Ep 74: Boosting Career Potential Through Mentorship

with Renee DeSilva, Melinda Buntin, Ph.D., and JaeLynn Williams

May 11, 2022


Share Episode
Share on email
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on facebook


Renee DeSilva
CEO, The Health Management Academy

Renee DeSilva serves as CEO of The Health Management Academy, partnering with top executives from the nation’s 150 largest and most innovative healthcare companies to shape the future of the industry. Under Renee’s leadership, The Academy has launched a broad array of new research programs, strategic partnerships and leadership initiatives.  

With more than two decades of experience in the healthcare industry, Renee is a sought-after speaker, moderator, panelist and host. Informed by The Academy’s more than 65 annual events featuring c-suite healthcare decision-makers and innovators, she has unique insight into the challenges and opportunities facing the industry. She is frequently asked to speak on health system transformation catalyzed by COVID-19 and issues of race and representation in healthcare leadership.


Melinda Buntin, Ph.D.
Mike Curb Professor and Chair, Department of Health Policy, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Melinda Buntin, Ph.D. is the chair of the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She previously served as Deputy Assistant Director for Health at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), where she was responsible for managing and directing studies of health care and health care financing issues in the Health, Retirement, and Long-term analysis Division.

Prior to joining CBO, Dr. Buntin worked at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, where she established and directed the economic analysis, evaluation, and modeling group, while on leave from RAND. At RAND, Dr. Buntin served as deputy director of RAND Health’s Economics, Financing, and Organization Program, director of Public Sector Initiatives for RAND Health, and co-director of the Bing Center for Health Economics. Her research at RAND focused on insurance benefit design, health insurance markets, provider payment, and the care use and needs of the elderly.

She has an A.B. from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton and a Ph.D. in Health Policy with a concentration in economics from Harvard University.


JaeLynn Williams
CEO, Air Methods

JaeLynn Williams is the chief executive officer of Air Methods, the nation’s leading air medical service, which delivers lifesaving care to more than 70,000 people every year. She is responsible for overall management and growth of the company, which employs more than 4,500 teammates and has over 300 bases of operations serving 48 states.

 Prior to her appointment as CEO in January 2020, Ms. Williams held the position of executive vice president for Air Methods Sales, Marketing and Communications. In this role, she led the revitalization of Sales and Marketing operations, developed management operating systems and metrics for measuring performance, and instituted customer-centric improvements to build and retain business.

 Ms. Williams joined Air Methods from GE Healthcare Digital, a $1.6 billion business with more than 2500 employees and operations in Canada, Europe, China, Asia/Pacific, Middle East, and Latin America. At GE, she was chief commercial and marketing officer, responsible for leading the global commercial strategy for marketing, sales, service, and delivery operations. Prior to GE, Ms. Williams was president and general manager of 3M Health Information Systems, a business of 3M Company, where she was responsible for overall management of the division and worldwide growth of a broad portfolio of intelligent software and consulting services to hospitals and health systems, commercial payers, and federal and state agencies.

 Ms. Williams is a contributor to industry publications and has been interviewed as a healthcare opinion leader by NPR’s Morning Edition news program and by numerous healthcare publications. She is the recipient of Health Data Management magazine’s Most Powerful Women in Healthcare IT Award and was recognized with the Women in Tech Champion Award from the Utah Technology Council. She is a graduate of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.


Do I need international experience? Or people experience? What are the leadership experiences I need to have to be qualified for that role?



Carina Clawson  00:16

There’s probably been a point in your life where you turned to someone you trust for advice. Maybe they were a colleague, professor, friend, or family. That person provided support and perspective.   Mentors play an important role in our lives by providing clarity and direction. They can help guide careers, open doors, and make ourselves better people.  Today, we are featuring three leaders and the powerful advice they received from mentors. We will begin with Renee DeSilva, the CEO of The Health Management Academy. Next, we will turn to Melinda Buntin, Ph.D. She is a Mike Curb Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University. And to wrap up, we will hear from JaeLynn Williams, the CEO of Air Methods.  To begin, let’s listen to Renee DeSilva’s experience with her mentor.

Renee DeSilva  01:07

I was fortunate to land under a manager, middle of my career, that really played both. So what he did for me was two things. And if you find yourself with a manager who’s not doing these things for you, it could be career limiting, I tell friends in my circle this all the time. So we did two things for me. One was he helped me to see my gifts that were not always plain to me. And he would note things that I did that just might be reflective by, or like part of my own reflex, not reflective, but part of my own reflex, that didn’t know that that was anything special. So he allowed me to understand what my what how I contributed in a way that was really helpful to an organization. And that could be a little bit of a sort of a power alley in terms of other places that I could go. So that was the first thing he did. We also had this culture, and it was one of one of the one of the cultural tenants was run to criticism. And so how that played out was, when your work product or how you did in the meeting was about to get totally torched, they would say, in the spirit of running to criticism, let me give you let me give you some feedback on how that presentation went. And he was also ruthless about doing that, for me, like really telling me what my blind spots were. And I do think to your question on mentorship and sponsorship, I think part of the issue sometimes can be that for whatever reason, women do not get enough feedback on on both the gifts, and, hey, here’s something that may or may not be true, but here’s how people are receiving you are perceiving you and things that are going to be rate limiting if you don’t work on it. And Adam did both of those things. For me, it was with empathy. And he’s very funny. And so he did it with a lot of humor, too. And so I would, I would say he comes to mind is that the best example of that, and then there were others along the way. But when I really needed it, he did both for me, and I thank him to this day, because I think I probably would have gotten in my own way without that.

Carina Clawson  03:07

Mentors encourage professional and personal development. Their outside perspective can help us understand our unique strengths, or areas for improvement.   Next, we will hear from Dr. Buntin about some honest advice she received during her career.

Melinda Buntin, Ph.D.  03:21

I already mentioned David Blumenthal, who has been a wonderful mentor to me for a large part of my career. And I remember talking to him about the choice to leave the Office of the National Coordinator, he had already left because he only had a two year leave from academia to do that, the choice of whether I should take the job I’d been offered at the Congressional Budget Office. And he counseled me that if I took it, I would probably be closing doors for myself, that I might not be able to return to a research career or academia because a second federal job sort of was going to brand me as a fed. And that was hard for me to hear. And it didn’t prove to be true because here I am at Vanderbilt, but he was right. And he was right to tell me that. And he was right to make me think hard about what I was doing. And because he told me that, I did work hard when I was at the Congressional Budget Office to maintain ties to colleagues, to continue to try and publish research and the like. And that did keep doors open for me later on in my career. But that was hard to hear, that I was making a choice that really could change my career trajectory. But I’m glad he told me that.

Carina Clawson  04:35

When facing a big career decision, like a job change, consulting a mentor can help us understand our career trajectory: what opportunities are available or what choices might close doors.  To wrap up, JaeLynn Williams will share some excellent career advice she received from a mentor.

JaeLynn Williams  04:51

I had the opportunity, when I was at 3M, to be part of a small group. There were there were five of us, I believe, that were mentored by the CEO of 3M company, all of 3M company. And one of the things that he had us, or an activity, I guess you’d call it, he had to do was to start with the end in mind. So he had us put out a paper and it had an X and a Y graph. Kind of up in that top right corner, what is your ideal job? Like where do you want to end your career? What’s the job you want to have? And mine at the time was I wanted to be the CEO of Red Cross. That’s what I put up there. And I don’t think that’s going to happen. But but that’s what I put up there was I would love to be the CEO of Red Cross someday. And so then what he had us do was walk back and say, Okay, if I want to be the CEO of Red Cross in 15 years, then what experiences do I need to have? Like, do I need international experience? Or any people experience like, what are the leadership experiences, I need to have to be qualified for that role. And then what would be the jobs was the other access that would get me there. And so that was really transformative for me, because it’s actually why I left 3M, I went to GE, as I realized, if I ever wanted to be the CEO of Red Cross, I needed more breadth of experience. So I had all these great continual expansion of opportunities within 3M, I needed to get expansion and broadening my exposure to healthcare outside of 3M.

Carina Clawson  06:21

What do you want your career to look like? And what steps would that take?  Mentors encourage us to dream big. They can pull from their experiences to provide objective, yet personal advice for how to achieve career goals.  If you are a young professional, we encourage you to seek out mentorship. They could be a colleague, professor, or even a peer. Mentors are an important part of the leadership journey.   But if you don’t have a mentor lined up, check out more of our episodes on Her Story. Think of it like virtual, asynchronous mentorship. Hear advice from successful leaders throughout healthcare, and expand your vision of what is possible.

Subscribe for Updates​

For exclusive access to Think Medium content and program updates, subscribe here.