Dr. Natalie Fox, Three-Time Graduate, Leads Nursing Operations at USA Physicians Group
Posted on March 8, 2018
#SouthSuccessStories is an ongoing series featuring University of South Alabama alumni who are life-savers, innovators, game-changers, music-makers and creative-thinkers, successful in their careers and supportive of their communities.
Natalie Fox left her rural hometown of York, Ala., near the Mississippi line, with an open mind about her life path. She had once dreamed of playing professional basketball. Then, during her teens, her experience on several mission trips crystalized a sense that her purpose in life was to help people.
Where? Well, her sister lived in Mobile. And, Fox said, “I’ve always loved the water.” So she entered the College of Nursing at the University of South Alabama. It was the start of a beautiful relationship. “I found a home there.”
She earned a bachelor of science degree in 2007. And a master’s in nursing three years later. After a brief stint working at Tulane University in New Orleans, she came back to South and in 2016 became manager of clinical operations for pediatrics at USA Physicians Group.
She added two more titles just last year: Fox earned her doctorate in nursing practice at South, making her Dr. Natalie Fox. She also was promoted as the first director of nursing for USA Physicians Group.
In announcing that promotion, Brian Norris, administrator of ambulatory services for USA Health, praised Fox’s “enthusiasm, openness and willingness to dig in and focus on patient care and patient outcomes.”
Others have noticed her accomplishments and leadership qualities as well. In its January 2018 issue, Mobile Bay Magazine recognized her in its annual “40 Under 40” list of up-and-coming community leaders.
Fox said her time working in New Orleans made her appreciate what she had left behind in her adopted city of Mobile. “I thought maybe the city was going to offer a lot more cultural things. But I realized that happiness is about the people around you. I really have such a great work family at South.”
Family, whether personal or professional, means a lot to her. “I’ve been really fortunate with a lot of great mentors at USA,” she said. Dr. Alethea Hill, an associate professor in the College of Nursing, taught one of her first classes, Health Assessment. “I remember from the moment she walked in the room, she inspired me,” Fox said. “She really knew her stuff.”
“I’ve been really fortunate with a lot of great mentors at USA.”
Other teachers fed her passion for nursing and guided her toward her specialty in pediatrics. “I had great mentors,” she said. “And I also have had strong mentors in my career, whether it’s been the physicians I’ve worked with, my colleagues in administration, other nurse practitioners, the nursing staff — really fantastic mentors.”
Fox has a restless spirit. “I’m the type of person who’s always looking for what’s next on the horizon,” she said. “I would say that being ‘present’ is not one of my strong suits. That’s why I should probably do yoga more. Because I’m always looking forward.”
Fortunately, USA Health shares her thirst for progress as well as her belief in working collaboratively. Fox spoke enthusiastically about USA’s participation in the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative, a national project funded by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. It promotes teamwork among the doctors, nurses and other health care providers who care for a patient, and also between providers and their community.
“It takes a village,” Fox said, “and it takes a village in health care, too. It takes everyone from the front office to the nursing staff to the clerical workers. Everybody plays an important part in the patient care process.
“I’m excited to be working for an organization like USA that’s really committed to our community and improving the health of the people who live in Mobile. USA Health’s mission is: ‘We help people live longer, better lives.’ I think there’s a lot to that that’s not just physical health. Of course you want to help people be physically better, treat their illnesses, their chronic conditions. But a lot of that also involves caring for the whole person.”
“I’m excited to be working for an organization like USA that’s really committed to our community and improving the health of the people who live in Mobile."
Mental health, for example, intertwines with physical health. “There are many reasons why people might not take their medicine or might be sick,” Fox said. “It could be social stress problems.”
The life-and-death nature of their jobs can cause stress for health care workers, as well. Fox said the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative includes a project called Joy in Work, designed to combat professional burnout. “It’s about always being willing to listen to see how we can improve the lives of the people who work here, too,” she said, “because they are the ones that are enriching the lives of our patients.”
Fox is also working on ways to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS among her favorite group of pediatric patients: adolescents. “It’s a completely preventable disease,” she said. “That’s why I think it’s important to talk to young people about their risk and about making smart choices. A lot of times, teenagers can’t necessarily see into the future. Their brains just don’t work that way. They see ‘me’ and ‘now.’ So we need to help them understand their risk and how things will affect them the rest of their lives.”
Despite her administrative duties, Fox still spends a few hours each week seeing patients at USA Pediatrics in the Strada Patient Care Center. “It’s so important,” she said. “It keeps me grounded in why I went into this field in the first place. And it reminds me what it’s like on the front lines of patient care.”
Increasing emphasis on preventive care has helped put more and more nurse practitioners on those front lines. In 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that within 10 years employment in the field would increase by 31 percent.
Interacting with co-workers as they care for sick, scared youngsters helps her immensely as an administrator, Fox said. “It’s also important for me to involve all members of the care team in making changes to continually improve patient care. Everyone – from the front desk to the providers – plays a critical role in the patient experience and improving the care for our patients.”
Seeing her young patients also provides personal benefits. “Sometimes,” Fox said, “all you need is a 2-year-old smiling at you to make you feel like the world’s OK.”
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