Q&A with our new Chief Quality Officer
We are thrilled to welcome Tolulope “Tolu” Thomas as our new Chief Quality Officer. Starting on Tuesday, January 19, 2021, Tolu brings significant experience in the fields of nursing and clinic operations in FQHCs and at large Kaiser Permanente clinics – along with a broad range of knowledge across the CQO portfolio. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Master of Science in Nursing Informatics and is currently working toward a Master of Business Administration. Throughout the interview process, Tolu has demonstrated strong commitment to mission and whole person care, an orientation toward data-driven decision making, and the curiosity and team-based approach necessary for being a senior leader with us.
You've spent much of your career working for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). Why is that?
FQHCs are bound to never deny care due to inability to pay. That has always resonated with me because I believe that everyone should have access to care and there is no higher calling than serving the underserved. In fact, I missed working at an FQHC (and in public health) so much during my time at Kaiser Permanente in Seattle that I took a part time job at one on the weekends!
Why Health Care for the Homeless in particular?
I grew up in Glen Burnie, and used to work off at FQHC located off of Pratt Street. I remember when the new Health Care for the Homeless building was built on Fallsway. I'd drive by thinking, “I’d like to work there someday!” More recently, I saw every day firsthand how homelessness impacts health care when I helped create a youth homeless clinic at Kaiser Permanente in Seattle. This ignited my passion to be part of the solution. I believe that the CQO position will help me do this.
Did you always know that this was the track you wanted to take when you got your degree in nursing?
When I got into nursing, I was not sure where my focus would be. I knew I loved data, informatics and making evidence-based decisions from my love of science. As I explored ambulatory care and public health, I knew that I wanted to find a role that would combine all of these. I was pushed towards the quality/informatics and safety side of health care because we need to learn from past experiences and expand projects that improve care.
How has your understanding of “quality of care” changed in the midst of COVID-19?
I believe what COVID-19 made very clear is inequity in health care. It has reaffirmed that quality of care cannot be provided in silos without looking at the entire demographics of the community you are serving.
Will you be seeing any clients as part of your role?
Yes! My goal is to be in clinic for one to two sessions per week.
What should staff (and others!) know about your leadership style and vision for the Quality Division?
I believe in motivating teams to ensure that everyone is moving in the same direction. I try to communicate clearly, directly and honestly, so staff understand my expectations. My vision for the Quality Division is one where staff feel empowered to make changes to improve client care that is within their control, and share the weight of any "boulders" that make delivering care difficult.
How did you celebrate the job offer?
My husband and I stayed in (like we do every night :) ) but we did pick up takeout and enjoyed it at home.
Any hobbies or fun facts about yourself?
Pre-COVID hobbies were traveling, dining out and movie night. But I have recently gotten into reading more, and going on walks and hikes with our new dog.
Be sure to say hi and give a warm welcome to Tolu when you see her in January!