Current Position: Senior VP of Network Development and Strategic Partnerships at the Boston Children’s Hospital
YLS Year: J.D. 1983
What do you do at your job? How did you get there?
My job, Senior VP of Network Development and Strategic Partnerships at Children’s Hospital, Boston, is a creative one. It might best be described as the equivalent of a strategy job. For the network aspect of my job, I provide general support to various community hospitals to run pediatrics in their communities. I help support regional partners in providing specialists, developing quality measures, and building academic relationships. The “strategic partnerships” aspect of my job focuses on developing payor strategies, including alternatives to fee for service payments and pricing terms, as well as, more recently, developing ways in which to work directly with employers and others who broker access to health care providers.
I began my career working for a law firm, and then spent some time working in government at the state level. At one point, a job opened up for the director of Massachusetts’s Medicaid program. By that time, I had forged relationships with many individuals in state government and had gained a measure of trust and respect. I think this let me enter a new field—health care, and Medicaid in particular, without having the specific experiences one might expect leading to that position. Working in a state bureaucracy presented a challenge in that I was at the mercy of several other political forces, yet it also provided opportunities and a connection to policy issues that would have taken far longer to establish in the private sector. Being in state government also taught me how to navigate the system and accomplish things in a complex environment.
I transferred to my role working in hospitals when a key stakeholder in Medicaid, a CEO at a public hospital, was making a transition to a larger hospital system and asked me if I was interested in joining his team at his new job.
What salient choice points have you faced in your career – what guided you, and where did it lead you?
When I got out of law school, I did not really have a grand scheme for what I wanted to do. I didn’t really want to be a corporate lawyer but I had a lot of debt, so I made the decision to join a law firm. I ended up staying there for seven years (some of it part-time) because I got caught up in the work and found that I liked the people. Ultimately, however, the fact that my heart was not in the work and that I had kids and a hard-working spouse made it difficult to remain in the job. The balance tipped against a real commitment, which was required, especially since there was less flexibility than there is now, from what I understand of law firm life.
My next job was at the New England Bank Fraud Task Force because I still thought that I wanted to litigate. However, after a major trial in a different state, I realized that it was not just the subject of the work, but the litigation process that failed to outweigh the detriments of spending significant time away from my family. The lesson for me is that you can achieve balance and happiness if you love what you do; if, however, the work is not compelling, the balance will tip against it.
My job as the state director of Medicaid was a huge turning point in my career. Running a state agency gives you a really broad vantage point from which to see healthcare policy and become familiar with the providers and the system as a whole. I also loved the ownership and management aspects of the job.
In my experience, finding what makes you happy in work may require several transitions as well as some trial and error. The key to being able to transition between jobs is maintaining relationships with a fairly broad array of individuals and using those relationships respectfully.
How did clerking and your time in a law firm impact your career?
Both my clerkship as well as my time at a law firm were important to me because they’re credentials, and credentials do count. If you’re considering one or both of these options, try to determine, based on your goals, how much more credentialing you will need beyond being a YLS grad. Being in a law firm gives you access to training in an environment that has lots of resources; just keep in mind how much time you want to spend in this environment if practicing as a partner is not your ultimate goal. Clerking was very helpful in that it let me see how a judge makes decisions. I think this is very useful if you want to litigate.
2. LAW SCHOOL
What was most valuable about your YLS experience? What is the most important lesson you took away from your time at YLS?
Looking back, the most important and lasting thing to come from my time at YLS is the relationships I was able to form with my peers and the grounding I received in analytical thinking. I probably underestimate the perspective that the law gave me about how the system works and the ability to question and challenge assumptions about that system. Those were undoubtedly very valuable skills.
What skills do you rely on now that law school did not emphasize enough?
Students may underestimate the importance of understanding the organizations they work for, which is necessary in order to navigate organizations and think about how to effect change. Law school may also not emphasize enough the value of leadership training and helping students be able to operate in the real world. Many times, people succeed or don’t succeed because of skills unrelated to the law, such as the ability to listen, and to engage people. Negotiation and mediation are also incredibly important skills.
How has being a woman affected you in your career? How do you handle work/life balance?
The most important thing in maintaining a sense of work/life balance is assessing your choices and figuring out what is most important to you. Along with this comes the need to decide which responsibilities you can delegate to others, and which ones you feel like you have to do yourself. Many of us are, in a way, very control-oriented. This can make it difficult to pass off responsibilities to others, but this is something you just have to make peace with. I know I can’t do absolutely everything I wish I could do, so I decide what things I will not worry about, and what things are absolutely important to me that I will make time for.
In terms of relationships, this means having an explicit discussion about career and family expectations with your significant other sometime in the early part of your relationship, with the acknowledgement that you also have to be flexible and open to change. Again, it just comes down to deciding what is important to you. There are women who put off having kids until they are well-situated in their careers. However, it was important to me to have kids, and I was willing to accept the chance that I might not have a job with huge stature in order to have children.
What developments do you see in the status of women in the profession? What should we focus on tackling?
I think there is an increasing focus on the structures of a job and the way in which those job structures affect work/life balance. This may mean avoiding jobs where you’re expected to be present and put in a certain number of hours, rather than being evaluated based on what you accomplish. Think about what experience you want to get out of a job. A much more productive way of looking at your career is one in which you the focus is on the outcomes, rather than the process (i.e., billable hours).
What advice would you give to current students who are considering a non-legal career?
Decide what it is that motivates you and what you want to contribute. If you see yourself as more of an entrepreneur and as someone who wants to work with new and innovative ideas, seek out involvement in a startup right away. Otherwise, figure out what companies or nonprofit organizations are working in the area that most interests you and just talk to everyone you can. Ask those people how they got there, what possible entry jobs there are, and take it from there.
What advice would you give to law students today?
People who are very successful often have an uncanny sense of what is important and what is not. Try to reflect and think about what it is that is most important to you. This is true in your personal life as well. Is that elaborate dinner and the perfectly set table important to you or could you sometimes save some time by not insisting on that? You will have to make choices like this along the way, in all aspects of your life.
Additionally, there is a certain amount of patience that you need to have in your career. True, there are extraordinary people who can figure out right away what it is they want to be doing, but most of us can’t do that.