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Inspired to care: Mi'chelle's story

team member mi'chelle albaladejo smiling in front of wall

When Mi’chelle Albaladejo, program coordinator of performance assurance with the Duke Population Health Management Office, was working as an auditor and then investigator with Child Protective Services years ago, she never imagined that she would land a career in health care.

However, there was one experience that pulled her into the field — and to Duke Health, specifically.

“My mom had gotten very sick out of the blue. It took us all by surprise,” said Mi’chelle.

Her mother’s unexpected illness had turned Mi’chelle’s family upside down and left them to navigate a multifaceted diagnosis.

“It was a very, very difficult time for me and my family, not just because of the emotional piece of it, but also the lack of knowledge of navigating a very complex health system,” said Mi’chelle. “We’re not medical providers, so there was this ongoing fear accompanied by not feeling like we had a lot of knowledge about what was going on and what all of this meant, not just for my mom’s health, but for our family.”

After receiving care elsewhere, Mi’chelle’s mother was transferred to Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina, where she continued to improve. This was where Mi’chelle noticed something different.

“The doctors were great. They would explain to us everything that was going on. Then, amazing nurses would follow up with us and come in a few minutes later,” said Mi’chelle. “We had no idea what any of these things mean, or these numbers, or this lab work. It was all completely foreign. They sat there with us. These nurses sat there with us and explained everything in layman’s terms. They met us where we were.”

Mi’chelle saw, firsthand, her mother’s care team display their commitment to compassionate care.

selfie image of team member mi'chelle albaladejo

I remember how these individuals made me feel. They made me feel important. They made me feel seen. They made me feel validated. 

Mi'chelle Albaladejo

Program Coordinator of Performance Assurance, Duke Population Health Management OfficeWith Duke since 2020

The compassionate care Mi’chelle witnessed her mother receive at Duke Health sparked a new flame inside her. She solidified her decision to be part of that commitment to compassionate care.

The initial hesitation of moving her career into health care quickly turned into Mi’chelle’s mission, and in January 2020, Mi’chelle joined us as a population health specialist.

“Now, I can pay it forward with other families and other patients. Now, I can make sure that our patients are receiving the best care through evidence-based practices so that they can have improved health outcomes,” said Mi’chelle. “It’s my only way to honor the nurses, staff members, doctors, and my mom, who, because of the wonderful care she received at Duke, is still with us.”

As Mi’chelle progressed to her current role as program coordinator of performance assurance, she was met with support from her leaders and fellow team members.

“They allow me the space and the time for my role,” said Mi’chelle. “That space allows me to do the best work that provides the most accurate information, which will ultimately lead to decisions that promote positive health outcomes for patients. They’re very understanding about the nature of the work that I do.”

Originally from Puerto Rico, and with her experience working with different patient populations, Mi’chelle has not only found support for herself, but also the patients she works with here in a new way.

“When you’re working with the Hispanic, the Latino community, it’s a community that has different needs,” said Mi’chelle. “When language is a barrier, and I can personally relate to this within my family, because when we came to this country, my father spoke no English at all. So, that barrier, although he was college educated, prevented him from getting employment. It made things a little bit more challenging for my family.”

image of team member mi'chelle albaladejo

Duke Health is so consciously aware of our community, and any community’s needs, and I can really appreciate that they make consistent efforts to meet the needs of our community... I’ve never been in an organization that is so keenly conscious of diversity and understanding the importance of having team members that resemble our community.

Mi'chelle Albaladejo

Program Coordinator of Performance Assurance, Duke Population Health Management OfficeWith Duke since 2020

As Duke Health celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, Mi’chelle sees it as a time to reflect and focus on the possibilities, including here at Duke Health.

“It gives Latin and Hispanic people a chance to be seen. It’s an opportunity for collaborative learning. It’s a chance to honor people that have come before us,” said Mi’chelle. “It’s also an opportunity to let each other know that you can make a difference in whatever it is you are trying to achieve. You can do it in this country. You can do it at Duke.”

Looking forward to the future, Mi’chelle hopes to continue positively changing the lives of patients and their families here at Duke Health — just like her mother’s care team did — and knows she’ll have the support of her team all along the way, too.

“I know that the work I do means something. I know that it brings value. I know that I’m in an environment where I’m supported by my team and my team lead, my program manager, my director, all of executive leadership,” said Mi’chelle. “And that makes a world of difference for me.”

    Find belonging and your inspiration to care with Duke Health, just like Mi'chelle. Join us.

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