You joined Ochsner as its first chief digital officer at the beginning of this year. How would you describe your experience so far leading the system’s digital health programs?
The experience has been great. I have a real passion for improving healthcare, which has been the entire arc of my career. I think Ochsner is ideally suited to evolve care models in what’s proving to be a pretty transformational time in healthcare. I was excited to join and help facilitate some of the innovation that’s already been happening here for years.
This was a shift for you, right? You’re a clinician but had been at Wolters Kluwer previously.
Yes, I practiced medicine for about four years. And then I decided to make a leap and join a startup in 1996 called UpToDate (a clinical decision-support platform). I never expected that my career would go in the direction it did when I went to medical school. But sometimes we have to be a bit opportunistic and take some chances. I’ve been fortunate that many of those chances have worked out.
What has been your experience as a woman in the C-suite? And what advice do you have for others working their way toward similar positions?
I’ve had some female mentors, which I think is very important. Some of them were willing to take a chance on me and served as great role models.
Early in my career, one of the most challenging elements was building a career as a woman having children. I had my first daughter when I was a medical resident. I was very fortunate that my husband was willing and able to take a year out of his training to stay home with her so I could finish my training. Of course, I felt guilty about leaving her and going back to work. But that was just the first of many years of guilt that that comes with being a working mother.
As far as getting to the C-suite, I’m convinced that opportunity came primarily because when we sold the business, we had a female CEO who was willing to take a chance on me. We’d talk to several other potential acquirers, all either male-dominated private equity companies or other strategic businesses with male CEOs. And all of them were going to bring in an outside male CEO to run our business. The only exception was our eventual acquirer. To this day I’m grateful that their CEO took a chance on me and asked me to run our business because my career really took off from there.
How would you describe the transition from being the top leader to being part of the C-suite as a chief digital officer?
It’s different, for sure. But I think it took a really special circumstance, which is the leadership team at Ochsner. The CEO at Ochsner, Warner Thomas, is fantastic, very supportive, very much a type of leader who says, “Here’s your job, go do it. Keep me informed. Let’s stay aligned, but go do your job.” Which is the real key to being an effective leader. So that’s made it much easier.
Ochsner has a really supportive executive team overall and it’s really a business that’s been very hungry to hear new ideas and to execute on those ideas. So I probably couldn’t have landed in a better situation.