Health Equity

Maven’s Dawn Godbolt on health equity

How a virtual clinic is tackling social determinants of health.
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· 4 min read

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This week’s Making Rounds spotlights Dawn Godbolt, the director of health equity at Maven Clinic, a virtual clinic and app focused on women’s and family health. Godbolt discussed her work to ensure that health equity is more than “just a buzzword” and how Maven is targeting disparities in healthcare.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

How did you get involved in health equity, and why is this so important to you?

I am the granddaughter of sharecroppers from the American South. I hold a PhD in sociology, but sharing about my grandparents helps to contextualize my own understanding of inequality in our society. I can tell you stories of family members who have either passed or come close to passing away due to inequitable access to healthcare. This is something that was always sort of just in my periphery as I grew up.

I started my career in direct services, working with people experiencing homelessness. And this is where I could really understand how policy and systems come together to actually recreate inequity. I am from the Washington, DC, area, so I’m very federal government-focused, very policy-focused. But when I was in graduate school is when I really learned about the maternal health and infant health crises that our country is facing.

How would you describe your specific job to someone who doesn’t work in healthcare?

My mission and my goal is to improve the equitable delivery of care by identifying opportunities that really improve care at Maven Clinic: our products, our content, our care model—the entire company—our internal strategies for growth and scaling. It’s really an explicit focus on expanding access to care for all people, improving health outcomes for all people, and creating solutions.

What’s the best change you’ve made or seen at a place where you’ve worked?

An inclusion of equity- and justice-oriented lenses. For a very, very long time, the approach to healthcare was a clinical model approach: What are you doing? What does the doctor tell you to do? What are you doing from a clinical perspective? Recently, we started to acknowledge that social risk factors—or what we might call the social determinants of health—are going to play a large role in your health outcomes.

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At Maven Clinic, the most exciting thing to see is actually the buy-in from executive leadership that trickles down and throughout the entire company.

What’s the biggest misconception people might have about your job?

I tell somebody at least once a week that I am not HR. I work very, very closely with HR and people teams to make sure that our internal systems allow us to create equitable care delivery systems. For example, I’m not going to really dig into the recruiting process, but I am going to tell you that our workforces, our strategy development strategies don’t have enough diversity of thought at the table.

What’s the most fulfilling aspect of your job?

With health equity, there’s no precedent. What that allows for is creativity in solution-making or solution-building. I have a new problem every single day that requires the creation or the development of a new solution.

What healthcare trend are you most optimistic about and why?

Shifting toward value-based care models and seeing the centering of health equity in the clinical models—that’s really exciting. We saw the field pick up the idea of social determinants of health, and now we are seeing the fields move in that same direction, using a health equity lens.

What healthcare trend are you least optimistic about and why?

Health equity is a buzzword right now, and people and systems are rising to meet the challenge. But we have to make sure that the pursuit of health equity is equitable in nature. My concern here is losing momentum: We know how quickly attention can turn from one problem to the next. This is not a trend; it is not just a buzzword.

Tell us one new or old health tech product or platform that’s made your life easier.

Maven! There’s just something about the access to care at your fingertips. As a Black woman, my ability to go on to Maven and craft a care team—a high-quality care team that looks like me—that is invaluable.

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