Ohio University

Alumna Spotlight - Riley Frato, BSC '17

Alumna Spotlight - Riley Frato, BSC '17

Hometown: Kirtland, Ohio

Year Graduated: 2016

School: School of Communication Studies

Major: Interpersonal Communication Studies with a focus in Health Communication

Current job title and location: Critical Care Project Manager III at Cleveland Clinic Main Campus

What do you do? I manage a portfolio of projects for the Department of Critical Care within the Respiratory Institute. This includes fostering relationships with key stakeholders; understanding the goals of the enterprise, institute and department and aligning our projects to those goals; and providing data analysis for key performance indicators.

What made you come to Ohio University? Were there other places you considered? To be completely honest, it was somewhat of a fluke. My mom was the one who suggested I apply just for the sake of it and take a trip to go visit. I agreed and submitted an application. Upon being accepted, we took a trip to explore Athens. Prior to our Athens visit, I had applied and visited (a few out-of-state schools). However, I was a little uncertain about the distance from home (8+ hours). The moment we arrived at Ohio University, I knew I would make those bricks my home. It was the perfect combination of distance from home, breathtaking views, genuine people and small-town feel.  

How did the Scripps College of Communication equip you with the skills you needed to succeed? I have found there are a few skills that become more necessary as you enter the professional field. Specifically, two go hand in hand: the first one being emotional intelligence and the second being interpersonal communication. However, it is simply not enough to only understand these theories, one must be able to experience the application of the literature to embrace the significance of the skills. 

The Scripps College of Communication provided a beautiful balance of understanding these skills through literature and application of these skills through projects. There is always room to grow with both of the professional skills. It takes time and experience to master the eloquent relationship needed between emotional intelligence and interpersonal communication. I use these skills every day, from a technical standpoint of defining the project purpose and from a relational standpoint of fostering relationships with caregivers and leadership throughout the organization.

What about your experiences here was so memorable? Athens as so much to offer. Some of the most memorable experiences I have are those of being immersed into the culture of Athens, not just the university. I had the privilege to interact with Athens schools, the churches, local government and hospital systems. I also was able to explore the Appalachian Mountains and the family-owned restaurants. I got to know the locals.

Tell us about your career path. During the summer of my junior year, I began an internship at the Cleveland Clinic in the office of patient experience. I was extremely blessed to have an incredibly intentional mentor who helped me build my network, excel in professional growth and explore career options that were offered at the Cleveland Clinic. I went back in the fall of 2016 to finish my last semester and graduated in December. 

When I returned home, the Cleveland Clinic offered to bring me back as an intern while I continued to apply for a full-time position. In April 2017, I was hired as a project manager I in patient safety and quality improvement. This was a large jump in my career path. This position entailed managing enterprise quality improvement projects that helped drive the Cleveland Clinic's quality and patient safety measures. 

Again, I was blessed with two extremely genuine and caring mentors/managers who wanted to see me grow and excel. They believed in me, guided me, and cared for me professionally and personally. After spending two years as a project manager I, I decided to shift gears and move to a position that would allow me to be immersed in a specific Institute of the hospital. I wanted to learn more beyond the quality, patient safety and patient experience aspects of care at the Cleveland Clinic. 

In January 2020 I was hired as a project manager III for the Department of Critical Care in the Respiratory Institute. This new position has been an incredible experience thus far. Every day I am blown away that I get the privilege to work with some of the most brilliant physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists in the world—the “the Navy Seals of Healthcare.”

How has your work life and or focus changed due to the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. and resulting precautionary measures? Answering this question is like trying to explain a tsunami... it’s very difficult, something you must experience in order to fully grasp the magnitude of it. 

I’ll start with the basics: our temperature is now checked prior to entering the hospital; hand hygiene is expected at each entry point of a new building within the hospital; there are no families or visitors; our days are much longer, anywhere from 12 to 16 hour days; there are no longer days of the week but rather the next day; hours feel like seconds, days feel like hours, and weeks feel like days. Perhaps, most of all, policies, procedures and processes change by the hour, which means we have to be ten steps ahead of the logistics of communicating in order to ensure the care we are providing is in alignment with the enterprise. Our focus has completely shifted to focus on all things related to COVID-19. 

In the wake of all of this, something else has changed, and it’s a beautiful and fascinating experience. People are connecting more than they ever have. A new sense of humility has infected our teams: everyone is stepping up and asking how they can help, what they can do, and no task is too big or too little for them to step in and handle. Doctors are helping nurses insure their personal protective equipment is put on correctly, respiratory therapists are running and getting supplies for the nurses while they are in the isolated rooms, and people are checking in on one another more than they ever have before. It’s a breath of fresh air!

What advice do you have for current students? My advice to my fellow Bobcats is:

  • Get to know people—not to see what they can do for you, but to cultivate genuine relationships.
  • When able, say yes to volunteering opportunities. You never know where it may lead you.
  • Be a helper not a hinderer. How can we make this work?
  • Never let a job/task be below you. Stay humble.
  • The world is much smaller than it seems. Always be kind to others.
  • Master Excel, Tableau and PowerPoint. These three programs are the backbone of technical skills.
  • Understand and know how to make data meaningful. Data is everything.