Making History Today: Ololade Mitchell

I think as an African-American in a leadership position, specifically here at Ingalls, not only engages in with the community, but definitely the community within our own organization too.

One of the things, outside of just our patient population, but one of the things that I really enjoy doing specifically for individuals who remind me of myself, is educating and demonstrating to themselves their future potential.

I think that makes a huge difference. By virtue of just really relating to people, people have an ability to kind of relax and feel like they can be open to that that offers that patients that.

But then as we think about our staff and our nurses and and those individuals that I engage with, just working with our patients, they too have a sense of belonging and a sense of growth that they can see in their future.

From an early age, Ololade Mitchell, MSN, MPH, RN, CPHRM, knew she wanted to be a healthcare worker like her parents. Looking back on her childhood, she has fond memories of visiting her mother at work in the lab at UChicago Medicine’s Hyde Park campus and stopping by her father’s worksite where he was a surgeon.

Encouraged to explore the many different areas of expertise available in healthcare, Ololade did just that and earned an undergraduate degree in community health and master’s degrees in nursing, community health and healthcare quality and patient safety.

Ololade’s career choices have taken her down many paths, from serving as a bedside nurse, segwaying into risk management and journeying into patient safety before her current role returning back to UChicago Medicine as Director of Clinical Excellence at UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial in Harvey.

Looking back, Ololade says a pivotal moment that impacted both her personal life and career was working at a free clinic in Champaign-Urbana. “I helped treat a lot of Black and Brown patients who were faced with having to choose between eating and getting their medication,” says Ololade. “It was a very humbling experience and made me want to do more to help communities in need face healthcare challenges.”

During the recent COVID-19 Omicron surge, Ololade once again saw the sharp contrast in how the African American community is impacted by healthcare challenges. “We had so many very sick patients who needed healthcare. I remember thinking, ‘these patients look like me’ and sadly, many were faced with making the same decisions as those I worked with at the free clinic – taking care of their health or keeping food on the table.”

“Ololade has been a great addition to the UChicago Ingalls leadership team,” says Corrin Steinhauer, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, CPPS, Vice President, Patient Care Services & Chief Nursing Officer at Ingalls. “Her experience as a nurse and a leader in the quality and safety realms adds value to our efforts to enhance quality and safety in our organization and improve patient outcomes.”

Ololade is committed to delivering outstanding care to all patients. But she notes that Ingalls Memorial is in the heart of a predominantly African American community that has been hit especially hard by this pandemic – “exacerbated, in many cases, due to lack of trust in following healthcare vaccination guidelines.”

As an African American with clinical expertise, Ololade believes she can connect with Ingalls patients and build trust to help them feel confident in following medical advice. “But, trust is earned and we can do that by ensuring patients receive outstanding care. Developing patient trust and letting them know we have staff here who are not so different from them will help ensure that more patients start to arrive less sick so they don’t have to make the gut-wrenching choice of feeding their family or taking care of their health.”