My Journey To Building Healthcare Pizza
Happy Tuesday friends. We’re back at it again, this time to kill two birds with one stone. Over the past few months I’ve heard from friends (new and old) and far-distant online stalkers asking about why I started a blog and what I’m up to? Instead of having the same conversation over-and-over, I decided to just write out the answer. I even include a bonus section in the beginning about how I initially started a career in healthcare. Hope you enjoy.
To set the record straight, I didn’t dream of working in healthcare strategy and technology back in grade school. However, I did like the idea of being able to positively impact the world, as someone who is a South Korean American adoptee (if I was North Korean that’d be a story) who grew up in small town in Northern Michigan. I’ve always felt a deep sense of calling to improve the lives of those less fortunate than I, given the serendipitous nature of my journey to America.
I formally started down the healthcare journey because like most others, I wanted to be a doctor. I’m not sure why exactly, none of my family or friend’s parents are part of the medical community. Now that I think about it, I probably started as pre-med because college forced me to declare a major when I didn’t know what I didn’t know. When I think about medicine, I’m not sure what specialty I would’ve selected, but probably some sub-specialty in an academic medical center with a half-time appointment teaching. I survived the dreaded organic and inorganic chemistry lectures. I do have the stomach to examine cadavers during anatomy and physiology. And I do like the science behind biology. Practicing medicine just wasn’t for me.
It turns out that when you go through school expecting to go to graduate or medical school right away, and then decide not too altogether, it’s tough to find a job. Particularly when you’re graduating in 2010, right after the great recession in a state that suffered heavily due to the automotive industry. Frankly, very few people could find the careers they wanted, let alone those like myself. I was able to pay the bills working as a dietary aid for a nursing home and continued to search for opportunities. At the time, I felt like I was drifting, similar to how many unsure 20 somethings feel nowadays.
After much networking around the industry, I began to learn about the business side of healthcare. I found a few Masters of Health Administration (MHA) programs in the state and determined to apply. There wasn’t a guarantee I would like this track, but I needed to take action and figure it out later. I even briefly moved back in with my parents to focus on studying for the GRE. After completing the test, I turned my attention back to finding a career to help boost my resume. I sent hundreds of resumes out to companies all over the state with very little response.
Then, one fateful day I sent an email to the President and CEO of a company called, Blue Cottage Consulting. Founded in 2009 and based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Blue Cottage Consulting was an independent healthcare consulting firm specializing in strategy, operations, and facility planning services for hospitals and health systems of all sizes. It had quickly grown from a small startup to a dominant player in the healthcare consulting and design field. The company specialized in innovative workflow improvement tools, immersive user engagement activities, big room innovation, and Lean kaizen approaches.
When I sent my initial cold email to the President and CEO, Dr. Juliet L. Rogers, I originally proposed some sort of temporary internship. I just wanted to boost my graduate school applications, particularly given the ties to the University of Michigan. But Dr. Rogers saw something that I didn’t. Potential. You see when Dr. Rogers sent me a response asking me to complete a quick presentation on a specific question, I immediately began researching and sent back my presentation that day. It was the timeliness that turned out to be the deciding factor and I landed the job.
Dr. Rogers and the team at Blue Cottage Consulting, who has since merged with another company to create Blue Cottage of CannonDesign, made my career what it is today. That experience working to help design incredible healthcare facilities and strategies across the country is what led me to attend the University of Michigan School of Public Health. It is there that I first studied value-based care and met my now current wife. That Masters education allowed me to go work for the SVP of Policy and Strategy at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield during the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Which then propelled me to join the strategy consulting team of a late stage healthcare technology startup, Evolent Health. It seems like a straight line in retrospect. Humans are good at that. But in all honesty my life could be extraordinarily different had I never had that initial opportunity with Blue Cottage Consulting.
And after leaving Evolent Health I’m now on a new journey. I have five simple goals for 2020: 1) Stay healthy; 2) Hang out with friends and family; 3) Get a dog; 4) Build the Healthcare Pizza brand; and 5) Build my independent consulting practice. I think the first three are pretty self-evident, but let me know if they’re not. The final two are both exciting and difficult.
I’m building out my independent consulting practice focused on go-to-market for healthcare startups, investors, and F500 companies. I am particularly excited about the prospect of working with companies at the forefront of innovation tackling some of the hardest challenges that healthcare has to offer. My bread and butter expertise is helping companies think about strategy, policy, marketing, and business development for partnerships with employers, health plans, hospitals, and physician groups. During my experience at Evolent Health, I worked on “vertically integrated” strategy and business development teams. By this I mean the same team that was responsible for generating the novel product research and strategy, was the same team who developed and pitched the proposal in the market, was the same team that led the entire partnership process, and was the same team that negotiated the deal. I am also fortunate to have experience across Commercial, Medicaid, and Medicare, with a variety of healthcare technology and services deals that ranged from 7 to 9 figures in revenue.
In addition, I will continue to grow the Healthcare Pizza brand. Scouts honor, I really do wish to build one of the most diverse and impactful professional healthcare networks over the next five years. I wholeheartedly believe that my generation, who will become the decision-makers and executive rank over the coming decade must begin to take the reins. I also want to be inclusive of all traditional and non-traditional healthcare stakeholders, including non-medical clinicians (therapists, home health aides, nurses, etc.) and patients. My goal is to create the opportunity for me to be able to speak with a well-known expert at a health system, health plan, nursing home, technology company, venture capital firm, independent physician association, drug company, and patient advocacy group all in the same week. I find it exceptionally rare and frustrating that many professionals get siloed into their particular specialty and fall victim to the echo chamber mentality. This certainly isn’t going to happen overnight, but the approach of not favoring one group over the other is central to my idea of creating a more perfect (or less imperfect) healthcare system.
If you have any questions, please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m interested in consulting, conference speaking, or podcast interviews. Just let me know!