Dedication to health, experience as a registered nurse and interest in business are a few factors that influenced my decision to pursue a career with a health benefits plan. As executive vice president of HealthNow New York Inc., a multibillion-dollar plan serving nearly one million members throughout the country, I help shape policies and practices that improve the health of thousands of people every day.

I believe my success reflects the support I’ve received from leaders who have told me that I could make a difference. I joined HealthNow nearly 25 years ago (when it was Blue Shield of Western New York), and received mentoring by a female executive whose candor and confidence encouraged me to take risks. Today, one of my greatest supporters is our president and CEO, Alphonso O’Neil-White. He has given me the opportunities to do what I love: create programs that improve access to high-quality health care and the resources and time to volunteer.

Passion and tenaciousness are essential to professional success. Every risk worth taking and every great idea face roadblocks. If you love what you’re doing and believe in its worth, you’ll get through them stronger, smarter and prepared to lead. That is how I progressed from managing a department of 60 to becoming part of a dynamic executive leadership team for a company with $2.1 billion in annual revenue and nearly 2,000 employees.

As HealthNow’s staff is predominantly women, I have mentored dozens who have risen from entry- and mid-entry-level positions to become senior vice presidents and vice presidents. As a past mentor of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Mentoring Program Fellowship, I had the honor of mentoring a woman who is making her own significant contributions to health care in life sciences.

Sharing experiences through mentoring is not one more demand on our time. My career may have been different if it wasn’t for those who have helped me grow and I, too, have made it a goal to ensure that more women have leadership opportunities wherever life takes them. Mentoring is an opportunity to thank those who helped us and to honor their legacies; being entrusted with the task is one of the greatest achievements of any successful woman’s career.