Jennifer Palko Comerford MJ, OTR/L
After completing my Bridging the Gaps internship with the Philadelphia/Delaware Valley Chapter of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America in the summer of 1997, I earned my Bachelors of Science in Occupational Therapy from the College of Health Professions at Thomas Jefferson University in 1998. I additionally earned a Masters Certificate in Pediatric Occupational Therapy from Temple University in 2003, and my Masters of Jurisprudence in Health Law from Widener University School of Law in 2012. I am a licensed occupational therapist in New Jersey and Pennsylvania; I am also certified in Healthcare Compliance and Healthcare Environmental Management. I began my clinical practice at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia and have treated patients in a diverse array of settings, including home care, subacute rehabilitation, long-term care, and schools. All the while, I also had an intense interest in health policy and how to advocate for patients, families, and providers in order to maximize the benefit of skilled rehabilitation therapies and access to specialized durable medical equipment such as powered wheelchairs. This interest first led me to a role writing medical policy for Independence Blue Cross, then to a role leading a large team of rehabilitation professionals who provided home care for Moorestown Visiting Nurses and Hospice. In graduate school, I discovered my true passion and commitment for healthcare risk management and patient safety—all patients deserve safe healthcare, and in a system constrained by many competing forces, all providers benefit from support and training to provide the safest care possible. After completing my program, I initially consulted, providing compliance analysis, research and writing, data abstraction, accreditation survey support, and web-based education to small and mid-size healthcare organizations. In 2015, I joined ECRI—an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the safety, quality, and cost-effectiveness of care across all healthcare settings worldwide—as a Risk Management Analyst. At present I am a Senior Patient Safety Analyst/Consultant; I provide clinical risk management and patient safety services to physician practices through ECRI's Ambulatory Care Risk Management program and to federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and free clinics under the Health Resources and Services Administration. I also serve as an analyst for FQHC members of the ECRI Institute and ISMP Patient Safety Organization. I am passionate about educating and supporting the providers who care for our nation's most vulnerable patients at FQHCs; this stage in my career feels like "full circle" from my still-treasured time with Bridging the Gaps. I'm so happy to join the BTG alumni network and am open to connecting with fellow alumni interested in reconnecting and/or interested in professional collaboration. I am also open to connecting with current students and recent graduates who would like to learn more about patient safety or discuss the evolution of "nontraditional" career paths in healthcare.