The path I have taken to leadership has been rewarding and exciting, but in no way direct.

I have wanted to be a doctor since the third grade. I spent the early part of my childhood living in low-income areas of Brooklyn, New York. We received medical care from community clinics and public assistance programs. Unfortunately, I required treatment for conditions caused by or exacerbated by poverty. It was at our local health department clinic that I first became aware of doctors and medicine.

While obtaining my medical education, I encountered obstacles related to gender, race, and my relatively young age. With each encounter, I learned and grew stronger in my conviction to succeed. I went on to have successful and rewarding family medicine practices at Kaiser Permanente and then Mayo Clinic.

After a little over a decade of clinical practice, I began teaching interns and residents at Mayo Clinic. During this same period I also become interested in practice administration and business management. I gradually increased my participation in managerial projects and, just as importantly, gained great insight and experience volunteering for civic organizations and professional associations. Through these activities, I connected with a successful physician executive in the health insurance industry at just the right time to be considered for an innovative learning experience. I became a corporate medical director for Blue Cross Blue Shield and had a unique opportunity to explore the diverse functional areas of the company not typically experienced by clinical staff.

While in this role, another opportunity became available in a part of the healthcare industry I had never considered—I volunteered to serve on a state advisory council focused on reducing medical errors. The work and relationships developed while on this advisory council led to my gubernatorial appointment as head of Florida’s $14 billion Agency for Health Care Regulation. I went on to hold a similar role as Commissioner of Georgia’s $12 billion Department of Community Health.

Now in the private sector, I lead quality and performance improvement for UnitedHealthcare’s national portfolio of Commercial, Medicare and Medicaid plans. All of my combined experiences have prepared me for this role, even though I wouldn’t have foreseen it back in third grade. I’m honored to be in a position where I can help create a healthcare experience that is meaningful, simple, and personal, and where I keep growing and learning each day.

What does it take to succeed and stay competitive in your position/field?

Remain current on industry trends and information. Deliver on your promises. Keep your integrity intact. Remain open minded to different alternatives and new options. Reassess, and when needed, regroup to achieve new or future goals.

Is there a role model who has had a profound impact on your career and/or life? What did he/she motivate you to do?

My mother, who always encouraged me and never once gave me any reason to doubt I could be or do anything.