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My biggest career mistake: 5 healthcare executives weigh in


Learning how to appreciate the value of experiences is key for these execs, who share their biggest career mistake was and how they learned from it.



Learning how to appreciate the value of experiences is key for these execs, who share what their biggest career mistake was and how they learned from it.




“Looking back on my career, which now spans 28 years in managed care, I believe the biggest mistake that I ever made was not pursuing an additional MBA degree early on in my professional development. While I have been blessed with a solid growth trajectory and excellent learning experiences in my career, not having this added level of educational training has at times created challenges for me and has required that I spend a far greater amount of time in ‘on the job’ business skill development. Thankfully, both today and throughout my career, I have been paired with an enormous array of talented, business-savvy individuals that have served as key coaches, mentors and supporters of my development in this area. Additionally, I have not hesitated to ask questions, request support, read books and tap into additional ancillary training resources to supplement my business skills and acumen.”

-David Calabrese, vice president and chief pharmacy officer, OptumRx




“As a new CEO I was so eager to be strategic that I let go of too many operational details. It didn’t take long to find out that I needed to make sure I had the right folks in the right places before I could stretch my wings. Key takeaway: The most important requirement of a good CEO is securing the right talent in every position.”

-Don Hall, former health plan CEO, current principal at Delta Sigma, LLC




“As an employer coalition we’re well aware of the challenges and priorities of self-insured employers and our daily work is focused on developing programs and initiatives to help employers improve the health and well-being of their employees, while at the same time managing costs. For many years, I assumed benefits professionals had the information they needed to do their jobs. I assumed they got data from their health plans and wellness vendors and were able to use that data to develop programs to improve employee health. It wasn’t until many years later I discovered that was not the case. Although most of our mid-to-large self-insured employer members have no problems getting their data, there are still many that do-even in 2016. Why is this? Because if you don’t ask for it in your contracts (e.g., health plan, wellness vendor) you don’t get it. But data access doesn’t solve all problems. Once you have it, you must not only be able to understand it, but find it actionable. Access to data offers employers accurate insights that can guide care and cost decisions. The benefits field has a long way to go in solving this problem and we’re increasingly focused on helping employers make the most of their data with much of our efforts focused on education and best practices for purchasers. A few tips include-get it in writing, ask for the right things in your contract, and be empowered by remembering you are the client and it’s your data!”

-Cheryl Larson, vice president, Midwest Business Group on Health




“One of my biggest mistakes occurred when leaving clinical practice and entering the administrative world. It took a while to learn to solicit contributions from others to help solve a problem that I'm facing. Going it alone too long ended up creating bigger problems that were harder to correct. My first question now is ‘Who can help me solve this?’”

-Kevin Ronneberg, MD, vice president and associate medical director, Health Initiatives, at HeathPartners



“Having spent most of my career as a general surgeon, my biggest mistake was not addressing quickly enough my growing frustration with how I was being required to practice medicine. Specifically, the economic and productivity demands in healthcare that, at that time, were pulling me in a different, less-patient-focused direction. When a few trusted colleagues said they were worried about my increasing ‘negativity,’ instead of addressing my frustrations early on, I had let things simmer too long. I saw that as my call to action to make some changes. Soon after I enrolled at Temple University’s Fox School of Business to pursue my MBA. Every other Friday/Saturday for two years I spent my day at school, going to classes, exchanging ideas, and learning from lots of smart people from all different professions. It was thoroughly engaging, and helped me look at my own work and my profession in a new context that was very exciting. In many ways, this rich experience of adult learning not only was the spark that helped propel my career in a new direction in healthcare, it reaffirmed the importance of being in control of my own destiny.”

-Anthony V. Coletta, MD, MBA, executive vice president and president, facilitated health networks, Independence Blue Cross

Related: Five things that keep health execs up at night

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