Meet Adriene Thornton

March 11, 2022


Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd: This is Talking Pediatrics, a clinical podcast by Children’s Minnesota, home to the kid experts, where the complex is our every day. Each week, we bring you intriguing stories and relevant pediatric health care information as we partner with you in the care of your patients. Our guests, data, ideas and practical tips will surprise, challenge and perhaps change how you care for kids.

Welcome to Talking Pediatrics. I’m your host, Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd. Today, we are going to be having another meet the host episode with our newest guest host to the Talking Pediatrics Podcast. Joining me today is Adriene Thornton, who is our manager of health equity at Children’s Minnesota and previously an infection preventionist. Adriene is leading our efforts at Children’s Minnesota to elevate and integrate equity into our clinical processes and our improvement efforts. And for any of you who know Adriene, her dynamic leadership style is really just what we need to help deliver equity and value to our patients. We are delighted to have you joining our podcast, Adriene, welcome to Talking Pediatrics.

Adriene Thornton: Thank you. I am delighted to be here once again to talk to everyone.

Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd: As you mentioned, you’ve been a guest on our Equity Actions Podcast with James Burroughs in the past. So now, how are you feeling about moving from the being interviewed side of the podcast to becoming the guest host and doing the interviewing?

Adriene Thornton: Excited and scared and yeah, all of that. You know, when people interview me, I just talk, which is something I like to do. But switching gears is going to be a little different, but I love it. I’m ready to do it. And I already have some questions lined up for several of my guests. And so I think we’re going to be okay.

Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd: I think you’re going to be more than okay. You’re one of the most well sort of thought out and smart people I’ve worked with at Children’s Minnesota. So I have no sense that you won’t to be up for the challenge.

Adriene Thornton: Well, thank you.

Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd: So your podcast really is going to focus in on health equity. So we have the Equity Action segment with James Burroughs and this will be an extension of that segment, really drilling in on health equity. So can you explain to us in your words, what health equity means or what that phrase means to you when we’re talking about the issues that you’ll be covering?

Adriene Thornton: It’s very simple, health equity is giving people the care that they need, where they need it, when they need it, and in the form that they need it. People talk about, oh, some providers will say, “Oh, well, I give the same care to all of my patients.” Well, that’s equality, and that may not meet the needs of all of your patients. And I think people tend to not look at health equity that way. They think if they give the same service to everyone, then that’s equitable treatment.

Adriene Thornton: But history has shown us that it isn’t, there are stories of clinical trials of different drugs, for instance, drugs that treat hypertension. And there are first-line hypertension drugs that doctors very customarily prescribed for their patients that may not be good for say a black patient because it results in kidney failure. And recognizing that and having the health equity hat on at all times is very important to make sure that we’re giving people the best care that we can. And so we’ll be having conversations about health equity and medicine, health equity and care, clinical trials. What does that look like and why is it important? So lots of different conversations with different people to look at health equity from multiple lenses.

Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd: I love that. I think sometimes when people think about health equity, it feels like a problem that’s bigger than an individual or outside of themselves. And while certainly there are health equity issues on a policy level and in research trials that you mentioned, I think there is a role for individual clinicians in health equity. And how would you characterize that sort of role of the individual person or the individual clinician in health equity?

Adriene Thornton: It is every clinician’s responsibility to be aware, one that health equity exists and that it’s their responsibility to help bridge the gap in disparities. And so what we first have to do is get people to acknowledge that yes, health inequities exist, and yes, maybe I’m a part of that. And so once we get people to the point where they acknowledge it and accept responsibility for it, then we can get to the point where we’re doing individual life care, which is what we really need. And so to me, that is the biggest responsibility of clinicians, is acknowledging that it exists, that they may play a part in it and then proactively working to fix that and provide better care and to bridge the gap in disparities.

Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd: One last question for you. Why is this such a passion of yours? How did you really get pointed in the direction of working to end health inequity?

Adriene Thornton: Believe it or not, as a child, a young child, probably five or six that my purpose and my passion for even existing was to advocate for kids. And don’t ask me why that was just what I was put here for. And even as a five or six-year-old, I found myself advocating for sick kids and well kids and just any kind of kid. But I really, really advocated for safe health care for kids. And I think part of it was because I was a sickly child. And so I spent a lot of time in the hospital and having illnesses and my mother did the best she could do, but I even at a young age had to advocate a lot for myself. And so it has just continued to grow and mushroom as I’ve gotten older. And even though I’ve done different jobs and this is my first job working in health equity, I’ve always done work in the health equity realm.

I’ve always advocated for kids and adults. And I’ve always done the work of pointing out health inequities when I see them occur. And so I think it’s just according to me, because it’s my purpose, it’s my passion. And because as a black woman and a mother of black children, I have lived through and continue to experience health inequities and health disparities. And think about if this is how things happen for someone who is educated in the medical field, I cannot imagine how people who aren’t educated and don’t know what to ask and don’t know what to do, what are they dealing with?

And it’s still occurring. We’re studying Harriet Washington’s Medical Apartheid book now. And the most profound thing for me in that book was at the end because people think of medical mishaps and things happening way, way back then. Tuskegee was in 1967. Well, it didn’t end until 1974, but in her book, she outlines all of these things that are continuing to happen. Just last week, we saw an article where prisoners in one of the prisons in the United States, they were being used as experiments for Ivermectin treatment for COVID without their consent. And that was just last week. The problem still exists. Is it getting better? Um, it depends on what day of the week it is. I think it’s very important that we continue to address this because otherwise, the problem is just going to get bigger and bigger.

Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd: Yeah.

Adriene Thornton: And I want to help make the problem smaller.

Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd: And I think the thing I’ve always really appreciated about you, Adriene, and I think that listeners can expect this from you, is that while it’s important to raise awareness about inequity, and certainly you’ve done that and been an advocate for that. And I know that’s our Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer James Burroughs, that’s a lot of where his work is grounded in. One thing I really appreciate about your work is really getting into the how do we make some change here? How can we really drill down into what’s at the heart of perpetuating this inequity? And then how can we make some consistent changes to stop it from going forward? So I’m hopeful that our listeners will expect to hear some of that from you and the guests that you bring in going forward.

Adriene Thornton: Conversations are nice. They’re better when you have actions that result from them.

Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd: Well, we can’t wait. Tune in for more with Adriene Thornton and her upcoming Equity Actions Extension Podcasts in 2022.

Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd: Thank you for joining us for Talking Pediatrics. Come back each week for a new episode with our caregivers and experts in pediatric health. Our executive producer and showrunner is Ilze Vogel. Episodes are engineered, produced, and edited by Jake Beaver. Lexi Dingman is our marketing representative. For more information and additional episodes, visit us at, and to rate and review our show, please go to

Adriene Thornton, MAOM, BSN, CIC, FAPIC, manager of health equity at Children’s Minnesota

Adriene Thornton
Health Equity Manager