KOKOMO, Ind. – At an age that most children’s knowledge of health care is that they get a sticker after a wellness check, Gabby Mora was an experienced health care system navigator.
“Whenever our family did anything that had to do with health care, I had to go along and translate, and navigate the system,” said Mora, who immigrated from Mexico with her family at age 7. “From a very young age, I was exposed to that setting, and I experienced first-hand how difficult it can be, and it doesn’t have to be.”
That experience inspired her dream of becoming a patient experience officer in a health care system — to ensure patients understand their care, and to make sure decisions made by leadership are in the best interest of patients.
With funding from the Indiana University Kokomo Experience and You (KEY) program and the School of Business, she gained an inside look at her chosen career, attending the 10th annual Patient Experience: Empathy + Innovation Symposium at the Cleveland Clinic.
“It was a great opportunity that opened my eyes to what it means to be part of the patient experience within a hospital,” she said. “It gave me the ability to see first-hand what it’s like, before I graduate.”
Mora, a senior studying public administration and health care management at IU Kokomo, was among more than 1,500 people at the conference, which brings together patient experience leaders, healthcare CEOs, innovators, nursing leaders, policy makers, major stakeholders, and industry leaders. Session topics included health care access, technology, leadership, burnout, and communication, among others.
She appreciated the opportunity, and the effort made to get her there by Karla Stouse, instructor of her honors colloquium class. During an after-class discussion, Mora told Stouse about her career plans, and learned that Stouse knows Dr. Adrienne Boissey, chief patient experience officer at the Cleveland Clinic, who hosts the conference. Stouse met with Mark Canada, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, and Alan Krabbenhoft, dean of the School of Business, who agreed to fund the trip.
“If it wasn’t for passionate people like Karla Stouse, and leaders who care about our success, I would not have been able to go,” she said. “This opened my eyes to the great support system that is available to IU Kokomo students. All we have to do is have the desire to do something, and communicate with our professors, and they will do as much as they can to make those desires come true. They are a true reflection of the professors and administrators here, who are caring and want to see us succeed.”
She’s following up on her conference experience with a fellowship through the Indiana Latino Institute. She will spend 300 hours being mentored by Kelly Braverman, president of IU Health Frankfort Hospital, and other hospital leaders, learning about administration from the inside.
Part of that time will include job shadowing with the patient experience officer, to learn more about what that job involves on a daily basis.
The fellowship also includes weekly professional development, to prepare her for career success after she graduates in May 2020.
Her first step towards advocacy is starting a Latino Student Organization on campus, to support those coming behind her. Many are first-generation college students, like herself, and don’t have people at home they can ask questions about classes, financial aid, and other issues college students may face.
“When I first came to campus, I didn’t have much involvement,” she said. “A Latino student organization provides resources to help students succeed, and show them this is a place that welcomes them. When I first started, I wondered where was that safe spot for Latino students like me. It’s something I’m passionate about, and want to change.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.