When my career path from pharmacist to legislative analyst to lawyer to nonprofit leader comes up in conversation, I’m often asked why so many different directions? My reply is that each career decision represents to me a step in the same direction. That’s because my two professional life themes have always been healthcare and helping others. These two themes have now merged into a missional approach to service that rallies all my past work experiences to the cause of helping all humans have an equitable opportunity for good health.
Early in my career, I found the chance to impact and apply health policy through the law and legislative process to be exhilarating. Big clients, big projects and big opportunities were the most significant factors affecting my approach to work. Although I was involved in developing and evolving large healthcare systems and health insurers, the end user – the patient – rarely came into view. Then, I chose to resign my partnership at the law firm in favor of serving as General Counsel and eventually CEO for an international, faith-based charity.
On my first trip to Cambodia, I saw firsthand poverty and suffering at a level that was nearly unimaginable. The scourge of Pol Pot had left Cambodians with a fresh history of genocide and almost no organized healthcare delivery system or workforce. One of the main surgical procedures during that time was limb amputations as unexploded land mines from the Vietnam war were still across the countryside. In Cambodia, I found such a new and personal application of all the skills that I had learned during my career. Soon thereafter I helped to create a successful hospital joint venture and a new free care hospital was opened in Phnom Penh. In the years that followed, 3 supporting medical clinics were established and a new hospital opened in southern Cambodia. This entire system of care was established for the purpose of helping patients who were without any form of health insurance or government care. And today, literally millions of Cambodians are healthier as a result. I learned so much about what good can be accomplished by focusing first on the needs of the patient, then applying the healthcare structures and systems solutions to meet their needs. I experienced the same spirit of first doing what’s best for the patient during my recent tenure at the North Carolina Association of Free and Charitable Clinics.
So, what am I looking for in the next chapter of my career and why Next Stage? I want my next steps in healthcare and helping others to count and I’ve become convinced that collaboration is an essential element to any sustainable solutions. To be successful, we must find better ways for people in common cause to convene and share their best ideas for the benefit of others.
I believe the Cultivate platform is a powerful tool for both convening and collaboration. Cultivate goes beyond prior models of collaboration that involve a scattered set of meetings across a calendar schedule and provides a means for collaboration to be ongoing and ever evolving. Instead, communities of practice are developed around themes where the principles of social good are needed and desired. Then, it’s off to the races in trying to make meaningful change.
I hope this next chapter of my career as Next Stage’s Chief Advisor for Impact for Health will be full of efficient impact in trying to assure an equitable health opportunity for all. I can’t wait to partner with all of you!