conditions, improving the health of individual patients and their communities, and reducing healthcare costs. Finally, I find inspiration and personal satisfaction in my job from developing relationships with my patients over time — something that all primary care doctors enjoy.

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