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Farewell to Dr. Hightower

portrait of Maia Hightower

There are few lights as bright as Dr. Maia Hightower. Like a shooting star, whose light burns bright and produces a spectacular, though short-lived show, Dr. Hightower graced the University of Utah with her presence for three years. She joined the University of Utah Health as the Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO) in 2019. She introduced programs such as the Home for Dinner program to improve the experience of providers and care teams with the Epic EHR. She led the University of Utah’s COVID-19 Enterprise IT response for the University of Utah Health which included scaling telehealth from a few thousand to over 400,000 visits to ensure our patients had access to care during those uncertain times. A longtime advocate for digital health equity, she sponsored MyChart in Spanish and health equity analytics to measure health disparities.

In 2021, University of Utah Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (UHEDI) performed an internal search to see who could join our office as a senior director for health equity, diversity, and inclusion. Dr. Hightower was among many who applied, and the search committee recommended her to hire. Dr. Hightower took to the job running. Although she was officially allotted 0.2 FTE for UHEDI, she made much more of that time. She mobilized her data warehouse and data science service teams to help create an equity dashboard, connected UHEDI with multiple hospital leaders, and shared her wisdom and experience freely with the UHEDI team.

Later that year, Dr. Hightower co-founded and became the chief executive officer for equity in AI-focused, investor-funded, tech startup, Equality AI. That opportunity was too important to pass up, so she left the CMIO position, but kept her appointment in UHEDI. She continued to contribute in remarkable ways for another year.

This August, Dr. Hightower was recruited away for a fantastic opportunity at the University of Chicago Medicine, where she will be the executive vice president and chief digital technology officer. In her new role, she is leading the digital strategy and IT operations for the enterprise. She will continue her role as CEO of Equality AI. We are grateful for the time, energy, and genius that Dr. Hightower contributed while she was with us. Her time will always be remembered as a high point in UHEDI history. Dr. Hightower will remain, however, as a neighbor; she will be commuting to Chicago for the foreseeable future, so we will run into her frequently on the ski slopes and trails in Salt Lake City.