Reflection on the NAM Fellowship in Osteopathic Medicine

An Interview with Dr. Jennie H. Kwon (2016-2018 Fellow)

Jennie H. Kwon, DO, MSCI, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Washington University School of Medicine and an Associate Hospital Epidemiologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. Dr. Kwon performs clinical and translational research on the transmission of multidrug-resistant organisms (MDRO) and the impact of antimicrobials on the fecal microbiome. Her goal is to create novel methods to detect, prevent, and treat MDRO colonization and infections. In the clinical setting, Dr. Kwon works as the Associate Medical Director for Infection Prevention, and provides in- and outpatient care to patients with solid organ and bone marrow transplant-related infections.

Dr. Kwon is the recipient of the second NAM Fellowship in Osteopathic Medicine, which was established in 2014. The Fellowship enables talented early-career health science scholars to participate in evidence-based health care and public health studies that affect the American people. Through direct involvement in the work of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies), the Fellowship provides the opportunity to study health care challenges from a range of disciplines and viewpoints to develop sound health care strategies and policies.

In the following interview, Dr. Kwon reflects on her current Fellowship experience to date, the impact that this unique opportunity has had on her career, and advice for future Fellows.

How did you hear about the NAM Fellowship, and what motivated you to seek nomination? 

I learned about the NAM Fellowship in Osteopathic Medicine directly from the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), who provide support for the Fellowship along with the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine and the American Osteopathic Foundation. The Senior Vice President of Public Policy at AOA reached out to me and informed me that they wanted to nominate me for the Fellowship.

I was excited to be nominated because the Fellowship is an incredible opportunity to learn how to transform evidence-based research into actionable recommendations that will improve public health. The Fellowship also provides a rare opportunity to engage with a variety of experts in the fields of medicine, engineering, public policy, healthcare administration, and scientific research.

What does the NAM Fellowship in Osteopathic Medicine entail? 

The Fellowship is a part-time commitment designed to augment and enhance existing and ongoing professional work. I am able to retain my positions at both Washington University School of Medicine and at Barnes-Jewish Hosptial while devoting about 20% of my professional time to the work of the Fellowship. I work with the Board on Global Health and the Board on Health Care Services, and my time is spent supporting their ongoing studies. I supported the work of the Making Medicines Affordable: A National Imperative consensus study, as well as the consensus study on Improving the Quality of Health Care Globally.

How have you contributed to the work of your assigned board/committee/roundtable/forum during your current tenure as a NAM Fellow?

I worked on the consensus report Making Medicines Affordable: A National ImperativeThe report was led by committee chair Dr. Norman Augustine. I participated in all open and closed meetings and engaged in the robust discussions to move the report forward. Taking part in these sessions was my favorite aspect of working on this report, as I had a “behind the scenes” look into how complicated ideas and perspectives are moved forward to become committee recommendations. The National Academies’ staff supporting this study, Dr. Sharyl Nass and Dr. Guru Madhavan, welcomed me as a Fellow and invited me to research and write on specific topics for the report. When I read the final product, I reflected fondly upon the work that led to the report, and am so thankful to have contributed to it.

I’m currently working on Improving the Quality of Health Care Globally, a consensus study on improving health care quality while expanding access to preventive and therapeutic services globally, with a focus on low-resource areas. The committee is led by two global leaders in healthcare quality, Dr. Don Berwick and Dr. Sania Nishtar. This study is still underway, and I have taken part as the study progressed from committee member nomination to public sessions to closed sessions, and now to the stage of writing the report. I am working with staff members in drafting chapters for the final report. My favorite experiences with this report have been taking part in the thoughtful debates during the closed sessions and getting to know each of the committee members. This is such an important topic, and the task seems impossibly big, but as we have evolved as a group we are seeing the recommendations come into shape. I am very excited to continue to work on this project, and I know the final product will be impactful in helping improve patient care.

What are the top three highlights of your Fellowship experience? 

The first highlight was the continual reiteration throughout all of my conversations with staff and committee members that when approaching complex problems related to healthcare, we should keep the person or patient experience at the core of every discussion and decision. Being able to witness how multi-disciplinary groups can translate scientific findings and patient experiences into broader recommendations to improve public policy and public health has been enlightening.

The second highlight of the Fellowship is the opportunity to work with intelligent and engaged individuals who are driven by a sense of urgency to improve public health. We started with a fantastic health policy primer at AcademyHealth, where I engaged with early-career health professionals from an array of distinguished backgrounds. From that point on, I have worked with healthcare leaders that shape domestic and international healthcare policy, experts in diverse fields of science and medicine, and excellent staff who move the work of the National Academies forward.

The third highlight of the Fellowship is the personal relationships and mentors I have gained. Some of my favorite memories include sincere discussions with Dr. Pascale Carayon, a Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Wisconsin; Sheila Leatherman, a Research Professor in Health Policy and Management at the University of North Carolina; and Dr. Don Berwick, President Emeritus and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Hearing about their journeys in the world of public health and their perspectives on the future directions of health care have been illuminating. These are thought leaders that I have immense respect for, and the Fellowship has provided me with the opportunity to work with them one-on-one.

What impact has the Fellowship had on you, both professionally and personally? 

The NAM Fellowship in Osteopathic Medicine has been one of the most professionally enriching and rewarding experiences I have had. The Fellowship has allowed me to engage with experts outside of my field, including engineering, social sciences, industry, and philanthropy, all while maintaining my academic post. To approach complex questions, these individuals engage in high-level discourse, but at the same time focus on the individual person and patient experience.

I have been continually impressed with the sincere engagement, knowledge, and critical thinking skills of the committee members who I have worked with on both consensus studies. I have been connected to thought leaders in diverse fields who shape our health policy. I have also been exposed to exceptional team leaders and staff members who engage the committee members to openly discuss controversial topics and encourage consideration of all perspectives (even if they are disparate) on a particular topic.

Knowing what you know now through your Fellowship experience, what advice would you give to other promising early-career professionals or emerging leaders in the field about contributing to the future direction of health care?

Expose yourself to different perspectives and professions while focusing on your own specific career development goals and milestones. Intentionally seek opportunities to engage and work with engineers, academic leaders, industry, healthcare administrators, health policy officials, patient engagement groups, and others who may look at a problem differently than you do. These individuals and groups will likely have differing thoughts than yours, which, when combined with thoughtful discourse, can enhance your understanding of complex problems.

Seek out mentorship from these individuals. The NAM members have an incredible depth of experience and knowledge, and they are very open to engaging with young, emerging leaders.

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