1. Please, tell me a little about yourself? What is your story?
I was born and educated in Charlotte, North Carolina, and received my undergraduate from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. After college, I worked as an intern at the Dow Chemical company in Midland, Michigan Dow and moved into a permanent position as a marketing specialist at the end of internship. In that role, the focus was on brand development, product enhancements, and logistics involved with transportation of the company’s products. From there I moved to Chicago where I got married and have spent all of my adult life. I have one son, a daughter-in-law and a grand-dog. I was working as an independent consultant, when I was offered an opportunity at American Hospital Association (AHA). I have worked in healthcare for the last 20 years and I am very involved in my community. I serve on three non-profit boards as well as the board of trustees at my church. Currently, I am a Director of Member Relations at AHA and am responsible for leading its diversity engagement initiatives throughout the Association.
2. What is something that most people do not know about you?
This is very personal and not about my profession at all. Most people don’t know that I enjoy cooking, exercising and gardening. Cooking is important to me because nutrition is essential to healthy living and paired with physical fitness, which helps me to de-stress and relax. Gardening is an avenue to clear my head. The whole process of digging in earth, planting seeds and seeing the start of life from earth gives me great satisfaction. It allows me to focus and stay in that moment (of gardening) and then come spring or fall – I can see the result of my efforts.
3. When have you been most satisfied in your life?
I can honestly say: Right Now – this is one of the most satisfactory times of my life. And it’s a good thing! I am hoping that it gets even better from here. After years of trying to balance life and the journey of life, I feel that I have found that balance and contentment. Much of it has to do with work, family, health, finances, spirituality and relationships. So, now is that moment for me and its wonderful, a wonderful time to be here. So much of life is about struggle, accomplishments, and achievements. I have been fortunate to be able to strike a balance in those areas. Not that I have achieved all that I want to achieve, but challenges don’t throw me off as much.
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?
The things I don’t like to do are household and automobile repairs (laughs). I get a little frustrated when going through the process of identifying competent repairmen because I feel like, as a woman, that I am being taken advantage of (Laughs). So when it comes to things of that nature, I try not use too much of my energy analyzing, and when it has to be done, then I just push through and get it done.
Another thing I do not like is “conflict” – I do think it’s just human nature for many of us to avoid conflicts. Although it’s not possible to avoid conflicts, when it comes, I have learned to embrace it and work to resolve the issue. It’s important to simply face conflicts, because they teach us lessons and when you resist it, you are missing the lesson. So, I understand the need for conflicts, but I still wrestle with the concept of accepting it.
5. Could you please tell me about a specific accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career?
I would say being promoted to this role that I am in. I am a Director at AHA in our Member Relations division. And what is significant about this position (member relations) is that it uniquely matches my strengths of communications and building relationships. To be in this role at this time is ideal for me. I lead the AHA diversity initiatives, which allows me access to various cultures and people. Being in this position has enhanced my understanding of the concept of inclusion and equity. As I move through the circles and communities of not just African Americans, but Asian Americans, Hispanics, and understanding their stories, it has created a new source of knowledge for me. So often we just say the word “culture” without understanding the various aspects associated with it. As I participate in conferences and events of other ethnic groups, I gain a new understanding of their challenges and the biases they encounter. I see things from their perspective – so it’s really great to have this inclusive experience. I have a great appreciation to be able to do this as my day-to-day work. I don’t know what the next phase will be which is kind of exciting as new projects are being developed.
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.
Over the course of my work life, there have been instances when I have not gotten the promotion I wanted. There have been projects and jobs that I wanted, but did not get. Of course I experienced disappointment. I would allow myself anywhere from 24 to 48 hours, to feel annoyed, to go through the emotions that go along with disappointments, rather than to tell myself “It’s not a big deal” because it is a big deal, at least at that point of time. I do give myself time to look at things with a fresh perspective. Ask myself a question “what should I have done differently?” or try and understand if there were circumstances beyond my control, that had nothing to do with me. Once I reach some conclusions, I move on. I have also recognized that there were times when I did not get the promotion, and I later discover that the job description had changed and included additional duties and roles that were not a good match. There was an instance where I had applied for a position and did not get the job, and later the position was eliminated. I just believed that it was not the right time for me. Sometimes, you just don’t know how things turn out and not getting that dream job, may be a blessing in disguise! I have learned not to get uptight about the things that I did not get, I know that, when the time is right, it will come. In the meantime, I will keep pushing forward and eventually it does happen.
7. We're constantly trying to making 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.
AHA gives out several awards of excellence to hospitals that are making outstanding accomplishments in various areas. The project that I managed was focused on excellence in the role of volunteer programs. We send out call for nominations to all of our members and that’s about 5000 members. Although we don’t receive 5000 responses, we do receive a fair amount of responses. The process involves several copies of paper applications and support documents that need to be reviewed by two committees. You can imagine the paper that was being generated. I recognized the waste and implemented a plan to automate the nomination application. We finally automated the entire process and made it completely electronic -- along with that we pared down the amount of information we needed to efficiently evaluate the nominated program. The process was implemented last year - and it was a rather bumpy process - it did not go off as smoothly as I had anticipated. However, once it was launched, it was perfect. The review committees were extremely appreciative of the electronic format of the process, and we saved money (in terms of sending out all the paper). This project was hugely successful – we know busy people want things done quickly and efficiently.
8. Who is your role model and why?
My role model is my mother. She was the first woman that encouraged me, helped me to overcome obstacles. She instilled values in me that I still hold true. She demonstrated unconditional love and commitment to her family and to her community. I owe, who I am today as a woman and as a person, to her. She is delightful a person with a great sense of humor.
9. What is the quality you most admire in others?
The quality I most admire in others is character – solid character. I believe that character shapes a person and their core beliefs and values – right, wrong or indifferent. I tend to gravitate to people with solid character. There are some other characteristics that go with that – like generosity, kindness, and sharing. Character is, who the person is, it helps you understand the authenticity of the person! I am sure you have seen people who are one way with one group and another way with another group – and you just don’t know who they are! Truth is very important to me.
10. What has surprised you most about working in Healthcare?
What surprises me most is how quickly it changes. I think about the times it has changed in the course of the years I have been here – and there are many various pieces that come. AHA’s policy offices are located in Washington D.C – where everything happens. And there is so much information coming out of that office on a weekly and sometimes on a daily basis – in terms of what’s going on in the legislature, what’s going on in hospitals around the country. Currently, right now (August 2014) is the Ebola outbreak and what hospitals need to do to protect themselves. So there is constant information, and it constantly changes. Something can be the focus today will be off the radar next week, because something new has taken precedence.
11. If we're sitting here a year from now, celebrating what a great year it's been for you, what did we achieve?
I would helped to increase diversity on all of AHA’s committees and councils and workforce. The number of uninsured Americans would have decreased. There would be solid measures in place to reduce healthcare disparities. Senior leadership in hospitals and boards would be representative of the communities they serve. That would be a successful year for me.
12. Finally, any word of advice / wisdom to fellow members and colleagues?
Recently I attended the Asia Leader Conference in San Diego, and one of the speakers there was Yoshi Honkawa who worked in healthcare for 50 years! He was recently inducted into the Modern Healthcare Hall of Fame. At that conference he shared his view on success. And what he said resonated with me – and this is what he said “Success has so much to do with relationships and timing”. Relationships and timings are critical to success- and once we build these relationships, the way we sustain them, is through trust and loyalty. And so to me, it goes back to character and building solid relationships. When you are this authentic person, you gravitate towards authentic people. He also talked about the value of mentoring. Mentoring is not a one way process- it is not just about the mentor, guiding and helping – it is also about the mentee bringing something to the table and the relationship. Mentorship offers both the mentor and the mentee an opportunity to grow. There is so much I have learned from young people- their commitment, their passion and what it is they want to do with their lives. Some of the young professionals have this burning drive – and it is so inspiring. So my word of advice is be authentic, stay true to yourself, build solid relationships and not just a career.