Ep 1: Meet Your October Host

with Ceci Connolly

September 22, 2020


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Ceci Connolly
President & CEO, Alliance of Community Health Plans

Ceci is a recovering journalist who now is in passionate pursuit of a better, more equitable, more affordable health system. She is President and CEO of the Alliance of Community Health Plans, a national organization of leading nonprofit, provider-aligned plans. Ceci is also the host of the Healthy Dialogue podcast.

After 25 years in the news business – at outlets such as the Washington Post, the Associated Press and Congressional Quarterly – she worked at both McKinsey and PwC in health care thought leadership and consulting. She is a founding member of Women of Impact for Healthcare, co-author of Landmark: The Inside Story of America’s New Health-Care Law and What It Means for Us All, and serves on the advisory board of Fannie Mae’s Sustainable Communities Initiative.

They say that journalism is the front row of history. And indeed, I pinched myself a lot of days. It was just so interesting and different every day, I loved it.



Lan Nguyen  0:04  

Her Story is an interactive audio and video series developed by women for women to share stories that expand their vision of what is possible as healthcare leaders. Each month will feature a new host interviewing one or more guests each week. Welcome, Ceci.


Ceci Connolly  0:22  



Lan Nguyen  0:23  

We’re so pleased to have you join the Her Story program. 


Ceci Connolly  0:27  

Well, thank you for having me. This is a labor of love for sure. In my case. 


Lan Nguyen  0:32  

We appreciate that. Can you share with us why it’s important for women leaders to share their stories? 


Ceci Connolly  0:39  

Absolutely. We want to make certain that as women leaders, we are really doing our part to bring others along my own perspective really evolved over the years throughout my career, in terms of the responsibility of women who, to one degree or another have made it to then not just say, well, hooray for me, it was a hard struggle, and I made it. So that’s it, I’m done. The Her Story project is so important, in my view, for the future success of the nation. And for women really advancing other women. 


Helping women advance, especially in healthcare, but in other realms has become as I have grown and had fantastic opportunities in my own career, and some nice successes along the way. My passion has really been to not stop just with my own career focus and trajectory, but trying to bring along other women. 


Lan Nguyen  1:46  

And now let’s transition to your career journey, beginning with your professional career as a journalist, as a book author, as a leader of a Research Institute, and now a CEO of a very successful member based organization. Did you envision when you left Boston College that you would follow the path that you did? 


Ceci Connolly  2:10  

Well, not precisely. And if my father were here today, he would probably make a joke about how I can’t seem to hold a job with all of those various things. But actually a little bit like my father, I relish a good new challenge, and that’s part of the insight into my own unusual path, if you will. By the time I was at Boston College, I’d worked on that school newspaper, “The Heights.” It was an independent student newspaper, and I actually had the privilege of being the editor there. I completely got the journalism bug. And in fact, my mother back in those days would say she didn’t even bother trying to call my dorm room, she would just dial The Heights because that’s where she was going to find me night and day. By the time I was leaving Boston College, I knew that journalism was just running through my veins, and it’s what I wanted to do. And I was very fortunate that I worked at some terrific news organizations over a total of 25 years. I worked at newspapers, the Associated Press Wire Service, all the way up to the Washington Post, which was an incredible opportunity for me. You know, they say that journalism is really the front row of history. And indeed, I pinched myself a lot of days. And some of the places that I ended up were just so interesting and different every single day. I loved it.


Lan Nguyen  3:36  

Was journalism overly weighted toward men while you were at The Post? 

Ceci Connolly  3:40  

Well, certainly early in my career, yes. And then what happened was that many women came into the reporting ranks, which was phenomenal, not just at The Post, but at news organizations across the country and across the globe. But very difficult cracking that glass ceiling, and The Post and almost every other major news organization in the country today, still is woefully underrepresented in its top echelons with women. And that still is troubling to me. And I think it’s unfortunate for those businesses because they’re missing a really important perspective in their decision making. 


Lan Nguyen  4:31  

This transition to your career at the Association of Community Health Plan, ACHP, can you describe ACHP for us? 


Ceci Connolly  4:41  

We are a national organization of nonprofit provider aligned community health plans, and that membership also reflects what we believe very strongly in when it comes to health care, which is nonprofit makeup just results in different decisions and different timetables, sometimes some different motivations. And that very importantly, when you have the health plan and the provider side, the clinical community, working in partnership in that local community, we believe that you see better results, you see better health outcomes, you can drive greater value for the health care dollar. So that’s what brings all of these organizations together.


Lan Nguyen  5:30  

What would you say is the best advice that you received?


Ceci Connolly  5:35  

The problem is that most of the advisors are men. But I will say within my women’s networks, and one in particular, Women of Impact, and we’ve got another co-host, Joanne Conroy who founded Women of Impact for Health Care. She has been so meaningful for me. What I find is that the women around me hold me accountable in a gentle way. But when they see me, they might say, well, six months ago, you said you were gonna change this, did you? Why not? How can we help you? It’s not chastising. But it’s kind of keeping me on my path, when especially in these roles, you can kind of get pulled sideways and in different directions and they keep you grounded.


Lan Nguyen  6:24  

You have a unique vantage point in the healthcare industry. What advice would you give a young woman who is interested in a leadership position in health care?


Ceci Connolly  6:33  

Well, it is certainly a dynamic industry going through remarkable disruption right now. So you need to be adaptable. Creative, you probably need to understand and appreciate that certain segments of this industry are probably going to go through some contraction. It’s honestly a little bit bloated, a little bit overpriced, and a lot of those new entrants are going to disrupt incumbent players. So that nimbleness, that flexibility, certainly the passion, you’ve got to really care about it and care about making this system better for everyone, much more equitable, much more affordable.


Lan Nguyen  7:16  

Well, I very much enjoyed our conversation today. Thank you very much for joining us, Ceci.


Ceci Connolly  7:22  

Well thank you for having me and it will be super fun to have our guests coming up.


Lan Nguyen  7:28  

Her Story is a weekly podcast produced by think medium. Please subscribe to Her Story on Apple podcast or wherever you’re listening right now. You can access the video version of Her Story on YouTube or on our website, think medium.com backslash herstory. Be sure to rate and review Her Story so we can continue bringing you stories from inspiring women healthcare leaders. We found that podcasts are known through word of mouth, and we appreciate your spreading the word to friends, family colleagues and mentors. For questions and suggestions about Her Story. Contact us at Herstory@thinkmedium.com. Thanks for listening.

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