People of Promise: Katie Abbott’s Compass for Clinical Excellence and Relationship-Centered Care

Katie Abbott

From an early age, Katie Abbott's life experiences led her to a career in health care. Her parents were entrepreneurs:  Her father owned a skilled-nursing facility and her mother owned a pre-school. Both businesses were located in the same building in Petaluma, CA, the city where she grew up, and Abbott was often on-site with them. 

"I was young, but I liked their business world,” she said. “They taught me that their two organizations were responsible for children and adults in different but equally vulnerable states, and it was important to give them compassionate, focused, and personalized care,” she said. 

When Abbott was four years old, her father died of cancer. Because of that, she experienced the fragility of life and the role a healthcare system plays in the lives of patients and families.

As a college student, Abbott pursued her evolving interest in business and healthcare. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Public Affairs Management at Indiana University and completed a master’s degree in Health Administration at Indiana University-Purdue University. As part of her master’s program, she interned at a local community hospital, working with its CEO.

“The hospital had a model of care that combined a vision for clinical excellence with relationship-centered care to create a sanctuary of healing for patients, communities, and employees. Experiencing that culture was a pivotal moment for me, and it became my compass for what I wanted to do in my career,” she said. 

A day at the beach with her husband, Shamus, and dog, Smith, is one of Abbott’s favorite outdoor activities.

One of Abbott’s first management roles in her career was with Stanford Health Care. She helped lead the design, activation, and operations of a new Cancer Center, a facility grounded in innovative patient- and family-centered care and multi-disciplinary collaboration. “It was a life-changing experience for me, collaborating with cancer patients, their families, and medical professionals to create the Center. It was a way I could honor my dad’s memory by ensuring patients and families would receive cancer care in a well-coordinated, community-centered way,” she said. 

Today, as senior director of Chief Medical Officer Operations for Blue Shield Promise Health Plan, Abbott leads, develops, and oversees the implementation of clinical and non-clinical activities that impact healthcare inequities, quality, utilization, network performance, and cost-of-care outcomes. A key component of her job is strategic planning – identifying, developing, and executing key strategies and opportunities for innovation to drive member, provider, and community-centered value. 

“Throughout my career, I’ve learned that the people who are doing the work or receiving the care are the experts. As a leader, it’s my role to ask thoughtful questions that can guide us in developing value-driven and human-centered solutions with and on behalf of our members, providers, and communities,” she explained.

One of Abbott's three areas of focus is Maternal and Infant Health Equity Strategy. She and her team collaborate with clinical and non-clinical leaders at Blue Shield Promise and local nonprofit organizations to develop and measure innovative healthcare approaches and address healthcare inequities for members and communities.

Abbott and her goddaughter, Doris, doing simple yoga practices together.

In January, Abbott led Blue Shield Promise’s community investment in two maternal and infant health organizations in Los Angeles and San Diego. First 5 LA, an independent public agency that supports the safe and healthy development of young children and their families in Los Angeles County, and For The Village a nonprofit community organization that provides free doula services and education for families in the San Diego County area, received funding totaling $520,000.  

“We’re learning so much from these two organizations,” she said. “Their client experiences and data, combined with metrics we analyze from other ongoing maternal and infant health initiatives, help us understand what strategies will directly impact health inequities and produce the best support and outcomes for birthing people and infants.”

Abbott’s two other key roles are in Strategic Planning and Operations for Clinical Access programs, advancing current successful programs and approaches, and planning for future needs across member, provider, and community services.

In her spare time, Abbott enjoys yoga, cooking, and getting outdoors with her husband, Shamus, and their dog, Smith. She also carries her healthcare passion into the volunteer world. She is a volunteer facilitator for Kara, a grief support organization for children and families who have experienced the death of a loved one, and a volunteer at How Women Lead as an executivecoach for its Reproductive Right and Reproductive Justice fellowship cohort.

“I love the work Blue Shield Promise is doing to keep its members and communities healthy,” she said. “I’m constantly inspired by the people I work with and our vision for the future. That fuels my dedication to healthcare issues, both at work and in my community, and I’ve landed just where I want to be in my life,” she said.