College of Public Health students graduating

Sharon Rodriguez Selected for Health for America at MedStar Health Fellowship

Program with Less Than One Percent Acceptance Rate Offers Recent Graduates Unique Health Innovation Opportunity

Sharon Rodriguez, a 2017 graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Public Health with a master’s degree in Health Administration, has been awarded a prestigious MedStar Health fellowship for recent college graduates interested in health innovation. Reflective of a new shift in the program model, this year’s Health for America (HFA) at MedStar Health fellows will respectively support “internal startups” at the MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2). Sharon will spend 50 percent of her time working on assigned projects within the MedStar Telehealth Innovation Center at MI2, and 50 percent of her time completing the HFA curriculum to explore, ideate and implement a special project within telehealth at MedStar.

The HFA fellowship program, housed in MI2, aims to attract next generation leaders to health care, create novel solutions that improve health outcomes, and increase innovation capacity in the health system. Fellows gain unique access to related education and expertise centered on health, design, entrepreneurship, and leadership through national conference attendance, a rigorous curriculum, and mentors, sharing their learning online. HFA was founded as a standalone non-profit in 2012 and integrated into MI2 in 2016. MI2 collaborates with 1776, a public benefit corporation that empowers startup ecosystems around the world to solve complex challenges, to provide HFA with educational and business opportunities, as well as mentorship and workspace. 

“We know that the tyranny of the daily trumps the pursuit of the remarkable, absent a countervailing force,” said Mark Smith, MD, MedStar’s chief innovation officer and director of MI2. “Health for America was created to be such a force. It immerses the best and brightest young professionals in health innovation. Everyone benefits—our patients, the fellows themselves, the whole MedStar Health system, and the greater Washington-Baltimore region. It is an optimistic bet on the future.”

Sharon will work under the mentorship of Ethan Booker, MD, director of Operations Improvement in the Department of Emergency Medicine at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, and Bill Sheahan, a corporate vice president for MedStar Health, director of the MedStar Simulation, Training and Education Laboratory (SiTEL), and co-director of the MedStar Telehealth Innovation Center. As part of the telehealth team, she will contribute to existing initiatives while also conducting research, participating in simulations, and interviewing patients and care providers to proactively identify unique project opportunities. Her fellowship will run from Sept. 5, 2017 through July 31, 2018.

As a data-centered healthcare advocate, Sharon is interested in innovative care delivery models, multi-sector partnerships, and health policy. In May 2015 she earned a Bachelor of Science in health information management from The Ohio State University. While in college, she interned in a variety of healthcare settings and community organizations, including the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Bluegrass, UK Healthcare, Sutter Health, Change Healthcare, OhioHealth, and OSU Wexner Medical Center. Her various college internships gave her a firsthand view of the positive impact innovative care delivery models and hospital-community partnerships can have on health outcomes, patient care coordination, and patient experience. 

In May 2017, Sharon earned a master’s degree in health administration at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health. During this time, she worked as a graduate assistant at UK HealthCare, where she completed project work related to the relocation of the Barnstable Brown Diabetes & Obesity Center. She credits the project’s focus on diabetes self-management education and diabetes centers of excellence with profoundly expanding her knowledge of the patient experience. Also while at UK, Sharon completed public health research focused on understanding the socio-ecological factors contributing to Kentucky’s high rates of cancer. She illustrated the decisive role health policy plays in reducing the burden of diseases such as cancer, which sparked her interest in health policy. She looks forward to building upon these diverse experiences through her HFA fellowship.

HFA applications were received from more than 350 young professionals, representing more than 130 U.S. undergraduate institutions and having an average 3.5 on a 4.0 grade point scale. This year’s program had a less than one percent acceptance rate.