Fall Forum and Fireside Chats

Following is a guest post from Rachel Labas, Media & PR Coordinator at Signature Healthcare.

Rachel discusses her impressions of our Fall Forum Nov 2: On a cool fall evening I attended the WHCM fall forum, which included networking and the main event, a “fireside chat” conversation with Kate Walsh. Kate is President and CEO of Boston Medical Center and gave the audience of more than 100 women some great information on career path, career advice and what it is like for a woman leading such a large and important healthcare organization.

The fireside chat style of the event encouraged a more informal atmosphere and all members and guests were encouraged to ask questions throughout the event, which I loved. As an MHA student and healthcare professional, perspectives of other successful women in the healthcare industry are invaluable to me.

As we arrived at the event, we were treated to a Thanksgiving spread for dinner, complete with turkey, stuffing, and pie for dessert.

After a brief update from the WHCM board on membership items and their search for committee help in both programming and writing, the interview with Kate was underway. She discussed her beginnings working as a shift supervisor in the emergency department at Montefiore Hospital and Medical Center in the Bronx. In that position she had the opportunity to observe the differences between clinicians and their management skills, as well as learning how even those employees at the “lower end of power” could make a difference. She advanced her career path through a mixture of networking and luck – for example, meeting the right person in the right place at a cocktail party gave her the chance to manage a family planning practice. Kate stressed the value of networking in addition to highlighting other things and skills that helped her find success:

  • Doing a stint through finance: a lot of women say “I’m not a finance person,” but you can’t say that, it’s good to understand what makes money
  • Pulling apart broken processes and putting them together
  • Leading teams
  • Understand how doctors earn their living
  • Understanding the importance and relevance of IT
  • Distil down information people give to you – “here’s what I think you just said to me” (LOVE this advice – communication is key, I discover this more and more every day)
  • Show a genuine interest in what those in the healthcare business are doing
  • Take risks: if you don’t have a sense of unease, you haven’t taken enough risk

Kate found success in her first year as CEO through balancing transparency with governing the BMC organization. In response to one question from the audience, Kate mentioned to keep up with the industry, she reads:

  • Health Affairs
  • NEJM
  • Advisory Board updates
  • Kaiser Foundation
  • and my personal favorite, someone who comes up a lot in my classes and with my co-workers, Atul Gawande.

I learned a lot and appreciated the opportunity to network with women from all types of healthcare organizations around Boston both before and after the ‘main event.’ Consider joining us at the next event!