What role has mentorship played in your career?
Cooper: Fortunately, I have been formally mentored since I was in high school in inner-city Washington, D.C. I have had leaders at various levels help influence me over the years. My current mentors challenge me to be a visionary healthcare leader and not be afraid to be authentic on my executive leadership journey, which can be a challenge for Black leaders.
What motivates you, and what are your values?
Cooper: I am motivated by the relentless pursuit of achieving health equity for marginalized people across our country. Health inequities have been recognized for decades. Yet COVID-19 has proven to be the “great exacerbator,” in further illuminating how far off we are from ensuring that healthcare services and broader social supports are accessible for those who need them most, including racial and ethnic minorities, low-income people and others. Because of my personal experience navigating the social safety net, I have seen the hardships that many of these communities face.
What was the one moment where you thought “I’ve made it” or what do you imagine will be the defining moment?
Cooper: I cannot yet declare that I have made it, but one of my most defining life moments so far was when I was awarded undergraduate and graduate scholarships from the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, as funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Receiving these generous scholarships put me on a different life trajectory, and was my first exposure to the incredible impact that can be made through equity-focused philanthropy. I utilized my funding to earn degrees at Spelman College, the University of Michigan and Harvard University.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Cooper: I am enthused about modernizing and disrupting the healthcare industry through the medical transportation sector in my new role at Lyft, after my most recent role as vice president of corporate social responsibility at UnitedHealthcare. In this new leadership post, I hope to meld various experiences and skills that I’ve honed throughout my career in healthcare, including advocating for policy change, leading coalitions of unlikely partners, and building new and innovative models of care for vulnerable populations, including people who are covered by Medicaid and Medicare.