Ep 21: Executive Moms: Leadership at Home and in the Office


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Vineet Arora, M.D.
Professor and Associate Chief Medical Officer for Clinical Learning Environment, The University of Chicago Medicine
Vineet Arora, M.D., M.A.P.P., is an academic hospitalist and the Herbert T. Abelson tenured Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago. As Associate Chief Medical Officer for Clinical Learning Environment, she bridges educational and hospital leadership to engage frontline staff into the institutional quality, safety, and value mission. An accomplished researcher who is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, she is PI of numerous NIH grants to evaluate novel interventions that combine systems change with learning theory to improve care in teaching hospitals. As an advocate for women in medicine, she was featured in the New York Times for an editorial that called to end the gender pay gap in medicine. She is a founding member of the 501c3 Women of Impact dedicated to advancing women leaders in healthcare and of TIME’S UP Healthcare, which is dedicated to ending gender inequities and ensuring the creation of a safe, equitable, and dignified healthcare workforce. She has authored numerous articles on gender gaps in academic medicine.
Nancy-Ann DeParle
Partner and Co-founder, Consonance Capital Partners, and Former Assistant to President Barack Obama

Nancy-Ann DeParle is a partner and co-founder of Consonance Capital Partners, a private equity firm that focuses on investing in the U.S. health care industry. She is a director of CVS Health and HCA, in addition to Consonance portfolio companies Enclara Pharmacia, Turn-Key Health, and Psychiatric Medicare Care. From 2011-January 2013, she was Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy in the Obama White House. A health policy expert, DeParle served as Counselor to the President and Director of the White House Office of Health Reform from 2009-2011. In that role, she spearheaded President Obama’s successful effort to enact the Affordable Care Act and managed the initial implementation of the law.

After leaving the White House in 2013, DeParle was a Lecturer in Law at Harvard Law School and a Visiting Scholar in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution. From 2006-2009, DeParle was a Managing Director of CCMP Capital Advisors, a private equity firm formed by the former buyout professionals of JPMorgan Partners, LLC. She was also a Senior Fellow of Health Systems at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a trustee or director of several corporate and non-profit boards, including Boston Scientific, Cerner, Health Affairs, Medco Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. From 2002-2008, she was a commissioner of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), which advises Congress on Medicare policy matters.

From 1997-2000, DeParle served as Administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), now the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). As Administrator, she directed Medicare, Medicaid, and the State Children’s Health Insurance (SCHIP), which provide health insurance for more than 105 million Americans at an annual cost of $870 billion. Before joining HHS, DeParle served as Associate Director for Health and Personnel at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Earlier in her career, DeParle was Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Human Services, administering a 6,000-employee cabinet agency. She also worked as a lawyer in private practice in Nashville and Washington, D.C. She has appeared on many news programs and speaks frequently at health and financial industry conferences. In 1994, Time selected DeParle as one of “America’s 50 Most Promising Leaders Age 40 and Under.”

DeParle received a B.A. with highest honors from the University of Tennessee, where she was Student Body President, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. She also received a B.A. and M.A. in Politics and Economics from Balliol College of Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar.

DeParle lives in Chevy Chase, MD, with her husband, Jason DeParle, a reporter for the New York Times, and their two teenaged sons.

Kim A. Keck
President and CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association

Kim A. Keck is president and chief executive officer of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), a national federation of 36 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. The Blue System is the nation’s largest health insurer covering one-in-three Americans.

Keck, a respected leader in the healthcare industry, has built a reputation as an engaged, incisive leader. Prior to joining BCBSA in 2021, she served as president and CEO of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI), the state’s largest health insurer. During her tenure at BCBSRI, she drove strategic initiatives around cost and value stewardship, convenience and comprehensive health, and led policy efforts fortifying elements of the Affordable Care Act to ensure all Rhode Islanders have access to quality care. She also combatted long-standing social issues influencing health outcomes, including childhood obesity, housing insecurity and racial inequities.



“I remember hiding my pregnancy, because I was afraid that it was really going to work against me.” – Sandi Fenwick



Lan Nguyen  0:02  

Many women leaders are also mothers who regularly juggle the demanding responsibilities of work and family. As many of our guests have noted across this season, “balance is a misnomer”. There are times when we find ourselves closer to work, and times when we are closer to home, we must build villages of support on both sides to make it all work. In this special edition of Her Story, three accomplished leaders across different sectors of healthcare share some of their experiences in navigating workplace dynamics as a mother. First we hear from Dr. Vineet, also known as Vinny Aurora, Professor of Medicine and associate Chief Medical Officer for Clinical Learning Environment at the University of Chicago medicine.


Vinny Arora  0:46 

I am often struck by the fact that having children allows me to think about things that I’m not normally thinking about, like the plight of parents in our organization or how to handle evening meetings and things like that, so I can be a better leader in that space. Having said that, I also have to draw a line and I’m fortunate that I am part of an organization and a leadership team that’s able to draw that line. Having said that, I will disclose that on the team, a senior leadership team, I am the only woman with children in my smaller group. The men have children and the other two women don’t, and so it’s something I think about in the sense that I also escalated up the leadership path with no children. I now happen to have young children and am still a leader, so I find that I see myself on both sides of that coin. I remember what it was like to be in my late 30s and not have kids and be dumped on with work, and I also now know that it’s extremely difficult right now as well. And so you have to be thoughtful on both sides. I will say, when I disclosed to my boss I was pregnant, I was super nervous. You know, I was in a leadership position, I’d been in it for a year, and he was so happy and gracious. And he was like, “We’re gonna make it work.” Every woman out there needs to find that pod of people who’s going to support them like I am supported.


Lan Nguyen  2:12  

Next is Nancy-Ann DeParle, Managing Partner and Co-founder, Consonant Capital Partners and former Assistant to President Barack Obama.


Nancy-Ann DeParle  2:20 

She sat me down and she said, “Let’s talk about your career.” And she was just a great mentor. And then we talked about coming out to run HCFA . And I said, “Well, you know, I just got married, and my husband and I want to start a family. So that’s really important to me.” And Donna Shalala said, “Oh, well, that’s great. We had a lot of babies here. Kevin Thurm had a baby and Rich Tarplin had two babies, I think. And that’ll be great. We’ll do it here.” And thought, “Well, I don’t want to put a damper on this, but it is a little bit different when you’re the mom having the baby and— But who knows, we’ll see how this works out. And it came to be an issue after I’d been confirmed at run HCFA and run it for about a year. And this was during the Balanced Budget Act, as you’ll recall, of ’97, the implementation of that which remains the largest cuts ever to the Medicare program. That’s what we were implementing, and I was pregnant. And I went in to talk to Don about how we were going to handle it and she said, “Well, of course you’re going to take maternity leave.” Well, it turned out, there was no provision in law for a senate confirmed appointee to take maternity leave. There is no provision in law. As far as I know, that’s never been changed. You’re technically on duty 24/7 and there is no provision for leave. And in fact, she said, “I can’t believe that’s right.” So she had the general counsel call over to the Justice Department and they said, “There’s nothing in the statute that allows you to take a leave.” So Donna—uncowed and unbowed by that—said, “Well, this is what you need, this is what the baby needs, so you’re taking the leave. Here’s the list of senators. You call 50 of them and I’ll call 50 of them and we’ll just tell them that’s what you’re doing. You’re taking three months.” So that’s what we did and, to their credit, they were all very nice and supportive of it, bipartisan. And so I took three months off, but it was a fantastic experience. And it’s a theme. The theme is mentors, and especially women mentors.


Lan Nguyen  4:30  

Wrapping us up is Kim Keck, President and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.


Kim Keck  4:36  

The first time I really remember being in a situation where I was explicitly the only woman and I felt a little uncomfortable was a time many, many years ago. It was in finance and I was doing M&A. And I remember being on a telephone call. It was probably Sunday evening and it was a time when there weren’t any such things as cell phones. We did have a cordless phone, it was called, but the mute button wasn’t really that accessible and I remember locking myself in a closet because I was the only female on this call and just trying to conduct this call. And my two-year-old at the time pounding the door screaming, “Mommy!” And I remember thinking, “Okay, this is a little awkward” and having to deal with trying to find that mute button really fast and try to excuse myself from all the men to take care of something I needed to do. It felt very different because I just felt not everyone had to pause and to do that, but I just had to do what I felt was right at the time.


Lan Nguyen  5:36  

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