Meet Those Nerdy Girls – Dr. Ashley Ritter, PhD, CNRP


Dr. Ritter is one of our fantastic team of clinicians here at Dear Pandemic.

She’s a geriatric nurse practitioner and health services researcher. In her clinical practice, she helps people with complicated medical and social needs make a personalized plan for continued care. Her research examines better ways to provide care following hospitalization, specifically in nursing homes. She has worked closely with nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic supporting care delivery, vaccination, and bereavement during tragic loss. Her future work will continue to focus on supporting individuals through complex transitions in health–including after COVID-19 infection.

“Dear Pandemic has been a blessing in a year of insanity. Having a meaningful outlet has provided me with great purpose,” Says Dr. Ritter.

Here’s what she recently told us about her work and her life.

❇️ Why did you decide to get a Ph.D.? 📜

“After having my first child, I found myself stuck in my career. I loved my job but there was little opportunity to deal with the big-picture problems I saw–we need to build a better and more coordinated system of care for older adults. We have siloed and insufficient systems of care in the US to support housing, caregiving, and social engagement for older people.

I considered starting my own business in geriatric care coordination or pursuing a PhD to lead evidence-based health system design. I had a good talk with my friend Dr. Maya Clark Cutaia and determined a PhD provided the greatest opportunities for personal growth and impact. I had two more children while in my PhD and postdoctoral training. It certainly has not been easy, though I feel I am contributing to meaningful science daily which is incredibly motivating.”

❇️ Why did you agree to be part of the Dear Pandemic team?

“I wanted high-quality information about COVID to be available outside of academic circles. A week prior, I had emailed Alison [Buttenheim] and asked her to post her great Twitter content on Facebook, where many of my friends and family get their news. She told me about Malia [Jones]’s viral post. I wasn’t sure what to expect next.

When she emailed back saying she and Malia were giving it a go, I was thrilled to help contribute to the effort. I’m not sure any of us realized what we were signing up for at that point.”

❇️ What are you most proud of?

“I have three smart, funny, and caring children 👶🏻👧🏼👧🏻. I am so proud of them. My husband and I complement the strengths and weaknesses in the other to make a great team. I’m proud of the life we live day to day.

I’m a first-generation college graduate. My parents led me to believe there were no limits to what I could accomplish. With their support in the form of encouragement, loans, wise advice, and childcare I have completed four degrees at an ivy league institution and done my very best to apply that knowledge in impactful ways wherever I land.

And, I take really great care of my patients. I will advocate on their behalf endlessly.”

❇️ Who is your hero?

“I look up to many women who have shared their life lessons with me freely. A few notable characters: Dawn Watson (my mom), Donna Graham (friend and colleague), Mary Hofmann (friend and colleague), Sarah Kagan (friend and mentor), Sarah Parker (dear friend), Maya Clark Cutaia (dear friend). My sister Kate Welsford has been my pandemic rock. They are real-life heroes who set a beautiful example every day.”

❇️ What you miss most from before the pandemic:

“Wandering around town without a plan. You can’t roam around, meet a friend, run an errand, or grab a random drink anymore. I miss being able to have no plan.”

❇️ What is one thing you don’t miss at all?

“Work pants and work shoes.” 👠👠

❇️ If you had a do-over on the last 10 months, what would you do differently? ⏪

1. Gotten a haircut over the summer. ✂️
2. Spent more time outside with family while it was warm. 🌤️
3. Declined a few new projects (but not Dear Pandemic!) 🚫
4. Brushed up on my early childhood education skills. 🚸

❇️ What is your superpower? 🦸‍♀️

“Bringing order to situations of chaos. Oven schedules on Thanksgiving, craft cabinets, post-hospital care for people with complex medical and social needs, multiple toddlers in the same room. I’m your gal. I am also quite good at building forts and fixing broken toys.”

❇️ How do you manage stress?

“I am a creature of habit. 🔁 8-9 hours of sleep a night 💤, three meals a day 🍽️, a plan for the next day 📅. I thrive with this routine. Regular walks in nature are my go-to way to unwind.”

❇️ Hopes for the new year:

“2020 was really hard. I hope 2021 is a little easier. My hope is that if you have something left to give, you give it freely to help someone else.”

❇️ Fun fact: Dr. Ritter, like DP contributor Dr. Lauren Hale, is very good at Scrabble, but we haven’t pitted them against each other yet.

Dr. Ritter is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Penn’s National Clinician Scholars Program. The program prepares scholars to advance healthcare through policy relevant research and partnerships. The last year has provided an unprecedented need to apply that knowledge immediately. Through clinical practice and research partnerships, Dr. Ritter will continue to improve care delivery after hospitalization in the Philadelphia area. She currently practices at NewCourtland Services in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia.

Dr. Ritter has four degrees, all from the University of Pennsylvania. Most recently, she earned her PhD in Nursing and Masters in Health Policy. Prior to that, she also earned her BSN and MSN at Penn Nursing. Her work has been featured in Nursing Outlook, JAMA Forum, and the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association. Over the last year she’s been quoted on COVID-19 topics in The Philadelphia Inquirer and Penn’s own Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics’ blog, Health Policy$ense.

Dr. Ritter’s University Profile

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