Katherine Di Palo, PharmD, clinical program manager, Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, Montefiore Health System, Bronx, New York
In a role she created, Di Palo, 32, has translated her experience as a pharmacist who worked at the bedside to the boardroom at Montefiore Health System, the University Hospital for Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She co-chairs the executive Hospital Readmissions Steering Committee, connecting historic silos to ensure vulnerable patients safely transition from hospital to home. Di Palo directly leads working groups that tackle key initiatives including care infrastructure, information technology changes, clinical data analysis, multidisciplinary education, and care continuum partner engagement to improve outcomes established by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Triple Aim.
MHE: Why did you choose your profession?
Di Palo: Administration is in my DNA. My father started as an orderly and through education and perseverance rose through the ranks to hospital CEO. Similarly, I began my career as a teenager at a local independent pharmacy and quickly found that clinical pharmacists are integral in evidence-based medicine delivery and patient advocacy. As a result of infinite curiosity, strong mentors, and a desire to challenge the status quo, I shifted from optimizing care at an individual patient level to a systems level within a visionary organization.
MHE: What has been your biggest learning experience in the industry? What did it teach you?
Di Palo: To successfully transform an initiative from a pilot program to the standard of practice, bidirectional communication is key. Listening to clinicians, leaders, care providers, and most importantly—patients—allows for the development of innovative and common-sense solutions that fit the culture.
MHE: What change would you like to see in healthcare in the next five to 10 years?
Di Palo: Patient access, especially to primary care in underserved areas, is integral to quality and cost reduction in chronic disease management. Currently, pharmacists are not considered healthcare providers under Medicare Part B despite robust evidence demonstrating their positive impact on outcomes. Many primary care models integrate pharmacists for longitudinal medication management consistent with state scope practice laws and regulations, however lack of reimbursement prevents patients from clinical pharmacy services. Recognition of pharmacists as healthcare providers at the federal level could facilitate team-based, patient-centered care.
MHE: If you could sit down to dinner with anyone involved in healthcare who would it be?
Di Palo: Given the opportunity I would like to meet Hippocrates—the Father of Medicine. I admire his revolutionary thinking, discipline, compassion, and ethics. Finally, the modern translation of the Hippocratic Oath—that there is an art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug—is something I firmly believe.