Ep 14: Are You an Accidental or Intentional Leader?


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Ceci Connolly​

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.

Nancy-Ann DeParle

Nancy-Ann DeParle is a managing 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 Healthcare, in addition to Consonance portfolio companies Psychiatric Medical Care (PMC) and Sellers Dorsey. 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.

Carolyn Witte
CEO and Co-Founder, Tia

Carolyn Witte is the CEO and Co-founder of Tia — the next-gen women’s healthcare platform building the relationship-based care model of the future, online & offline. As a design-thinker and storyteller, she’s applied the brand-building and user-centric design playbook from her time at Google’s Creative Lab to make women’s care more personalized, preventive, data-driven, and soulful. A big believer in interdisciplinary teams, Carolyn has orchestrated a symphony of top tier women’s health providers, software engineers, designers and data enthusiasts to build a new model of women’s care that can sustain the pressures of the modern healthcare system for patients and providers alike.



Arora, M.D.

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.

Carolyn Magill

Carolyn is the CEO of Aetion. She brings two decades of experience, having held leadership roles at three companies central to the shift from volume to value in health care: as VP of Medicare and Medicaid health plans at UnitedHealth Group, as EVP of Payer Strategy and Operations at Evolent Health, and as CEO of Remedy Partners. She has an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and an MBA in health care management from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Carolyn serves on the board of the Center for Health Policy Development, and of Parity.org, advancing gender and racial diversity in business leadership. Carolyn has been recognized by Goldman Sachs, MM&M, and Crain’s New York for her leadership in health care.

One intentional thing that I've ever done is when I interviewed for Chief Residency. My chair asked me, ‘Who should I pick to be Chief Resident?’ And I said, ‘You should pick me.’ - Vineet Arora, M.D. Professor and Associate Chief Medical Officer for Clinical Learning Environment, University of Chicago Medicine



Lan Nguyen  0:00  

There may be paths to leadership – some stumble upon it while others seek out the opportunity. In this special edition of Her Story, we’ve asked a few of our guests if they consider themselves to be an accidental or intentional leader. So let’s jump right in. First up is Ceci Connolly, President and CEO of the Alliance of Community Health Plans.


Ceci Connolly  0:21  

My poor parents who knew me from day one would probably say that I was a little bit of an insufferable, bossy first child. But since most of my career track and aspiration was to be a journalist, no, it wasn’t necessarily leadership.


Lan Nguyen  0:36  

Nancy-Ann DeParle is managing partner and co-founder of Consonance Capital Partners, and former assistant to President Barack Obama,


Nancy-Ann DeParle  0:44  

I would say intentional, and by that, I mean, it’s interesting that you chose those words, accidental or intentional, not natural. I don’t think I’m a natural leader. I think I’m, among other things, an introvert, I’ve come to realize, I need a lot of time alone. And I find, for example, what we did during the Affordable Care Act in the seven-in-the-morning till nine-at-night, being with other people, and leading, if you will, to be very draining, I have to force myself to do the things that I think a leader does – to be outspoken to deliver the bad news, as you say, to be pragmatic and push forward. So in my case, I think it’s intentional.


Lan Nguyen  1:29  

Carolyn Witte is the co-founder and CEO of Tia.


Carolyn Witte  1:32  

I always wanted to be a leader, I just didn’t know I wanted—a leader and entrepreneur were not the same things in my mind. And so I think I had really amazing leadership opportunities while at Google, and I think there was a moment in this conversation of, “Should I quit my (then) dream job to go to the next dream job that was higher risk?” Kind of had this conversation, I remember, with my dad, explaining, like, I feel like I have so much influence and impact within this billion-user products and like all of these things, and he asked me. I remember having this conversation vividly: “What do you want to have influence? Or do you want to be the decision-maker? Like, are you, do you like making decisions? Or do you like influencing other people who make decisions? Because that’s really what it’s about, the difference. Like, you can influence other people who make decisions. And ultimately, like, if you made the wrong decision, Google’s gonna be just fine. If or do you make the decision yourself and then live or die by those consequences?” And not, I think, is a very stark picture of the difference in entrepreneurial oriented leadership. And I was interested in trying that out. 


Lan Nguyen  2:36  

Dr. Vineet Arora is a professor of medicine and the Associate Chief Medical Officer for Clinical Learning at the University of Chicago Medicine.


Dr. Vineet Arora  2:45  

It was really that paper from JAMA Internal Medicine, emailed me, that kind of got my blood curdling to be like, this is a gender gap, and it’s written by men, and it’s not framed well. And so I’m going to go out there and start talking about this. And I wrote an editorial and it ended up being featured in The New York Times. And so that’s really what led me on this path. And so I would definitely say I’m accidental. The only intentional thing that I will say that I’ve ever done is when I interviewed for chief residency, that first leadership job, my chair asked me, who should I pick to be chief resident, and we all knew who was being interviewed. And I said, you should pick me and I was apparently the only one that said that. And so perhaps that was an accident. But also it was really an upbringing of my parents to be like, put yourself out there. I do think the intentional part about it is don’t not see yourself as a leader, because that was an important key point.


Lan Nguyen  3:37  

And wrapping us up is Carolyn Magill, CEO of Aetion.


Carolyn Magill  3:40  

I’m likely more of an intentional than an accidental leader. I’m one of four kids born in five years, and I’m the oldest girl. So to pave my way in this family, I likely learned early on that by using my voice and having an opinion, I was more likely to create an outcome that I wanted. So I’m sure that that helps become more deliberate in pursuing leadership. And then I think there are discoveries that you make along the way about the context in which, maybe you can become a leader. And those are serendipitous more than anything else. 


There are moments like when I was in the second grade, it was the end of the school year, I had this teacher, Mrs. [inaudible], she says, “Oh, we’re switching classrooms, moving my classroom to next year. So I need students to help me move bookcases and desks and such from this room to the room that I’m going to for next year.” So she called a few of my classmates to help her. And they were all boys. And I was like, “I’m stronger than them – faster than them, too. Why isn’t she asking for more help from the girls in the room?” So I stayed in from recess. And I wrote her a note, and I said, “Girls are just as strong as boys. Why can’t we help you?” And I remember being nervous. I remember leaving it on her desk. She wasn’t in there. I left it on her desk, and then we came back from after recess. And Mrs. [inaudible] stands at the front of the class, and she says, “Class, I have an apology to make.” And she apologizes for not choosing girls to help her move the furniture. And she’s like, “Carolyn, won’t you choose a couple of girls to help you and you can take that bookcase.” And it’s moments like that – she certainly didn’t have to apologize. She certainly didn’t have to call it out in front of the whole class. But the fact that she did, and then she changed her course of action, that’s an empowering leadership moment. And I wasn’t aspiring to be a leader. I was mad. Those are the kinds of things that help you – you experience something like that. And you think, “Oh if I speak up, I’m rewarded.” Yes, it becomes less accidental over time because you start realizing, well, I want to affect this change, or I want this outcome, and if I don’t talk about it, or I don’t try to do something differently, then it may never happen.


Lan Nguyen  5:57  

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