Ashleigh AllgoodAshleigh Allgood has it all planned out.

“I chose Health Care Management because I knew I wanted a great foundation in healthcare organization, strategy, and management,” the young professional says. “I wanted to have a unique skill set as I pursued a master’s degree and a career in healthcare quality.”

A 2012 graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s B.S. in Health Care Management (HCM) program, Allgood is now earning her Master of Public Health from UAB and her Healthcare Quality and Safety Certificate from the UAB School of Health Professions—all while working at Alabama Quality Assurance Foundation (AQAF), a non-profit business working to improve healthcare quality in Alabama.

“This job stemmed out of my HCM internship experience,” Allgood explains. “I hold the position of Program Coordinator for a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) grant that is tasked to reduce avoidable hospitalizations among nursing home residents. We are one of only seven organizations in the nation instituting this type of program.”

Through her position with AQAF, Allgood works with 23 nursing homes in 14 counties in central and north central Alabama. “My professors in the HCM program knew my interests and passions,” she says. “They placed me in an internship where I could understand the world of quality in a new way and utilize my talents to land my first professional job.”

Allgood discovered her interest in healthcare while shadowing family and friends in high school.

“I have always been a curious person, asking "why" we do things this way or "why" don't we try this.... why why why,” Allgood says. “So I feel like it was a natural fit to go into quality, where completing a thorough root cause analysis is part of my every day job. I decided that I wanted to be part of the solution rather than work in a broken system.”

Ultimately, Allgood plans to pursue a career that allows her to fuse health quality, policy, and strategy in order to help healthcare organizations prepare for the future. “I have learned in my current position that working in silos will get short term wins,” she explains. “But if we want systemic change we need to be looking at our problems from a global viewpoint.”

Allgood stresses the importance of hard work and overcoming personal limits.

“Comfort is not your friend,” she insists. “Until recently, I loathed speaking to people in groups, preferring to work in the background rather than giving presentations on a stage. But because education is a huge part of my job, I have continuously pushed myself to become comfortable speaking to large and small groups. I can now speak to any group of people, off the cuff and professionally, without getting nervous.”

“By no means am I ready for a TED-talk,” she continues, “but if I had never told myself ‘comfort is not your friend’ and pushed myself, I would have allowed my public speaking fear to hold me back.”

Allgood completes her Master of Public Health this April and will earn her Healthcare Quality and Safety Certificate in the fall of 2015.

“Always meet your deadlines,” she says. “And remember that you teach people as much as they teach you. I use the skills I obtained in the Health Care Management program every day. You don’t realize just how much you have learned until you graduate!"