Managed Healthcare Executive's October issue headlines 10 healthcare leaders in its fourth annual "10 Emerging Industry Leaders" feature. MHE spotlights each leader individually with a Q&A interview between MHE and the emerging leader.
Toni Jones, M.P.A., M.P.M., director, social determinants of health integration and partnerships, CareSource, Dayton, Ohio
I grew up in the small town of Mansfield, Ohio. I earned a bachelor’s in sociology from Spelman College, a master’s in public administration from University of Delaware and a master’s in project management from Keller Graduate School. My most recent achievement was becoming a certified life coach during the pandemic.
I am grateful for the opportunities and guidance afforded to me at CareSource, where I humbly began as an administrative clerk. I am proud that I have had the opportunity to advocate for Medicaid expansion and speak to political leaders at the White House and on Capitol Hill about the social determinants of health work at CareSource.
Why did you choose your profession?
I love to serve and learn from people. As a sociology major, I studied the development, functions and structuring of people. As the director of social determinants of health integration and partnerships at CareSource, I continue to follow my passion as I focus on social barriers that affect health outcomes.
What has been your biggest learning experience in the industry? What did it teach you?
Healthcare will always relentlessly evolve. This taught me to be flexible and forward thinking. It has also taught me the importance of intentional strategy with grace. We must be willing to be nimble but firm to be effective.
How has COVID-19 affected your responsibilities and how your organization operates? How might your job and your organization change because of the pandemic?
The CareSource life services department started in 2015, with a focus on the social determinants of health of employment and training through the launch of the JobConnect program. Since then, the team has expanded efforts in housing, food, nutrition, transportation, special populations and advocacy. The knowledge and lessons learned from the program positioned us to be better prepared for the exacerbation of social barriers by COVID-19. As a result of the pandemic, CareSource has provided access to telemedicine, enhanced our focus on community partnerships and provided financial support in our communities.
How has the current discussion of racism and healthcare inequity affected you, your outlook and your organization? What has been the short-term response, and what do you envision happening over the longer term to your organization and American healthcare?
As an African American mother of two African American children, I have been affected personally and professionally by the current discussion on racism. Personally, I have worked to speak my truth in love as a way to raise awareness of inequities and discrimination. Professionally, our organization has been very intentional, driving fundamental shifts in diversity and inclusion by revamping our diversity, equity, and inclusion program; providing additional support for minority employee resource groups; engaging industry experts through conversation and corporatewide education; and regularly assembling diverse staff members to listen, to seek to understand and to enact change.
I see this as a pivotal point in our country’s history to change the future. My hope is that this season will not be a fleeting performance but the start of real change through effective, ongoing and sustainable action.
What other kinds of changes do you expect to see in healthcare in the next five to 10 years?
I expect to see continued, wide-ranging advancements in technology. COVID-19 created an immediate necessity to quickly transform business operations; for example, more telemedicine. Many changes had been advocated for but were denied until COVID-19 demanded immediate action. I believe technology will continue to be the catalyst for re-imagining how we improve. I also believe that many COVID-19-related policy changes will be permanently adopted into law.
What have you enjoyed about social distancing and extra stay-at-home time during the past few months?
I have enjoyed spending all the extra time with my husband and two children, ages 7 and 4. The rigors of working from home and virtual learning have been a challenge, but we have all grown. I have an increased passion for exercise, which was discovered by dancing with my kids on the Wii. I have also found a greater appreciation for nature and being intentional about having quiet times to fuel myself. This season is difficult in uniquely personal ways for everyone, but I have found many gems that a slower-paced life affords.