Meet the Team is our blog series introducing some of the amazing professionals at Ascendient – who they are and what makes them tick. This month, meet Patricia Dowbiggin, a strategy consultant who joined the firm in August 2022.
You have an interesting background in EMS. Talk a little about what you learned as a paramedic, and how that informs your sense of purpose.
I am grateful for my time in EMS gaining experience providing patient care, directly engaging with my community, and experiencing how different people access and use the healthcare system … as well as finding an unexpected preference for certain truck chassis. I believe, in emergency services, people may imagine it as very high acuity and adrenaline pounding work. However, once you get into the career it becomes evident that it is less high acuity care and more filling and responding to the gaps in our healthcare system. Field EMS led naturally to Public Health – you can’t deny social determinants of health when they are staring you in the face for 14-hour shifts. As a result, even as my position has changed, my personal mission has stayed consistent: to drive the improvement of community health through efficient and equitable healthcare practices.
You’re an accomplished researcher, with published articles in emergency medicine and public health journals. Do you think that research expertise makes you a better strategist?
“Data-based decision making” isn’t just a bunch of buzz words. I love the academic process of strong research design, data collection, statistics … and ultimately helping the respective fields move forward. But academia can’t live in a vacuum. Research, quality improvement, and operations all need to be aligned for us to move forward in the right direction.
You’ve been with Ascendient about a year and a half now. What’s the most interesting or rewarding engagement you’ve worked on so far? (No need to name the client.)
My answer is really more about a series of engagements. Access to health services is vital in any community, and our role in “Securing the Future of Healthcare in Rural America” with the Rural Healthcare Initiative has been rewarding to jump into. Working with a team that is so knowledgeable – and so compassionate towards the community we are working with – is the ideal environment. It is really something to be proud of whenever we engage in work that results in stabilizing or expanding the health services available to the community.
Healthcare is booming, and MPHs are in high demand. What was it that attracted you to Ascendient, rather than a hospital setting or another consulting firm?
As I looked at expanding from clinical care to academic and administrative work, I had a mentor tell me that our mission doesn’t change when we step out of the field. If anything, we are aiming to help people at a population level instead of solely at an individual level. I feel that in my current role, while I may not be caring for a patient face-to-face, I am able to help hospitals and health departments to serve more people and provide quality services. Ascendient’s drive to provide Higher Thinking research and to champion improvements in the healthcare industry aligned perfectly with my experiences and mission.
Who are you when you’re not at work? What do you love to do outside the office?
Outside of the office, I try to spend as much time as possible, well … outside! My husband Ray and German Shepard Riley usually join me for long hikes in Pisgah or Uwharrie. Add in a fantasy audiobook by Tolkien, Sanderson, or the like and I’m set for a weekend.
Exit question: If you could solve one issue in the US healthcare system that would have the greatest impact, what would that be?
Access to primary care. It is a surprisingly easy question to answer when we aren’t diving into the complexities of why and how. From a provider level and a system level, we feel the harm that occurs when individuals aren’t able to establish care with primary care providers.