Debra Bakerjian PhD, APRN, Clinical Professor, Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis

Debra’s research focuses on patient safety and quality improvement practices in nursing homes, and interprofessional education and collaborative practice in primary care. Currently, she is working on a Health Resources & Services Administration-funded project on interprofessional education and collaborative practice in primary care. She recently completed a study of how Music and Memory impacts patients with dementia that is implemented as a QAPI program in nursing homes.

Debra was a Pat Archbold Predoctoral Scholar and a Claire M. Fagin Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California (UC), San Francisco, where she was also an assistant adjunct professor. She earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing in 2006 and a master’s of science in nursing in 1992, both from the UC San Francisco School of Nursing, and a family nurse practitioner certificate from UC Davis Department of Family and Community Medicine.


  1. What comes to mind when you hear the word innovation?

I think of creativity, problem solving, and doing things differently to improve something or resolve a challenging situation. It comes from looking at an issue or a problem through a different lens, being open to a different reality or possibility.

  1. Do you have an innovation role model and why?

Like many others, I think of Atul Guwande for sure. His focus on highlighting innovative models of care to solve the most challenging of health care issues is laudable. But there are many innovators out there, perhaps not as well known, that have created companies designed to solve specific problems. Another person I think of is Amy Edmondson from Harvard Business School, who has promoted the concept of “teaming” the verb versus “team” the noun, getting all of us to think differently about how we work as a team.

  1. How do you try and instill a culture of innovation around you?

As an educator and researcher, I try to model innovation and creativity. I encourage new ideas and new ways of thinking about issues in my teammates and in my classroom. Innovation is not easy, it takes time, so it is important to allow ideas to percolate, to not rush to the finish, which could result in a flawed product.

  1. Is there a particular innovation that has made your professional life easier? Any special non-health care innovation you use at home?

The internet for me is the most impactful innovation I have experienced – it has fundamentally changed the way I search for information, communicate with others, save content (documents and pictures) through web-based servers, read, watch movies, play games, and document in the electronic health record – I could go on and on. Cell phones would come very closely after that because cell phone technology is what is going to ultimately help us to provide care in patients’ homes and help us to let our patients age in place.
At home, I would have to say the first thing that came to mind was the microwave – that is a very old innovation, but it certainly changed how food is prepared in households across the world. I still use the microwave almost every day and am thankful for the many minutes it saves daily.

  1. What excites you most about the AMDA Innovations Platform Advisory Council?

I love that we can encourage innovators to bring their ideas forward and highlight the best innovations for AMDA members and beyond. I’m also excited about the potential for these innovations to improve care of older adults and the professional lives of our members.