1. Please, tell me a little about yourself? What is your story?
I am a health strategist by training. I am the CEO of the American Osteopathic Association, which is a nationwide organization that advocates for and credentials the profession of Osteopathic Medicine both nationally and internationally. I have been in this role for about a year, and am happy to serve on behalf of this influential body of physicians.
I’ve been a Healthcare executive for about 30 years, starting my career in public policy. Although initially I was pre-med, after college I decided that I wanted a Masters in Public Administration because of my acumen and interest in population health and policy issues. So I pursued an MPA from University of South California in Health Administration. I started out in physician practice management in Los Angeles, and then I moved back east to New York City- where I transitioned to strategic planning for the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation. I was fortunate to be on the city’s capital planning team, designing hospital rebuilding and renovation projects for the city’s public hospitals.
My husband and I moved to Chicago while he was doing his residency in Cook County, and continued to advance my career at Northwestern Memorial Hospital as director of their hospital replacement project. I stayed with Northwestern for about 12 years and went into consulting in health systems strategy development for healthcare institutions and practices across the country. I was pulled “off the road”, so to speak, when I was offered an opportunity to serve as VP and Chief Health Officer for American Cancer Society - Illinois. I remained in that role for 12 years, where I completed 2 five-year strategic plans and was itching for my next challenge, when I received a call to consider becoming CEO at the AOA. So here I am.
2. What is something that most people do not know about you?
(Laugh) You know I have been around a long time and I am pretty open and honest so, I am who I am. There are no secrets. People know I am a faith based and driven wife, mother and executive who believes we all have an obligation to do our part to make the world better. So I try.
3. When have you been most satisfied in your life?
Everyday. You have to just embrace that every day is a gift, and every day is a blessing. I can tell you, throughout my career, at heart, I am satisfied- even during the challenging times. Challenges are when you grow the most. So, I don’t take a single day for granted and I don’t spend a lot of time looking back or feeling dissatisfied. I think of everyday as a fresh start, so for everyday of life, I can tell you wonderful things.
4. Most people have a list of things of they like to do, but what are the things that you do not like to do?
(Laughs) I do not like to focus on myself. I do not like wasting time, I don’t stand in lines. I don’t like being idle and I don’t like being indoors, so if I am indoors too long, I run out, even it’s for a brief period of time. So, I couldn’t do a job that wouldn’t allow me to move around, interact with people, and engage with lots of different folks. Whatever I do, it has to help someone with something…and I have to see the sky.
5. Could you please tell me about a specific accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career?
Every single job I’ve had has provided me with wonderful pinnacle of opportunities, therefore each and every job I did has been an accomplishment. Some were big like completing a design for a new hospital or leading the advocacy project that led to signing of the law that made Illinois smoke free. On some days it is simply about getting a collaborating partner to come back to the table to find new solutions, so that someone’s life would be better. The greatest accomplishment is to see others succeed as a result of what you’ve done. So, I can’t give you one, I am blessed to have a career full of achievements- but I have to say I could not have accomplished any of them by myself.
6. Please tell me about a time when things didn't go the way you wanted-- like a promotion you wanted and didn't get, or a project that didn't turn out how you had hoped.
Careers and life is about being resilient and so when things don’t go the way you want, I actually look at it- as “things went like they were supposed to.” There is a lesson and growth in every scenario. Sometimes it is because what you thought was the solution, was actually not the solution. So when things don’t pan out the way you had planned, it’s just an indication that you are supposed to do something else. I don’t hold on to it, as a disappointment. The question always becomes: so what is the next step? And it’s a matter of moving forward. For example not getting into a certain college, just means you were supposed to go somewhere else. At one point I had applied to 5 colleges, I didn’t get into 3, I got waitlisted in 1 and got into the other. Well, the one that I got into, I did very well, met my husband, and made my lifelong best friends, and have professional relations which connect me back on a regular basis. Clearly, this was where I was supposed to be. When I thought all my life I was headed to medical school, a few rejections and a deferral ended up being the best thing, because I broadened my focus and found my passion in health policy and strategy. I enjoy the so called “disappointing times,” because that is when you learn and those are times that push you to open your perspective on life.
7. We're constantly trying to make healthcare better, faster, smarter or less expensive. We leverage technology or improve processes. In other words, we strive to do more - with less. Tell me about a recent project or problem that you made better, faster, smarter, more efficient, or less expensive.
As a CEO of a large national organization, one is constantly striving and encouraging people all across the country to think innovatively to keep ahead of the times. There are a milieu of things that you are constantly encouraging people to do, whether it’s aligning your human resources, policies and talent capacity and infrastructure, or reevaluating your financial processes and systems to more technologically efficient solutions. We certify continuing medical education (CME) for physicians across the country- and recently streamlined all processes from a very paper based system to a more technologically advanced system – building on apps, to meet the needs of our physicians, CME providers and our staff.
8. Who is your role model and why?
You don’t live this long with one role model (Laughs). I grow and learn from so many encounters with individuals - all the bright, kind, humane, value based individuals who I have come across in life, …I hold in high regard . Whether a child or an adult, a relative or a colleague, a board member, community leader and/or friend …each has taught me something. I think it’s all about the values, and the ability to act with conviction towards their values.
9. What is the quality you most admire in others?
I admire authenticity. I admire people who are real. I admire people who tell you exactly what’s on their mind, who tell you what they don’t understand, and are genuine in their exchange with people.
10. What has surprised you most about working in Healthcare?
That it’s never stagnant- it’s always changing and therefore you have to always be willing to learn. You will never know everything you need to know about any job or any circumstance or any issue in healthcare. As soon as you think you have mastered an understanding of things, because of the complexities of healthcare, a component will change dramatically, which changes the whole paradigm or the whole environment of that situation. So it’s constantly changing. Every day that I go to work is like the first day.
11. If we're sitting here a year from now, celebrating what a great year it's been for you, what did we achieve?
We are celebrating having achieved a clear vision and accomplished measurable goals for the organization. We would celebrate having made it through the up and downs and yet advanced the organization closer toward its long term strategic goals. Most things take much longer than a year, however you can move cultures closer, you can move organizations closer. You want financial viability and to raise the capacity of staff. As a CEO, it also means to constantly raise the visibility of the profession of Osteopathic medicine. So, I will be celebrating all of the accomplishments that lead to all of those activities.
12. Finally, any word of advice / wisdom to fellow members and colleagues?
My word of advice is especially for younger professionals is to try every day, to make the impossible, “possible.” That is what it is all about! It’s when people tell you, what they can’t do, if it’s the right thing to do, don’t get deterred by it - just do it, make it happen. So, make the impossible, “possible!”