At Avita’s Atlanta medical center and pharmacy, the recipe for leading-edge patient care is simple but powerful: Compassion + Persistence = Success.
“Thomas Edison said, ‘The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time,’” notes the facility’s Vice President of Clinical Operations Sharon Dickerson. “I remind our team not to give up when they encounter a challenging case or patient. While it’s easy to become frustrated at times, we’ve demonstrated in numerous situations that just offering persistent compassion leads to success.”
Dickerson ought to know. She helped Dr. Joel Rosenstock found the facility—formerly known as AbsoluteCare Atlanta before becoming part of the Avita family—more than 22 years ago to serve the community’s need for inclusive, non-judgmental health care. She later led the organization’s national expansion. The Atlanta facility’s footprint has since grown to a staff of almost 80 people spanning 14 care teams. Embracing a job that’s equal parts cheerleader and business leader, Dickerson plays a central role in overseeing everything from clinical services (including HIV prevention and treatment, LGBTQ+, gender-affirming, sexual wellness, and primary care) to ancillary services (the clinic also offers behavioral health, nutrition, and social services) to revenue cycle management. By maintaining a focus that is consistently geared toward excellence in quality and safety, the team has received recognition as an NCQA Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) Level 3 and an HIV Center of Excellence.
“In collaboration with my very talented team, I work to make sure the care we’re delivering is cohesive and comprehensive,” she says. “The bottom line is we’re all here to improve our patients’ lives.”
Gaining patient trust by creating a safe space
Fueled by her own challenges growing up, Dickerson says she can easily empathize with patients facing difficult health care journeys. “Our patients often have so many struggles that their health care is the last thing they’re really concerned about,” she says. “We create a safe space where the goal is to deliver the same level of care to every single patient. Whether they’re homeless, an executive, a person of color, transgender, living with HIV, whatever the case may be—we’re not here to judge them. We’re simply here to care.”
The key to consistently offering bighearted care in a busy world? Listening, Dickerson explains. “The most critical way of gaining patient trust is taking the time to listen without judgment,” she says. “We have to try to understand the dynamics that the individual is dealing with rather than making assumptions or placing our own views on that person. Then we can work with them to identify what resources we can employ to be impactful. Because each patient has a unique experience.”
It’s a lesson she’s eager to pass along to other care providers who are just starting their careers. “Appreciate that not every person you encounter will come from the same background or have the same privileges you’ve had,” she says. “It’s important to learn from your patient’s story and adapt your approach to deliver personalized care, taking the time to truly understand their needs.”
At the end of the day, Dickerson takes comfort in knowing she’s done everything possible to ensure patients receive all the advantages the Avita Atlanta medical center and pharmacy offers. “My role allows me to support the team in their efforts to offer the best quality care delivery system,” she says. “At the same time, I can be a bridge between departments and direct business resources and help the team maintain their focus on quality outcomes and changing one life at a time.”
Team member snapshot:
Name: Sharon Dickerson
Title: VP of Clinical Operations
Location: Avita Atlanta medical center and pharmacy
2140 Peachtree Rd Ste 232, Atlanta, GA
Currently reading: “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson
Favorite pastime: Spending time with her family, primarily watching her grandchildren’s baseball and softball games, camping, boating, and the occasional round of golf. Sharon has an amazing daughter and son-in-law along with two grandchildren, two family dogs, and three new baby goats!
To follow Sharon on LinkedIn: Click here
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