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Stellar resume accompanies public health official's rise.

Byline: Nicole Sheldon

Christine Pittman Ballard isn't even 30, but her astonishing resume suggests otherwise.

At 28 years old she has had four papers published, holds eight certifications, presented at numerous national conferences and been honored with nearly a dozen awards. She earned a bachelor's degree in archaeology, technology and historical structures from the University of Rochester in 2011 and a master's degree in public health with a focus on biomedical science from the University at Albany in 2013. She was the first person at her high school in her hometown of Albion, Orleans County, to interview for Harvard University and pursue an Ivy League level education.

Her list of accomplishments goes on, but you get the point.

Ballard always had a fascination with ancient Egypt, hence her archaeological studies at UR. Following graduation, however, she made a pivot to public health.

"I've always been interested in health care. I grew up in a rural community and I'm type 1 diabetic, so I've been very involved in health care from a young age," says Ballard. "I came to understand that rural communities, in some cases, have very limited resources for health care. I always wanted to make it my mission to work across health systems and bring services to underserved areas."

She started working for nonprofits as a kid through government advocacy on diabetes care, so her position today allows her to use skills she has been developing since childhood.

Ballard, who resides in Holley, currently serves as director of quality and education for Pandion Optimization Alliance's nonprofit arm, known as Pandion Health care: Education & Advocacy. Pandion Optimization Alliance is the umbrella name for four companies: two for-profits focused on sourcing, purchasing and consulting and two nonprofits focused on health care education and advocacy.

Ballard works with 17 hospitals across Rochester and the Finger Lakes region.

"I work to get these hospitals to collaborate across institutions and to start talking about some of the health care issues that their hospitals are facing and talk about ways to solve potential population health issues among those hospitals," says Ballard. "We have a series of different committees that our members work on to discuss issues that they're having and to talk about federal and state legislative updates that are affecting the hospitals."

It's no secret that two major health systemsUniversity of Rochester Medical Center and Rochester Regional Healthdominate Rochester's health care. But there are many smaller hospitals that surround Rochester and the Finger Lakes region, and Ballard strives to bring these types of health care systems to the table and include them in vital conversations through committee meetings.

Ballard is also responsible for working with community organizations on population health initiatives. Population health refers to looking at health care at a community and population level "to understand what it is that a population needs for resources, for potential health care spending, for health outcomes and burdens that the population has."

"It's really important to break down those silos and not only work with our hospitals but also bring community resources to hospitals," she adds. "I act as the liaison to bridge the gap between hospitals and the community and bring the education to that."

She just joined the Pandion team on Aug. 1, but Ballard has been instrumental in putting together a conference happening this November to educate the community on innovative changes being made in the health care realm.

Ballard has organized numerous visionaries to present at the conference, including Ahmed Ghazi, a urologist at URMC. Dr. Ghazi is responsible for revolutionizing surgical techniques through the use of 3-D printing, a method that's now being used by other local surgeons.

"If someone has a tumor on their bladder," Ballard explains, Ghazi will make a 3-D model of the affected area, allowing surgeons to practice on the model before the actual surgery. "It reduces length of stay, potential poor outcomes and really works to optimize the patient's experience."

Ballard says that each stage of her education and all of the roles she has taken on as a postgrad have built on one another, yielding her a well-rounded view of the health care industry. In graduate school, she worked with New York's Department of Health on research projects, which gave her valuable experience at the state level.

Even though she didn't seek a career in archaeology, Ballard revisited the topic of Egypt while she worked on her master's degree. Through the University at Buffalo and the Oregon Health & Science University, Ballard and a team worked with Egyptian cotton farmers to help them understand how their health was being negatively impacted by their work.

"In Egypt, the cotton farmers literally put their arm into a vat of pesticides to mix it up and then go on their merry way," she says. "We provided education and personal protective equipment to the farmers to start addressing some of the cognitive issues they were having (like attention deficit disorders). It was something where I could see the direct impact from start to finish."

After obtaining her master's degree in public health, Ballard and her husband were drawn back to Rochester, and she began working at the UR Department of Neurology. The couple love the rich history of the area and enjoy exploring new museums and historical sites in their free time.

"At UR I worked on developing a community collaborative called the Spine Outcomes Alliance of Rochester , where we did a lot of clinical research on understanding (spine surgery) patient outcomes, the burden that spine surgery has for costs associated with it and figuring out what it is we can do to create better patient outcomes," she says.

Ballard says she was able to bring her health care knowledge from the state level and apply it locally.

For Ballard, the sky is the limit. She aims to continue breaking down the barriers among hospitals in the areas by educating through collaborations and conferences.

"I want to make sure that together with our hospitals we can provide the best care possible." / (585) 363-7031

#Team PXY with Whitney Young and Corey James on 98PXY is a partner with Fast Start. Listen on Monday from 5:30 to 10 a.m. for their interview with Christine Pittman Ballard.

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Title Annotation:Christine Pittman Ballard
Author:Sheldon, Nicole
Publication:Rochester Business Journal
Geographic Code:7EGYP
Date:Oct 12, 2018
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