Ep 23: Meet Your Host: Sanjula Jain, Ph.D. – The Pink Outlier

with Sanjula Jain, Ph.D.

March 17, 2021


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Sanjula Jain, Ph.D.
Co-founder, Think Medium and SVP, Market Strategy & Chief Research Officer, Trilliant Health

Dr. Sanjula Jain is a health services researcher and strategic advisor working with C-suite and senior leadership teams of healthcare organizations including Fortune 500 pharmaceutical and medical device companies, health systems, and venture-backed startups. She is passionate about leveraging data-driven insights to accelerate transformation across the health economy. Sanjula is Co-founder of Think Medium, which personalizes insights for healthcare leaders, and SVP of Market Strategy and Chief Research Office at Trilliant Health. She also serves on the Faculty of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in the Division of Clinical Informatics.

Sanjula has previously served in executive roles in research and advisory services, governance education and value acceleration at The Health Management Academy and Emory Healthcare. Her research has been published in academic journals such as Health Affairs, JAMA, The American Journal of Managed Care, and The Journal of Healthcare Management and leading industry publications such as Modern Healthcare and The American Hospital Association’s Market Scan

She has an undergraduate degree from Rice University and a doctorate degree from Emory University. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from Rice University and a Ph.D. in Health Services Research & Health Policy, with a concentration in Economics, from Emory University.


My motto is "focus on doing good work, create value for organizations, and as a result, the opportunities and doors will open."



Sanjula Jain  0:02  

Her Story is a program that explores women, leadership, and healthcare.


Gary Bisbee  0:09  

Sanjula is new as the host of Her Story, but not new to me. We’ve worked together at the Health Management Academy for 10 years. She’s now Co-founder of Think Medium. She’s on the faculty at the School of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University, and she’s the Chief Research Officer at Trilliant Health. She exemplifies the saying that we have around Her Story, “envisioning the opportunities.” We’re delighted to welcome Sanjula Jain as the host of Her Story. Good afternoon, Sanjula.


Sanjula Jain  0:40  

Afternoon, Gary.


Gary Bisbee  0:41  

Good to have you at this microphone, which will soon be yours.


Sanjula Jain  0:45  

Great to be here.


Gary Bisbee  0:47  

Why don’t we start with your growing up and your life as a young person? What was your life like growing up?


Sanjula Jain  0:57  

I actually grew up in Toronto, Canada, so that’s where home is. A lot of my family still lives there. I traveled up to about age 10 there and then we moved down to Tampa, Florida for many reasons. The weather, notably one, but at the time—of course—I wanted to be close to Disney World, so that was a perk. My family has a long history of entrepreneurs, all folks in business. By that account, someone would be viewed as a little bit of the black sheep if they went into health care because there really is no health care influence in my family.


Gary Bisbee  1:28  

Well, first of all, terrific decision to move from Toronto to Tampa. That trade weatherwise was excellent. I’ve met your mom, who’s a very successful entrepreneur, and I think your grandmother was as well. What’s it like growing up in a family with two terrific role models?


Sanjula Jain  1:46  

It’s great. A little bit of context there: My grandparents, my mother’s parents, immigrated from India over to Canada. When they came over, they didn’t know a word of English. They had to start from scratch. They built a business from the ground up. It ended up being a very successful business and they built a community around them, so I grew up seeing both my grandparents and—at that time—a female as business leaders. I grew up seeing her working and, as a child, I would go to the office there and be around the hustle and bustle. My mom was no exception. My mom has built many businesses of her own, so I never thought much about it. You don’t appreciate it until you look back. That was the norm for me. I don’t know anything else. I’ve always seen both my grandmother and my mother, these examples of women who worked hard. They were sitting in the boss’s seat, making these decisions, running a company, running a family. It was all so seamless. They made it look easy if you ask me. I didn’t know any alternative. At the time, I didn’t realize what influence it had on me. It’s now in more recent years that I go back and I ask, “How did you do this?” Or “How did you come up with this idea?” I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by exemplars in that way.


Gary Bisbee  3:04

Sanjula, I know you have a close relationship with your father. I’ve met him and he’s a terrific person. How has he influenced your career as a woman leader?


Sanjula Jain  3:24

My dad has probably been my number one supporter. Part of that stems from him thinking through the challenges he saw my mom face when she was in corporate Canada. He always says, “Don’t keep the door closed before you even give someone the chance to open it for you.” When I was applying to college and I had doubts like, “Oh, I probably can’t get in there,” he would say, “Just apply everywhere, and then see what you get back, and then worry about making a decision.” He’s always been this force in my life that’s constantly pushing me to go beyond my comfort zone. I don’t know if this is hard for you to believe or not, but I’m actually a pretty shy person, particularly when I was younger. Public speaking to this day frightens me. This podcast is actually going well beyond my comfort zone, but it was my dad that said, “You know what? You need to go out there and do speech and debate and really put yourself out there.” I’m grateful for him to push me in that direction. He’s this constant force that’s encouraging me to consider broader options of possibilities for myself before I even see them as options for myself.


Gary Bisbee  4:26

Good for your father, for sure. During the time that we’ve known each other, which is at least 10 years, you have always acted like an entrepreneur to me. Do you think you’re going to be an entrepreneur? Of course, you’re a co-founder of Think Medium so you’re already off to a good start there, but do you think that you will continue to be an entrepreneur, Sanjula?


Sanjula Jain  4:50

I’m starting to embrace it, Gary. At the time, if you were to ask me or anyone in my family, it was the last thing I wanted to do. It’s almost like you want to do the last thing that your family does. In some ways, I always aspired to do something I thought was more stable and more predictable, if you will. I thought that that’s where I wanted to go, but then as I went down that track—and I’m sure we’ll talk about it today—I started realizing, “Well, I actually like building. I like creating.” I like having this clean slate and Think Medium is an example of that. Whether it’s building a research line or building this podcast, it’s something I’ve learned to embrace.


Gary Bisbee  5:28

Let’s turn to your professional career. At what point did healthcare enter into your thinking?


Sanjula Jain  5:33

I don’t know exactly when that moment was. As a kid, I loved science and biology and thinking about my family background. On my dad’s side, I actually lost both of my grandparents pretty early in life due to chronic conditions. What was told to me at that time was, had they lived in North America,—they were in India at the time—maybe their outcomes would have been better, maybe they would have lived longer, and it started me on this path of “what actually determines health?” Where are disparities in different systems? Is it an education issue? Is it access to care and resources? I started having these questions and it led me down this path of food as medicine. I was that odd child who watched Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN. I thought it was so fascinating to see how he would communicate to a general audience about behavior, so that’s probably where my interest in education and healthcare merged. It was this intersection of “how do people make decisions about their personal health?”


Gary Bisbee  6:34

I know Rice University is important to you. How did Rice figure into the development of your career, Sanjula?


Sanjula Jain  6:41

It was one of the best decisions that I’ve made in my life. I chose Rice for many reasons, one of which was because I thought I wanted to be a clinical practitioner, so Texas Medical Center: largest medical center in the world, great access to training and resources. I was a psychology and biology major but I gravitated towards the psychology side. I found myself enjoying how people make decisions. Then I was an EMT, so in between classes I was over at the Texas Medical Center. I was riding in the ambulance. I was getting my clinical exposure, thinking that’s what I wanted to do. Then along the way, I started noticing, “There are all these systemic issues.” You take a patient into the ED and they have to wait forever. It’s not that seamless. I started asking hundreds of questions like why is the system this way? Why does the policy mean this? Then I gravitated towards Rice University’s famous Baker Institute, so policy seminars, and I started seeing, “Wow, okay, there’s more to that healthcare than just the clinical practice.” Rice was a safe place to experience different facets of the world beyond what was in the classroom. I was student body president and I got to present to my first Board of Trustees meeting at the age of 19 and that’s where I started seeing, “Wow, this is how decisions are made at an institution.” I was trying to reconcile that with some of the patient clinical stuff that I was doing, so I left Rice thinking, “Wow, there’s more than just biology and clinical practice. There are so many other pieces that I’d like to figure out how to bring together.”


Gary Bisbee  8:18

What was your plan following Rice?


Sanjula Jain  8:21

Despite having all those interests,—because I didn’t know what to do with them—my default was medicine, but I had this instinct that said, “Well, I’m just not ready yet.” I wanted to be a physician that could have more systemic influence in some way, but I didn’t quite know what that meant. I started talking to a lot of folks. I probably did, I don’t know, 50 or 60 informational interviews with different folks I had gotten in contact with. Gary, you were one of those people I got connected with and led me to say, “I want to do something else for a couple years and explore a different facet of healthcare.” Whether that was policy, whether that was business, and so I said, “Upon graduation, let me do a stint of something else—just to kind of broaden my horizon—and then I’ll go to medical school.”


Gary Bisbee  9:10

Well, there was the famous call Saturday morning, I believe, Sanjula. We connected. Jared Lewis lined us up and you and I had a great discussion. The next thing we knew, you were at the Health Management Academy and stayed through your fellowship and through working in research and working in the forums and were extremely successful there. What was the progression in your thinking to go to Emory for your Ph.D.?


Sanjula Jain  9:40

In some ways, it was an impromptu decision. Of any of the degrees I thought about getting, that was the last one on the list. Gary, you were the first Ph.D. that I met who didn’t work in a university that I could relate to. For me, the thought process came from my work at the Academy. I was so lucky to be in the room with all these decision-makers across the industry. I got to see—whether it was a health system CEO or a pharma CEO—how they were thinking about strategy. I remember there was one CEO meeting and there was a large health system executive talking about their plans to do A, B, or C. I remember asking, “How did you come to that decision?” My takeaway was that it didn’t seem like it was a model-out scenario or that there was a lot of evidence that went under making a decision not to say that that strategy was not a great strategy. I didn’t know any better, but my thought was, “I don’t think I know how to be able to replicate that because I would need a fact-set to help me come to a conclusion.” Through a long-winded way of picking up these patterns of how executives were making decisions, I put the two and two together and said, “I think I need technical training that can help me understand healthcare data in a way that I can then think through organizational decisions in a based way.”


Gary Bisbee  11:01

I thought you’d be a terrific Ph.D. student and thought that was the right thing for you to do. I probably couldn’t come right out and say that. Most people get their master’s degree and then go get the Ph.D. but you said, “I’m just going to go right to get that Ph.D.” It was a rather aggressive move. It certainly has worked out well. What was it like to be one of the younger Ph.D. students in your class?


Sanjula Jain  11:26

First on the process part, most schools require you have a master’s degree. Like I said, I went into the Ph.D. application process more as a, “Let me just see what it is all about.” I applied to several programs, even those that said they require a master’s degree. It was a way to force function me to actually learn about it, so I put my name out there and I talked to a lot of different schools and faculty members. I wanted to understand what they were studying and how they thought about healthcare. On the receiving end, a lot of schools said, “No, you have to have a Master’s.” Then there were several great prestigious ones that said, “You don’t have a master’s degree, but let’s talk.” Emory was one of those places that we talked. I still remember getting the phone call from the program director and I thought he was calling to reject me because it was a series of, “Well, you’re not really a traditional candidate. You really don’t have enough experience. You don’t have a master’s degree. Do you really know what academic research is?” It was a whole list of, “you’re just not the profile.” At the very end, he said, “But, if you still want to do this, we’d love to have you train here.” It was hard. I got there, sat down with the program director at the time, and he kindly said, “Look, you’re probably going to have to be here longer than the average student because you don’t have this baseline.” My degree’s in health services research and health policy, but it had an economics focus and I had never taken an economics course in my life. I had taken some undergrad statistics. From a fact-set, he was right. I didn’t have that background, and that’s why I wanted to get the degree. I wanted to learn and figure it out, so I was prepared to say, “Alright, I’m going to devote the next five or six years and buckle down and learn everything I can. It’ll probably be a little bit harder for me than the other people who had this formal training,” but I was gonna go for it. It was tough. I had to overcome convincing people that I could do it and that I was determined to at least try everything I could and go the extra mile. I got a lot of skepticism from my classmates, even. Like, “Who are you and what are you doing here?” I was the person in class who asked 100 questions, but I wouldn’t change it for the world because it put me in an environment where I was faced with a lot of obstacles and, in the end, it was the most rewarding experience.


Gary Bisbee  13:47

Well, it really paid off. By the way, my view on the economics issue is—with the success of the entrepreneurs in your family—you didn’t need to take economics before Emory. But at any rate, you probably learned about transformation and healthcare maybe at Rice, you certainly burnished your thinking at the Academy. How did Emory and the work you did at Emory help define how you view transformation in healthcare?


Sanjula Jain  14:16

It’s where I started to see silos more. It was fascinating to see this gap, first of all, between academia and industry. You’d be around these really smart thought leaders who are coming up with great policy recommendations, and they made sense, but then they were somewhat disjointed from the practical realities of what I knew health system CEOs were thinking about. It had never been more crystallized for me there, and part of that stemmed from the work I did over at the Emory healthcare system. I was basically going through their data sets and trying to help the executive team see where there were gaps in care variation. I remember presenting findings to the Chief Medical Officer at the time. They were so proud about reducing readmissions for a particular condition and I remember having to burst that bubble. I said, “Well, actually, it didn’t happen because of A, B, and C,” and I remember the executive at the time saying, “Well, no, the numbers must be wrong.” That triggered this whole process of going through and walking through and explaining why that was the case and what were the other variables and factors that could explain the changes and outcomes, and it wasn’t just about the numbers. There needed to be context from a policy point of view, or how the physicians were reacting to a protocol. It’s a long-winded way of saying I saw this gap. It was so apparent that there was a lack of policy understanding in some regards, and then those who understood the policy very well maybe weren’t as in touch with what the clinicians were struggling with at the frontline. I saw all these great ideas and this great direction of where healthcare needs to go. But I could also see why it was moving so slowly: there wasn’t a lot of intersection and collaboration between these entities. I came out of that with a pretty strong view that I don’t believe in the term “best practices.” We use that a lot in healthcare. “What’s the best practice for treating a particular patient?” Or “what’s the best practice for a merger acquisition?” I started thinking, “You know what? Every circumstance is different. Every leader is different. Every patient is different. Every market is different.” To see a transformation in healthcare, we have to figure out how to bridge the silos. We have to figure out how to make more informed decisions in a way where data is key, but not data in isolation, data that is contextualized for the circumstances of that particular problem.


Gary Bisbee  16:41

That’s a nice review of your professional career to date. Let’s look now at your journey as a woman leader, which, of course, is a major focus of Her Story. How do you view your career as a woman leader?


Sanjula Jain  16:57

It’s probably an unpopular opinion but, in many ways, I don’t think about it as explicitly. I’m well aware that there are opportunities that have been more challenging for me because I’m a female. There are probably things I haven’t even fully comprehended that have been different for me, but I try not to think about it. My motto is “focus on doing good work, create value for organizations, and as a result, the opportunities and doors will open.” That might sound overly simplistic. In some ways, yes, we might have to work a little harder on certain things, but I can’t discern if a program obstacle in my Ph.D. was because I am a woman or because that was part of the Ph.D. course. That’s one overarching element. It’s not to say that I don’t care about it or I don’t think about it, I just try not to overanalyze around it. If I do notice things that are being treated differently, it’s been in the context of—surprisingly—working with other women. One of the things that I’ve personally encountered more is often being—whether it’s an in class where I was in a small cohort and there were three or four other women with me—there was the sense of, “there’s only room for one of us.” There’s a lot of literature that’s being written about that, I just have never thought of it that way. I would always view it as “we’re all in this together” and “we should collaborate and get through this.” A lot of my challenges come from times when my peers in organizations feel like there’s only room for one of us. That’s been hard because, even though I may not view it that way, others do. How do you overcome that? It takes time. It takes a level of mutual understanding and trying to work through it, but there’s really no easy fix. I just try to focus on creating value where I go and navigating specific situations as they arise.


Gary Bisbee  18:57

Again, coming from your family, you made the point about entrepreneurism, where you kind of take it for granted. You just move forward because that’s what you grew up with. It could very well be that your journey as a woman is similar in the sense that the women in your family have been highly successful. You just assume that’s the way it goes and get it done, so good for you. What about mentors? We’ve discussed that a lot on Her Story, but how do you view mentors?


Sanjula Jain  19:30

I think about mentors as teachers. I wouldn’t be here today without several teachers across every aspect of my life. I have so many people to be thankful to because of that. They start as early as my first dance teacher at the age of three. That’s someone that I have learned a lot of lessons from that carry on with me to this day. To people like you, Gary. Even though I haven’t worked directly with you at all points in our journey together, you’ve always been a force there checking in and asking the right questions. Every teacher in my life has and continues to teach me something different and I’m really grateful to have a great support system. Depending on whatever new challenge or question, I have this personal board or advisory group where I can tap on any number of individuals to say, “Here’s what I’m thinking about, what do you think?” They’re all very candid and ask great questions that cause me to think about issues critically. It’s a really helpful sounding board to have.


Gary Bisbee  20:31

As a mentor, when you’re mentoring someone who actually listens and will act on what you’ve said, it gives you a lot of incentive to be involved. You certainly fall in that category. Have you noticed a difference between men and women mentors?


Sanjula Jain  20:50

No, I don’t really think there’s a difference. I’ve benefited just as much from my male mentors’ perspective as I have from my female mentors. What I would say is that there’s a difference in style. Thinking about my female mentors, they have a tendency to be a lot more forthcoming with their advice and, in some ways, a little bit more raw in their feedback, which can make for tougher things to hear but is a really valuable perspective to have. Whereas with my male mentors, it tends to be more of a formal exercise and often requires me to be intentional about seeking out their point of view on a particular topic.


Gary Bisbee  21:30

I’m going to ask a question and I don’t even know if it’s possible to answer it. Has there been one piece of advice given to you by a mentor that really made a difference in your life?


Sanjula Jain  21:44

That’s tough. There are so many nuggets of wisdom that I can think about, but the one that really stands out to me is actually from my dance teacher as a child. She instilled in me this notion of “focus on the process and then the results and outcome will come out of that.” As a dancer, what does success look like? It’s not that you learned the choreography of this one song or you performed it well the one time. It’s that final show that you put on where you’re doing seven songs back to back, and you’re doing it with your team, and did the audience enjoy it? The process to get there is tedious, so she taught me to focus on the discipline and the attention to detail of every step and every move. For every day that you didn’t practice, you’ve almost set yourself back a step, so if you really invested in what you were doing—and the time and the attitude that you brought to practice, and the rigor that you brought, and your endurance, and how you coordinated with your fellow members of the team, and how lockstep you were—the result would naturally be great. She gave me a sense of, “if you really hone in on the process and invest in the mental energy, what’s required of you and do the best you can, the result will naturally come about.” Don’t worry about what the outcome is because you may not even anticipate it. It gives you this long view of thinking. We so often like to see immediate outcomes, and I tend to have that impatience in me, but it teaches you to slow down and take the time to really hone in on something and then see where it leads you.


Gary Bisbee  23:17

Why don’t we turn now to Her Story? As the host of season two, beginning shortly, how do you view Her Story?


Sanjula Jain  23:29

Her Story is the platform that I wish I had when I was 18-years-old and trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I was lucky enough to know that I wanted to be in healthcare but, for someone who didn’t, what are the realm of options out there for someone who’s interested in different facets? At the time, all I was exposed to—and a lot of folks, whether they’re my students in the classroom or others that I work with—we think about it very linearly: If you want to be a practicing clinician, you can go into medicine or nursing. If you’re interested in policy, you can go work on The Hill. If you’re interested in business, maybe you go to consulting. Technology, maybe you go more in the Apple, Microsoft route, but it’s really hard to know where to start. What is the realm of options? Her Story is this great platform and resource center for individuals to see, first of all, healthcare is complicated and there are so many different, interesting career paths and opportunities and companies out there that are trying to make healthcare better. That’s the one thing I hope Her Story shows: a diverse range of individuals who work at various organizations, various sub-sectors of healthcare. It’s not just providers. It’s digital health. It’s people who work in finance, investors who are thinking about healthcare. Nonprofits. You name it. The point is, from anyone who touches healthcare directly or indirectly, you get this broad lens view of the ecosystem. Within that, it’s feeling like you have this network of support. You can hear from those at all levels of career, whether it’s the established CEO of a Fortune 500 company or someone who’s just starting off as chief resident. We span the gamut of experience levels and stages in individual journeys to relate to you and offer practical advice and reflect on what they went through and hope that we can all learn something. I personally believe that we all have something to learn from everyone’s story. It’s an opportunity for anyone, whether you’re male or female, to take a step back and say, “Here are these really interesting, accomplished women leaders who are trying to create an impact and change in healthcare. What can we learn from how they did it? What are they continuing to do and how can we course correct onto their path and learn from the challenges that they face so the next generation of leaders can accelerate and be one step ahead?”


Gary Bisbee  25:56

You mentioned the gender. We found in season one that 70% of the audience is women and 30% are men. Does it surprise you at all that 30% of the audience for Her Story are men?


Sanjula Jain  26:11

Not at all. In fact, I’d love to see that number grow. I’d love to see it be more like 50/50. At the end of the day, it takes a village. I wouldn’t be here without the support from teachers, mentors, colleagues, family members, and that includes men. Every male out there is either a boss or mentor for someone else, their spouse, their father, their sibling. We all have a role to play in helping advance more women to senior roles and helping them see the possibilities that are open to them.


Gary Bisbee  26:42

On the age factor, we’ve seen that roughly 40% of the audience is in the 25 to 44-year-old age group and another roughly 40% are in the 45 to 65-year-old age group. That brings to mind the whole focus on learning and leadership development. How do you view that, Sanjula?


Sanjula Jain  27:03

It’s encouraging. I think that learning is a lifelong process and that leadership requires continuous learning. Leadership, in my mind, is about having influence, so you can do that with a formal title or not. We all, no matter where you are in your journey,—whether you’re just starting off or you’ve already “made it” to the top, whoever you are—we’re never done learning. It’s helpful to validate the experiences you have. “Oh, okay, I’m not alone in that.” In some ways that’s learning, too. Or to say, “Wow, this person did it that way. That’s really interesting. I want to keep that in mind for something that I might encounter, or pass that piece of wisdom on to someone else that I come in contact with and help in their journey.” Maybe that’s the academic in me, but there’s so much to learn from everyone. People are very complex individuals and there’s so much nuance in how we all think, so the more that we can see things from different perspectives and different vantage points, the better off we are as individual leaders and the more equitable we’re going to make our healthcare system as well.


Gary Bisbee  28:09

We have certain branded questions for Her Story, several of which I’d like to ask you, but why do we have branded questions for Her Story?


Sanjula Jain  28:19

Every guest on the show is very unique and one story is not better than the other. There’s no right way to be a leader. There’s so much to celebrate in our individual variation. The branded questions are a framework to actually put two leaders together to remind yourself that, “Oh, yeah, there really is no one way to do it because these are 20 different ways that accomplished leaders have all approached this one similar issue.”


Gary Bisbee  28:45

One branded question is, “Are you an intentional or an accidental leader?”


Sanjula Jain  28:51

That’s tough. In some ways, my path into leadership was somewhat accidental in that, for me, my journey has always been that I have a lot of opinions and I’m not shy about sharing them. If I see something that causes me to think, “huh, have you thought about this” or “it might be interesting to consider this,” I’m the person who will send an email to whoever is in charge of that organization and share my thoughts. For example, back in high school, we had a new science center open up in town and they were looking for input on developing exhibits for children or something. I must have sent an email and that triggered, “Oh, why don’t you come on board and help lead a committee to design some of the exhibits for purchase?” I really had no intention to do that, I didn’t know that was a thing you could do. I just wanted to share a thought and it led to that, but I have been very intentional about my journey and career path since then. I’m very deliberate about what opportunities I want to pursue or seeking out experiences that will round out my learning or other things that I want to have exposure to. So I would say I started off in a more accidental way but I continue to be more intentional in my path.


Gary Bisbee  30:06

The second branded question is, “Is there one characteristic that’s given you an edge in life?”


Sanjula Jain  30:12

In some ways, I’m a student of myself. I’m pretty self-aware. I’m the person—and maybe it’s the psychology major in me—but I love all those personality assessments. You know, Myers Brigg and Strengths Finder. I’m someone who tries to understand what my strengths are, where my weaknesses are, and what my limits are. What are the things that work? What are the environments in which I thrive? What are the things that give me energy and don’t? The more self-aware you are about those things, it positions you in a way to plan and react accordingly. That’s the high-level view of it, but it even applies to the tactical and everyday. For example, writing. I’m not the best writer, but it’s a skill that I like to practice a lot. I know that I’m someone who does not write well unless it’s five o’clock in the morning, and that’s taken me many runs at it. After you write a dissertation you realize what environmental conditions you really thrive and do well in. So I could either sit there and say, “I’m going to block out four days on my calendar to write nine to five because it would seem like that’s what you should do.” Or I could say, “Well, I know that—even if I do that—I’d probably walk away with one paragraph, but if I just blocked out three hours in the morning, I’d probably write a lot more.


Gary Bisbee  31:33

A third branded question is, “What advice would you like to have given your younger self?”


Sanjula Jain  31:40

“Not having consensus is okay.” A little bit back to the self-aware point, one of the things that I’ve been told and realized about myself is I have always liked to have buy-in from poll groups. I’m often the person— Gary, you’ve pointed this out in projects that we’ve done. I’ve generally believed that more inputs lead to better outputs. Early on, I would spend a lot of time getting a lot of input from a lot of people and then trying to build a solution that would satisfy every piece of perspective that different people on the team really wanted to have. It was almost as if you wanted to satisfy everything. It’s important to bring people along and factor in those perspectives (because you ultimately come up with a different way of thinking), but over time I’ve realized that in some ways the most effective change, the most meaningful change comes from when you rock the boat a little bit. Sometimes you’re not going to make everyone happy. You should factor different points of view into your recommendations or solutions, but if you get so caught up in the weeds of making sure that everyone signs off on something or everyone’s viewpoint is factored in, it can lead to a less optimal solution, delay the process, and a lot of things that probably are not worth a headache. It’s a delicate balance of bringing people along, sharing the vision, getting input and buy-in, but also feeling comfortable to make a call.


Gary Bisbee  33:04

Last branded question: If you were to write a book about yourself, what would the title be?


Sanjula Jain  33:10

He told me you were going to ask me this, so I’ve thought a little bit about it. I think it would be The Pink Outlier. Two reasons for that. One, when I was in high school I competed in public forum debate nationally. I remember my debate partner and I were at a tournament. Actually, this was a debate field where there weren’t a lot of women, now that I think about it. We were going up in this final round against two males. We were in our suits and we were wearing pink blouses inside just because we wanted to. We remember overhearing our competitors kind of chuckling off to the side and saying, “Ugh, this is going to be easy. We’re going to win this one. They’re just pretty girls who don’t have a brain.” They said some awful things thinking we couldn’t hear, so they went into this competition really underestimating us and making a superficial judgment. Not to play a pun on Her Story, but they really judged a book by a cover. We went in and wowed them with our skills and cross examination and we won the round and you could just see the looks on their faces. I remember thinking at that moment, “People are always going to make assumptions about you.” It’s human nature. We are always going to make assumptions based on what’s in front of us so, in some ways, there’s strength in being underestimated. Since that day, I’ve always viewed pink as our power color, as my partner and I would joke about. So pink for that reason, and then outlier. Being a researcher, I think a lot about data and trends. In many ways, I’ve always felt like an outlier. Whether it was being the youngest person on a management team, finishing my Ph.D. in three years instead of five, or—to your example earlier, Gary—not having a master’s degree. Whatever, you name it. In many ways, I’ve never really felt like I was on the traditional path. I don’t think I’ve had a linear path and I don’t think there is such thing as a linear path. Society tends to put generalizations and trend lines, but I’ve always viewed my experiences as being somewhere always off that curve. In the early days, we want to be part of the norm. We want to be in that trend line, but now I’ve learned to appreciate that it’s nice to be unique in that way.


Gary Bisbee  35:20

Absolutely. Pink Outlier works. Let’s turn now to Her Story, season two. What does season two have in store for us?


Sanjula Jain  35:30

Season two has a great lineup that’s being developed as we speak. You can look forward to a wide range of guests from every sector of health care from Silicon Valley to Capitol Hill. We’re going to span the gamut. You’re going to see some household names of Fortune 500 companies and some folks who are leading transformational change at the front line, so a great group of individuals who are leading change in a lot of different aspects and approaching leadership in unconventional ways as well. We’re going to see a lot of special series where we’re going to go deep on topics of interest to our audience, whether that’s diving into specific subsectors like women in finance and women in health tech to actually tackling the hard issues of how do you find a mentor? How do you tackle pay inequity? We’re going to go deep on specific topics that many women leaders face on an ongoing basis.


Gary Bisbee  36:30

It promises to be a terrific season. We’re absolutely delighted, Sanjula, that you’re with us. I think back to when we first met on a Saturday morning phone call 10 years ago and how far we’ve come and just delighted that you’re with us here at Think Medium and will be hosting Her Story, so welcome aboard.


Sanjula Jain  36:52

Her Story is a podcast produced by Think Medium. For more leadership stories from inspiring women across healthcare, tune in every Wednesday. Please subscribe to Her Story on Apple Podcasts, YouTube, or wherever you’re listening right now. You can also view Her Story episodes and video and access exclusive content on our website at Think Medium.com. Be sure to rate and review Her Story so we can continue bringing you insights from influential women across the country. If you enjoyed this episode, we appreciate you spreading the word to your friends, family, colleagues, and mentors who might be interested. For questions and suggestions, please contact us at herstory@thinkmedium.com. Thanks for listening!

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