Alexandra at CFI

Health Care Through a Student’s Experience

Alexandra Post


Guest Post Written By Alexandra, a University of Chicago student.


Hi! My name is Alexandra, and I am a first-year undergrad at the University of Chicago, studying Biology and Public Policy on a pre-medical career track. During my Spring Break this year, I got the opportunity to come to the Center for Innovation (CFI) for a week-long “externship” – a fusion of an internship and a shadowing experience. As a pre-medical student, I was thrilled to be coming to the Mayo Clinic, but I had no idea of the type of work that CFI was doing.

However, once I arrived, my externship host and fellow "UChicago-an" Kajsa Nichols-Smith gave me a thorough introduction to design thinking, health policy, patient care, and the ways in which these elements and many more are fused here at CFI. Through meetings with medical students and Mayo employees who generously gave of their time to answer my questions, I was given an in-depth introduction to the issues facing America’s healthcare system. I also received a first-hand account of some of the most innovative solutions to this system’s many problems. This experience gave me several valuable insights.


"Medicine is much more than diagnosis and treatment: it is the maintenance and provision of health to a whole, complex individual whose needs and wants extend beyond their illness."


The opportunity to speak to professionals from multiple disciplines gave me practical tools and strategies that I can employ to make myself both a more well-rounded student, and eventually a better doctor. The in-depth research that CFI executes around physician-patient relations taught me how medicine functions on a personal, day-to-day level. Discussions about current health policy issues lent me a broad perspective on the future of an industry which I hope to enter.

Specifically, I learned a great deal about CFI’s project work, which is comprised of a variety of quality improvement projects targeted at almost every aspect of current healthcare. Much of their work changed the way in which I view medicine because it focuses not only on the quality of care but also the quality of the experience of care. The focus on holistic care extended through all facets of CFI’s work and made me realize that medicine is much more than diagnosis and treatment: it is the maintenance and provision of health to a whole, complex individual whose needs and wants extend beyond their illness.

The team has researched and developed a new method of clinical operation in which all members of a “care team” – a group of doctors, nurses, and administrators – work interdependently through an open system of communication. This system relieves pressure on doctors and lowers the costs of delivering care by allowing all members of the team to work at the top of their licensures, meaning that a low-complexity patient may be seen by a registered nurse instead of a physician. I, like many Americans, had accepted the reality of long waiting room times and multiple iterations of “what brings me here today.”


Alexandra at CFI


I was amazed at how the application of design thinking uncovered problems that few people even realize are present, and how CFI generated a solution so effective that I was left wondering why we hadn’t already applied it. I was lucky to have the opportunity to discuss some projects in detail with Kajsa, one of the designers that work at CFI, and asked her questions about the process they used as well as the realities of its application.

This experience was extraordinarily valuable to me because it gave me a unique insight into the world of healthcare. Many pre-meds are so focused on academic excellence and Med School applications (with good reason!) that we don’t get a chance to step back and really examine the career we’re entering. My time at CFI lent me a glimpse into what healthcare might look like ten years from now, allowing me to assess my ability to work in a rapidly shifting industry. It showed me in many ways how to mold myself into the type of person who will succeed as a doctor – a person who takes all aspects of her patient into account and is aware of all the complex facets of her field. I also received advice from a large variety of individuals, which I am sure will be very helpful in years to come.

This experience opened my eyes to the side of medicine that exists outside of the operating room. I believe that the holistic attitude I learned from the CFI and the Mayo Clinic – to treat the whole patient, and to be aware of all aspects of healthcare – will make me a better physician. I got a chance to see all of the different career paths a doctor can take as well as the diverse professions involved in medicine. I was given an in-depth look into those factors affecting the entire healthcare industry, of which all doctors should be aware and informed.

My time at CFI has made me more passionate than ever about becoming a physician, has given me a wider perspective on healthcare, and has equipped me with essential knowledge and ideas that will serve me well as I enter the changing field of medicine.


Alexandra is a Freshman at the University of Chicago.










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