Kate O’Rourke manages the day-to-day operations of the MossRehab Institute for Brain Health, which treats Veterans and First Responders with mild traumatic brain injuries.
Can you tell me about your background and work experience?
I earned a BA in English from Fordham University in the Bronx, NY, and have 25 years of experience in healthcare, primarily working in physician relations.
You’ve worked for Einstein/MossRehab for 15 years?
After graduation, I worked for some local insurance companies and served as Einstein's Blue Cross rep. In Jan 2008, Einstein recruited me to start a physician liaison program for the Elkins Park campus. I gradually took on responsibility for Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia and Einstein Medical Center Montgomery and built a team of liaisons. When promoted to Senior Director in 2013, I was involved in getting the word out to physicians about the services offered at Einstein. I introduced our new physicians, specialty services and technology, built relationships with community physicians, and intervened if they had issues. After 13 years, I was looking for a new challenge. When I learned about the mission of the MossRehab Institute for Brain Health, I wanted to be a part of it. I moved into my current position as Director of Operations in July 2022.
What is the MossRehab Institute for Brain Health (MRIBH)?
The MRIBH is funded by a grant from the Avalon Action Alliance and offers interdisciplinary care to Veterans and First Responders who experience symptoms of mild to moderate traumatic brain injury (mTBI). Our patients may have headaches, balance problems, mood swings, and visual challenges, among other issues, which can be intrusive and debilitating. Our goal is to assess the patient's needs, then develop and execute a coordinated care plan with traditional and innovative services to target and relieve these "invisible wounds".
What kind of services are provided by the MRIBH?
MRIBH is currently in the "evaluation" phase, providing assessments by a physician, neuropsychologist, physical and speech therapists. Once the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) starts, the assessing clinicians will treat people in the program. They will also receive occupational therapy, art therapy, individual and group mental health care, horticultural therapy, and yoga in a peer setting. Throughout the continuum of care, our nurse assists patients in navigating physician visits or receiving care outside of MRIBH. Patients do not pay out-of-pocket expenses for services.
Who is the MRIBH team?
Our physician is a physiatrist who specializes in brain injury. We also have physical, occupational, speech and art therapists who understand how to treat traumatic brain injuries. Other team members include a neuropsychologist and mental health professionals who can provide psychological insight and emotional support. Additionally, we have integrative medicine specialists who provide yoga and horticultural therapy to supplement conventional therapies. Clinicians meet weekly to review cases and decide which applicants are appropriate for an evaluation. Our case manager will follow up with patients at certain intervals throughout the year to see if they need more treatment and coordinate care for them through the Veteran's Administration and other resources.
What is your role as the operations director of the MRIBH?
I am responsible for the daily operations of the clinic and manage different tasks to make it easier for clinicians to provide care to our patients. As a small team, we perform multiple jobs and frequently interface with each other. Currently, I'm involved in the construction of our new facility in Willow Grove. I work with the contractor, project manager and other related personnel. I am also getting the word out about our services to Veteran organizations and individuals who can benefit from the program.
Why did you take this role at MossRehab?
I was looking for change but wanted to stay involved with MossRehab. In addition, I want to help Veterans and First Responders. My father was a marine in Vietnam and an Army reservist throughout my childhood. He also was a police officer in Philly. I grew up around the military and First Responder culture and respect this population. The MRIBH was a natural fit - it was a win-win for me.
Is the MRIBH one of the first of its kind in the nation?
The MRIBH is the 6th program of its kind in the United States and the 2nd led by a physical medicine and rehab provider. Other programs are led by a psychiatrist or neurologist. Our brain injury and physical rehabilitation background give MossRehab a different perspective than other programs. But, we all have the same mission and desired outcome.
How do you select patients for the program?
Our candidates are those with mild to moderate brain injuries who served in the military or as First Responders. While we evaluate every program applicant, not everyone gets in. For example, we are not equipped to treat anyone with an active substance abuse problem, but will certainly help them get support. We also don't treat individuals with severe traumatic brain injuries.
How long are patients treated in the program?
The MRIBH offers treatment over three weeks to groups of three to six people with similar backgrounds. For example, we might have a group of female Veterans or firefighters that have similar clinical needs. As cohorts, they can support each other as they receive care and treatment together.
Where do patients receive services from the MRIBH?
A dedicated facility for MRIBH is being built in Willow Grove, PA that will house apartments for out-of-town patients during their treatment. It will open later this summer. We are already assessing patients for the first group to receive services.
What inspires you on the job?
I'm inspired by our team's dedication and investment in our patients. It's so fulfilling to hear them formulating a plan for a patient, like putting a complicated puzzle together. Also, the resilience of our patients is extraordinary. Some of them overcome tremendous obstacles to even get to Moss. They just want to get answers about their brain injuries.
What are your interests outside of work?
I love listening to music and going to concerts. I also enjoy walking my dog through Peace Valley Park in Bucks County. I have two kids in college and love hanging out with them when they are home.
Who has had a strong influence on your life?
Throughout my life, both my parents supported me. My dad had an incredible work ethic and is very devoted to our family.
What is your favorite place to vacation?
I have family in Ireland. Before the pandemic, I would try to visit them every other year. My favorite place is Galway.
What is your favorite food?
Lobster. I love all food, but dream of going to Maine and eating lobster for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
What is your life motto?
My motto is “Make someone feel better every day”.
Read about the MossRehab Institute for Brain Health.