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Dr. Dominique Allwood: Pioneering Innovation in Health Leadership

Dr. Dominique Allwood
Dr Dominique Allwood

Dr. Dominique Allwood: Pioneering Innovation in Health Leadership

In an era where the future of healthcare lies at the intersection of innovation and leadership, Dr. Dominique Allwood, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of UCLPartners, emerges as a beacon for change. A medical professional whose path was shaped not just within the walls of health care organizations but across diverse settings in healthcare, public health and management consulting amongst many things. This is the story of Dr. Allwood, a visionary leader who found her calling in driving change through innovation, implementation, and improvement.

A number of career defining choices included stepping out of clinical training to train as a public health physician, but a pivotal moment came when she decided to immerse herself in healthcare management, leadership, and quality improvement—a decision that would later define her trajectory. Almost a decade ago, chance led Dr. Allwood to UCLPartners which revealed a world where innovation and implementation science converge to transform health and care and she later returned to continue her career journey there.

As we delve into Dr. Allwood’s story, we uncover the trajectory of a healthcare leader and the symbiotic relationship between an individual’s pursuit of purpose and an organization’s commitment to transformative healthcare practices.

Dr. Allwood’s Journey to the Top

Reflecting on her trajectory, Dr. Allwood, connects the dots backwards over her 20-year career. During undergraduate and postgraduate medical training, Dr. Allwood discovered a broader interest in healthcare leading her to places such as New Zealand and Oman for insights into health inequalities and diverse healthcare systems. Determined to impact health more broadly she deviated from clinical training into training as a public health physician, and she explored levers for influencing change from policy to academia and even worked in management consulting. However, sensing a distance from her initial interests she paused her training, immersing herself in healthcare management, leadership, and quality improvement. Reflecting on her trajectory and drawing on Steve Jobs’ wisdom, Dr. Allwood acknowledges the challenge of connecting the dots forward, recognising at the time that you must trust the dots will somehow connect in the future. A decade ago, her path led to UCLPartners, where she became an Improvement Science and Innovation Fellow, unveiling a world where innovation and implementation science converge to transform health and healthcare. Fast forward 10 years through a number of senior leadership roles, an executive MBA provided additional clarity around career direction, and a fortuitous opportunity arose to return to UCLPartners. Despite the organization’s evolution, the mission remained steadfast: enhancing health through innovation and collaboration.

UCLPartners—Mission & Vision

UCLPartners, a UK-based health innovation partnership, aims to enhance the health and well-being of five million individuals from North London to the Essex coast. Its mission focuses on promoting longer, healthier lives through illness prevention, timely access to care, and elevated treatment quality. Collaborations happen across a diverse network, including three integrated care systems, 16 healthcare provider organizations, and four academic institutions. Serving diverse communities, the organization focuses on six critical health challenges impacting the region’s populations: cardiovascular disease, adolescent mental health, early cancer detection, respiratory health, vision, and dementia. UCLPartners has also been commended for its commitment to addressing the intersection of climate and health system redesign, driving change through innovation and research to deliver transformative solutions in collaboration with partners.

Traits of a Modern CMO

Dr. Allwood’s journey as a Chief Medical Officer (CMO) reflects the diverse landscape of healthcare leadership. Drawing insights from various medical leadership positions, including as an associate medical director in a large NHS hospital, leading on quality improvement, unwarranted variation, equity, and population health. During the pandemic, she assumed the role of Medical Director of one of the Nightingale Hospitals in London, with a focus on patient safety, clinical governance, and staff well-being. Currently, as the CMO of UCLPartners, she collaborates with CMOs leading in healthcare provider institutions, integrated health systems, start-ups, and industry. Despite the varied nature of CMO roles, Dr. Allwood identifies common threads that define an effective CMO. She emphasizes the need to wear multiple lenses and seamlessly navigate across clinical, leadership, management, and business areas—an ability she likens to knitting. In today’s evolving landscape, Dr. Allwood believes that CMOs face the growing need to adopt a population health view while maintaining a focus on individual service users and staff, ensuring equity through innovation and rigorous implementation. The ability to zoom in and out simultaneously, she asserts, is vital for effective medical leadership.

Pioneering Net Zero Healthcare

In emphasizing UCLPartners’ notable initiative for 2023, Dr. Allwood highlights a groundbreaking endeavor focused on achieving net zero in healthcare. The NHS, responsible for 5% of the UK’s carbon emissions, has committed to becoming the first healthcare system globally to reach net zero by 2040. Notably, 18 months ago, UCLPartners launched a climate collaborative, uniting partner organizations to expedite progress toward this ambitious goal. Dr. Allwood underscores the success of ‘Connecting for Change,’ a program within the collaborative that brought together diverse participants using a dynamic ‘sandpit’ methodology. NHS clinicians, sustainability, estates, and IT staff from eight healthcare systems collaborated with experienced academics from four universities and industry experts. From this collaborative effort, four projects were competitively chosen for funding. These projects aim to develop actionable evidence to reduce emissions from healthcare facilities and estates, which contributes to around 10% of the healthcare carbon footprint. The focus lies on optimizing systems to reduce waste, maximizing the efficiency of existing buildings, and identifying ways to deliver clinical care in more energy-efficient ways. One project stands out, identifying a potential reduction of 36 thousand tonnes of CO2 emissions and cost savings of £30k per operating room per year alone, offering immense potential across the NHS. Dr. Allwood envisions the far-reaching impact of these initiatives, anticipating significant improvements in the three Cs—lowering carbon emissions, reducing costs, and enhancing quality of clinical care. Dr. Allwood invites readers to imagine the potential if these innovations were implemented across the entire NHS and beyond. This visionary initiative aligns with UCLPartners’ commitment to sustainability and transformative healthcare practices.

Leading Change Effectively

Dr. Allwood’s leadership philosophy centers on authenticity, influencing both individual behaviors and organizational character. A key moment emerged during her leadership of climate, net zero, and anchor organization initiatives, prompting introspection about internal practices in the company. This led her to champion an #ownbackyard approach, aiming for change within the organization. Despite competing pressures internally, her influence helped prioritize this work. Dr. Allwood reflects, “In the past year, we have established an ESG group with enthusiastic participation from a wide range of staff, including our CEO, which was a defining milestone.” The team’s work on an ESG framework has begun to catalyze tangible changes as staff take ownership, contributing to a brighter tomorrow.

Innovating Healthcare

Dr. Allwood highlights UCLPartners’ pivotal role in shaping the future healthcare landscape. The organization’s innovation pipeline spans insights, discovery, solutions, implementation, and evaluation, making significant contributions to key priority areas. Reflecting the commitment to innovative solutions through emerging technologies, Dr. Allwood notes, “UCLPartners is currently engaged in a number of projects such as a feasibility assessment of an AI tool designed to demonstrate diagnostic efficiency in the earlier detection of lung cancer.” Beyond this, UCLPartners hosts the National Innovation Accelerator delivered in partnership with 15 Health Innovation Networks across England, supporting fellows that have led diverse projects, from digital apps addressing language barriers to an AI chatbot providing instant mental health support. Dr. Allwood also expresses excitement about UCLPartners’ recent development as new host organization for the Collaboration for the Advancement of Sustainable Medical Innovation (CASMI).  She states, “I am delighted to take on a leading role of this global network—a platform to share ideas and develop new ways of thinking and working to accelerate medical innovation through diverse international perspectives.” This underscores UCLPartners’ dedication to collaboration and sustainable medical innovation, promising advancements in healthcare.

Dr. Allwood’s Advice for Professionals

When asked about advice for budding professionals in the healthcare industry, Dr. Allwood advises them to find a mission that sparks passion and guides their decisions—emphasizing the significance of both the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of work. Reflecting on her journey, she underscores the value of authenticity and opportunity for creativity in her work. Dr. Allwood expresses gratitude for her wider opportunities and mentors, and strives to ‘pass it on’ to those earlier in their careers. Finally, in uncertain healthcare times, Dr. Allwood believes treating colleagues with kindness is crucial, and fostering collaboration, learning, and innovation to drive transformative and sustained changes in healthcare.



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