The 2018 Forum - Courage Award
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2018 TRUST Courage Awards

We are pleased to present the 20 recipients of the TRUST 2018 Courageous Women in Health Care Awards. Each has found the courage within to tackle risk and vulnerability with grit and determination. At the TRUST, we believe strongly in supporting women leaders in health care to move through fear to find their courage to boldly transform the industry. Scroll down to read summaries of why each was chosen to receive a Courage Award; we are adding summaries as they are published in the TRUST's newsletter.

2018 TRUST Courage Award Recipients

Please note that additional summaries will be added through the coming months.

Khadija Ali
President & CEO, Global Language Connections

Learn more about Khadija...

Khadija Ali is President and CEO at Global Language Connections. She grew up in a refugee camp, built a successful business without a business degree, survived a brain aneurysm as a young mother, and rebuilt her life after a contentious divorce. Her nominator wrote, "Her ability to navigate these with a smile on her face, the knowledge that good things will happen when things are done the right way, and a deep faith gives her the courage to take a stand even when the risks are high. Championing the interpreter voice to pause [Minnesota Senate] Bill 2177, despite the possibility of losing her livelihood, demonstrates her courage to stand up for the greater good. Her skills to bring people to the table to develop a solution for everyone has created her reputation as a smart, trusted and valuable community and business leader."

At the risk of alienating clients for her start-up company, Khadija took a courageous stand to defend the rights of health care interpreters. Because of the way feedback about proposed legislation was gathered, this key stakeholder group was at risk of being left out of discussion about the bill. Had their voices not been heard, it is likely that health equity and quality health outcomes would have been reduced for immigrants with Limited English Proficiency — Minnesotans who are among our most vulnerable and highest-need health consumers.

Her nominator summed up the positive outcomes that Khadija helped to bring about, "Ensuring all stakeholders' voices are included in the formation of health care interpreter standards in Minnesota is a huge win. During this last round, all stakeholders were able to hear more of the other sides' perspectives. This will facilitate future efforts to find the right standards to ensure proper stewardship of the dollars used, support of interpreters providing the services and care for the patients and providers receiving the service. Ultimately the overall health care of the state will improve and in time costs can be reduced too, as LEP members of our community better understand the health care available to them and are able to increase their participation in their own care."

Jane Anderson, DNP, ANP-C, FNP-C, RN
Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota School of Nursing

Learn more about Jane...

>Jane Anderson, DNP, ANP-C, FNP-C, RN, is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing and the director of the M Health Nurse Practitioners Clinic in Minneapolis. Over a 40-year career as a nurse, Dr. Anderson has consistently exemplified the personal characteristics of a true trailblazer: strength, courage, perseverance and resilience in the face of uncertainty.

Jane Anderson has been a pioneer in advancing the role of nurse practitioners (NPs). In 1991, she was the first nurse practitioner employed by Fairview Health Services and created an NP practice program within the health system. In 1997, in response to an acute shortage of primary care in rural Minnesota, she was the sole provider in a remote area of the state. In 2011, Dr. Anderson joined the University of Minnesota School of Nursing and pioneered development of the first nurse-run clinic in Minneapolis after enactment of the 2014 law providing independent practice for APRNs in Minnesota.

Jane has been recognized nationally as the only nurse practitioner on National Faculty for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid’s Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative. This initiative is designed to support more than 140,000 clinician practices over the next four years in sharing, adopting and further developing best practices and comprehensive quality improvement strategies. Her accumulated accomplishments can be described as having the courage to stay true to her values and beliefs even in the face of ongoing adversity. Advancing the role of NPs and creating nurse-run clinics in an environment historically dominated by Medicine is disruptive and creates resistance from a host of stakeholders. These include physicians and payers, as well the bureaucracy inherent in any large, complex university.

Her nominator summed up the positive outcomes that Khadija helped to bring about, "Ensuring all stakeholders' voices are included in the formation of health care interpreter standards in Minnesota is a huge win. During this last round, all stakeholders were able to hear more of the other sides' perspectives. This will facilitate future efforts to find the right standards to ensure proper stewardship of the dollars used, support of interpreters providing the services and care for the patients and providers receiving the service. Ultimately the overall health care of the state will improve and in time costs can be reduced too, as LEP members of our community better understand the health care available to them and are able to increase their participation in their own care."

Since M Health Nurse Practitioners Clinic was created in April 2015, annual patient visits have more than doubled and continue to grow. Four additional satellite primary care clinics have been established and additional clinics are planned for 2018. Patient satisfaction scores are in the 95th percentile. Two research grants have been awarded to the clinic to create new models of care: An integrated primary care/mental health model and a primary care/dental therapist model. The M Health Nurse Practitioners Clinic is now fully integrated into the Fairview Health Services/M Health System, due in large part to Jane Anderson's courage and perseverance.

Julie Burton
Founder & CEO, ModernWell

Learn more about Julie...

Julie Burton is a wellness innovator and woman warrior who had the bravery to share her own personal battles through freelance writing. She earned her advanced degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and used her skills to write about parenting, relationships, the aging process, and selfcare. Known as the founder of ModernWell, co-founder of the Twin Cities Writing Studio, and author of The Self-Care Solution, Julie uses her personal experiences to champion women that were seeking community support but were afraid to speak out. Her nominator wrote, “Julie demonstrated courage by allowing herself to be vulnerable and encouraging others to do the same. By sharing her own story about the struggles of battling an eating disorder as teen and the lifelong healing process that follows, the stresses of marriage and motherhood, and living with anxiety and depression she validates and normalizes the idea that everyone of us has a story and is fighting some kind of battle.”

Julie’s book, The Self-Care Solution: A Modern Mother’s Must Have Guide to Health and Well-Being, was published in May 2016. The book offers intuitive answers to difficult questions about how mothers take care of themselves, their relationships, and their jobs while raising children and how they don’t. She also teaches creative writing to teenagers and co-founded the Twin Cities Writing Studio, which provides local woman a space to work, write, and take time to care for themselves physically and mentally. But most recently, Julie created ModernWell, a women’s centered facility that balances independency and well-being in a work-life community. ModernWell offers an oasis to woman that are seeking time to focus on the things most important to them. Whether it be geared towards work, wellness, enrichment, or making new friends, it is a place where women can feel a part of a community.

Julie also actively volunteers at the Jewish Family & Children’s Service and National Council of Jewish Women. In 2017, she was honored by the Minneapolis Jewish Federation’s Pearl Society and received the Voice Inspiration Award. She was recognized as a “pioneer in thought, action, and leadership, and someone who influences the world and promotes positive values for women and the community.”

Julie has been a strong influence in the lives she has impacted over the years. Her nominator concludes, “Julie helped women across the globe feel legitimate and comfortable in the conflicts they faced while trying to maintain their sense of self worth while caring for their families. The women in her writing studios have published books, created businesses, and formed lasting friendships. Her students have solidified their love of expressing themselves through writing.” One of Julie’s students writes, “When I signed up for Creative Writing, I didn’t know I’d be joining my favorite Jewish learning class of all time. The teacher turned out to be a significant role model in my life and I can’t thank her enough.”

Sara Criger
Senior Vice President, North Region and President, Mercy Hospital, Allina Health

Learn more about Sara...

Sara Criger is an inspirational leader whose vision has led the North Region of Allina Health toward a new outlook on health care. As the Senior Vice President of Operations for the North Region of Allina Health as well as the President of Mercy Hospital, Sara saw an opportunity to advance the care and services given to the community. Her beliefs on leaning into health care reform and being a part of it versus resisting it, has been a monumental influence on patient care.

Sara’s vision was the beginning of a long process within the Allina Health community. As a leader, she pulled together four Allina Health hospitals (Mercy, Unity, Cambridge and Buffalo) for a strategic planning session. At this retreat, Sara encouraged others to think outside of the box. As she fought for her region, financial challenges were spanning multiple years out with a decline in bottom line and patient volume. Many Allina Health employees believed the easiest solution would be to close Unity Hospital in Fridley, as the volume of patients was not sufficient to support the resources needed. However, Sara had other plans. Her vision meant obtaining buy-in support from medical staff, staff engagement, support of the community, the cities of Fridley and Coon Rapids, as well as the hospital district.

Sara cultivated a the ideal of one hospital with two campuses offering complementary services. This idea would overall minimize duplication, optimize available beds and resources from both hospitals, and create purpose and value to the community. The investment required over $100 million and the level of change needed was significant. From construction to financial disruption, Sara pushed forward — reassuring those around her that they were moving in the right direction, they just needed to stay on course. She worked through staffing challenges, operational challenges, and physicians opting to move and take their services elsewhere beyond her control. But through her passion, Sara’s vision turned into milestones for Allina Health.

In January 2017, one hospital with two campuses was legally created. Together they had a common medical record and common medical/administrative staff. As a strong supporter of mental health awareness, Sara was passionate about improving the care of mental health patients. This also led to the creation a new state-of-the-art mental health unit at Unity Hospital. The program and facilities were recognized by the Joint Commission as best practice in the country in July 2017. Mercy hospital also received a newly renovated and expanded ICU unit, an ortho/spine unit, new operating rooms, new entrances and parking ramps, as well as a new cafeteria and kitchen. On top of the physical changes, employee engagement scores increased by 11% from 2016 to 2017. Her nominator writes, “She is wise to building strong relationships and values the knowledge of change. She respects culture and recognizes the hard work is takes to create change. She appreciates and celebrates success.”

Sara’s tenacity and determination through the timely process has changed the future of Allina Health and the communities it serves. The new business model has already resulted in a decrease of patients who leave without being seen from over 5% to 1% in the emergency departments. As a whole, Allina Health is able to offer better programs, better access, and a higher level of patient care closer to home. This means patients who were once turned down due to lack of programs or beds are now able to be cared for. In conclusion Sara states, “The culture at Mercy Hospital is one of always pushing to be the best. Not from a competitive perspective, but for the patients who come to us for care. It’s 'all hands on deck' culture. The focus is on what do we need to do to provide the best care for this patient, and have the patient believe they are the primary focus.”

Jill Davies
Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, GeneMatters

Learn more about Jill...

Jill Davies, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of GeneMatters, has forever changed access to genetics counseling by delivering services through a scalable, telehealth service. A well-known leader in genetic counseling, Jill could see that patients in need of genetic counseling for cancer, pregnancy, and more were facing long wait times or not getting access at all. With her passion for serving patients, she knew there had to be a better way. She conceived of a business model for providing genetic counseling via telehealth, thereby providing access for patients and families where and when they needed it most.

The pathway to realization of her vision was not a smooth one. She initially tried to develop this delivery option through her employer, but they decided to change focus and pulled their support. Through intensive networking she found an interested venture capital group but it took two attempts, six-months apart, before they were willing to sign on as backers. To make this new delivery option a reality, Jill had to operate outside her comfort zone. She moved from Toronto to Minneapolis, leaving her family and secure job behind to build a team and lead the technology-development effort necessary to support her vision.

GeneMatters is now a thriving organization operating from Minneapolis. Jill has her leadership team in place, a group of highly skilled genetic counselors, and a business model combining service, expertise and technology for a unique offering in healthcare. With numerous contracts in place and in development with hospitals, health networks and genetic labs, Jill’s vision is changing the landscape of healthcare because of her passion for genetic counseling and for the patient.

Gina Hall
Chief of Staff, Information Services & Technology, HealthPartners

Learn more about Gina...

In the diverse environment of Information Services and Technology, it takes innovation, determination, vision and courage to keep up with the ever-changing tech industry. Gina Hall, Chief of Staff, Information Services & Technology at HealthPartners, has proven her ability to succeed by taking the lead on large implementation projects planned to advance business processes, security, and integrated systems within HealthPartners.

Gina volunteered to lead a most visible, strategically important, and risky combination of two IT departments. The project would be the first tangible integration of services in the combination of Park Nicollet and HealthPartners in 2013. The project included 750 information systems staff supporting 6 hospitals, over 50 clinic locations, computer systems with large databases, and medical records for over 6 million patients. She developed the sequence and calendar of integration activities, project capital and expense budgets, standardization of job descriptions, and the coordination of two Human Resources departments. She was also the center of a team that selected and completed the relocation to a new combined team office location for over 500 IS and Care Systems employees.

In the midst of such a massive project, Gina was placed in the spotlight. Not only did this test her stability and resolve within her professional life, Gina’s personal life faced more difficult challenges. In the span of only five weeks, she experienced the death of her father, unexpected death of her husband, and the death of a colleague. But with the same determination and vision she used at work, she put the pieces of her life back together. “Coming to work gave me focus, gave me purpose. I know that people depended on me although they couldn’t understand how I moved forward,” says Gina.

Gina has emerged from her challenges with a newfound ability to inspire herself and others. Key milestones she has reached included combined security services, new cost allocation model, updated job titles and descriptions, HR benefits under a single employer, new IS&T combined Support Center, desktop services, combined budget planning, long and short-term security solutions, and new teamwork. She recently implemented identity access management within the HealthPartners database, which allows employees to have access to the correct systems immediately upon hire. Gina also looks forward to dabbling in Artificial Intelligence as she knows there is an opportunity to be even more effective and efficient. However, out of all her completed and successful projects, Gina is most proud of her two children.

“A plan is just a plan, what counts is the action you take. If you can walk, you can run! Focus on solving today’s problems, making today’s decisions and you will get through it,” says Gina.

Lee Jones
President and CEO, Rebiotix Inc.

Learn more about Lee...

Clostridium difficile (C diff) infection is the number-one health care-acquired infection in the nation. It is a debilitating and recurring gastrointestinal disease; traditional antibiotic therapy cannot prevent reoccurrence. In 2011 Lee Jones, who had a family member with C diff, learned of a seldom-used, last-resort medical therapy that could possibly stop the disease progression. It involved the infusion of fecal material from a healthy donor into the intestines of a C diff patient. Lee decided to make this therapy more accessible by using human feces as the basis for a medical product, something that had never been attempted before.

There was no precedent at the FDA for approving a therapy like this one; no one knew how to determine what was in fecal material, what microbes would be beneficial or even how many would make an adequate dose. No one even knew how to determine what was alive and what was dead in the material. Despite having never developed a biologic therapy and never starting a company from the ground up, Lee formed Rebiotix in 2011. Lee addressed each challenge that faced the company by enlisting the talents of other people who had the expertise she did not and directing their efforts forward. She brought on two partners, each having different skill sets. Together, they raised $5 million to get started. That funding allowed the company to meet many goals, including inventing test methods to quantify the number of live microbes in the raw material, which led to the development of the manufacturing process. This development led to the first standardized stabilized microbiota product to go through the FDA process.

Over the past six years, Minnesota-based Rebiotix has become the leading microbiome company. It is the only company to have successfully completed three clinical trials, and the first to do a randomized double-blind placebo controlled trial of a microbiota-based drug. In clinical trials, C diff was reduced by 55%, demonstrating a significant clinical benefit. The product is now in a Phase 3 trial. It is expected that it will be the first commercially available therapeutic microbiome. The company has raised nearly $40 million from angel investors and has grown to about 40 employees. Lee has been recognized around the world as a thought leader in this space and is regularly invited to speak at conferences.

Barbara Jordan
Education Administrator, Mayo Clinic

Learn more about Barbara...

Barbara Jordan serves as the Education Administrator for Mayo Clinic with responsibility for building and enlarging a diverse pipeline of applicants for medical and graduate school within the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.

As part of her role at Mayo in community engagement, she took on the position of Board Chair for the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, a three-year commitment to serve both the Mayo Clinic and her community. At the time of her appointment as Chair-elect, she was one of only three women serving on the Chamber’s 20-member board and the only person of color. She knew that acceptance of her leadership by other Chamber members would be challenging: she worked for Mayo Clinic rather than the one of the small businesses that Chambers generally represent, and she was different demographically from prior Chamber leaders. In considering her decision to embrace the nomination, Barbara considered the small business leaders, their increasingly diverse workforce, the women business owners, the minority business owners, and the need to ensure a vibrant, healthy and positive economic environment for her community. While her appointment as Chair received wide acclamation, there were naysayers who initially questioned Barbara’s connection to the business community, her business acumen and her interest in their issues. But her diligent involvement in Chamber activities and her effective advocacy at the state level on issues important to the Rochester business community made her both an effective leader and mentor during her third year of service to the new Chair-elect.

Barbara’s courageous decision to embrace this volunteer role has allowed her to demonstrate to other women and people of color that roles such as these are now open to all of us. By serving with a positive attitude and with quality and confidence, she made the road easier for others to travel in the future. The experience and the learning from those three years have proven to be invaluable for Barbara, and became a springboard for other community-wide leadership roles for her that followed.

Molly Joseph
CEO, UnitedHealthcare Global, and EVP of Global, UnitedHealth Group

Learn more about Molly...

Serving people across the globe is a priority for UnitedHealth Group, a successful, Minnesota-based enterprise with much to contribute. This important work is led by Molly Joseph, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Global and EVP of Global, UnitedHealth Group. As CEO of the $8 billion, Minnesota-based business, Molly leads a team of 42,000 employees across the globe who serve 4 million people with medical benefits and 2 million people with dental benefits. Molly also serves on UnitedHealthcare’s Executive Council and is a member of UnitedHealth Group’s Executive Leadership team.

She views the UnitedHealthcare Global business as working to modernize health systems around the world to improve access, affordability and outcomes — for people — to help people live healthier lives and help make the health system work better for everyone. Molly guided the company into its first international expansions to South America, Europe and the global health mobility market. Today, the business she leads consists of a Global Solutions business and a Global Markets business.

Globalizing the enterprise was a courageous act that is helping people live healthier lives, while making the health system work better for everyone. Doing this meant doing business in new and different ways for a large, successful enterprise, including empowering local teams and leading in a partnership approach. And there is benefit for Minnesota as Molly and the rest of the Minnesota-based team translate what they’ve learned globally to influence future benefit offerings for Minnesotans in 2019.

Under Molly’s courageous and creative leadership, the business created a clinically integrated, evidence-based care management model across health benefits and medical delivery. This improves affordability for clients, value and efficiency for health systems, and — most importantly — health outcomes for those it serves.

Marie Manthey
President Emerita, Creative Health Care Management

Learn more about Marie...

In 2015 Marie Manthey was awarded the most prestigious national nursing recognition: the Living Legend award of the American Academy of Nurses. Before an audience comprised of accomplished and recognized academic nurses in research and education, Marie’s acceptance speech included an incredibly risky admission: “I want you to know that a great deal of the work you are recognizing me for tonight was done during the past 37 years, while I have been in recovery from the disease of alcoholism.” Marie still comments on feeling the risk that evening. She remains grateful for the courage to take this risk for self and most significantly for what it has meant in the health of others.

The nursing profession stigmatizes substance use disorder (SUD) among their own members; in fact, it is often considered a moral failing. Any nurse publicly acknowledging her disease/recovery faces a potential loss of her career. Marie’s personal acknowledgement was in keeping with her authenticity in both her professional and personal recovery life.

Marie was aware that many nurses in our state suffer from from not only addictions but with the profound stigma and shame that hampers their recovery and return to a beloved profession. In response, she created the State of Minnesota Nursing Peer Support Network, a first of its kind resource for nursing in the State of Minnesota (https://mnnurses.org/nurses-helping-nurses/). The health of hundreds of professionals has benefited from Marie's courage. The network’s mission is: “Meaningful peer support for nurses with substance use disorder in a safe environment with the purpose of giving hope and healing to the individual nurse.” The network also provides education and outreach about substance use disorder in nursing to promote safety to the public.

Elizabeth Murphy, EdD
Vice President of Patient & Health Professional Services and Education & Training

Learn more about Elizabeth...

National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)/Be The Match established the Office of Patient Advocacy in 1991 to assist patients and their families through the process of search for a donor and transplantation. When Elizabeth (Beth) Murphy began her role as director in 2003, she was charged with proactively identifying and resolving non-biologic barriers to transplant. Prior to Beth’s tenure, five leaders failed to mature the program beyond a reactive support system for patients. Under Beth’s leadership, Patient and Health Professional Services (including advocacy) is viewed as a premiere health care partner. Beth achieved this transformation by courageously building a case for unmet patient needs, engaging network health care professionals in systems thinking and strategic visioning, and ultimately resolving barriers to transplant.

Beth demonstrated courageous leadership as she engaged disparate members of the transplant community (including physicians, physician extenders, nurses, administrator, social workers, pharmacists, scientists, government officials and payers) to collaborate and identify systems issues that presented barriers to transplant. A compelling vision of the unmet need for transplant captured the interest of the community. Beth introduced the rigor of health systems research to elucidate the barriers to transplant — such as Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS) reimbursement, fewer health care professionals in the field due to extreme burnout and stress, lack of caregiver support and long-term post-transplant support issues for patients. Beth had to quickly develop close relationships across the span of influencers and thought leaders, making the case that previously unresolvable barriers could be solved by a system-wide effort.

Beth introduced the rigor of academic research to advocacy. She sought and was awarded grants to fund research. She began publishing findings in peer-reviewed journals. Based on this research and the collaboration of transplant professionals, Beth and her team gained further gravitas within the transplant network. One of the most significant efforts was a five-year national initiative to assess the capacity of the HCT system to meet the growing need for transplant, identify barriers and implement solutions: HCT physician and health professional recruitment and retention, financial and policy implications, bed capacity, and care delivery. Early collaboration with health professional networks, government and payers resulted in success.

Early in her leadership, Beth developed and implemented a payer policy function to help remove financial barriers to transplant. This was not successful until it was combined with legislative efforts that focused on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. Influencing reimbursement at the national level increased success in the individual payer community. Beth transitioned the function to a leader with legislative expertise.

As a result of Beth's efforts, the transplant community has engaged in focused efforts to influence the system capacity at a national level to support patients in need of transplant. New educational programs for emerging transplant physicians and other health care professions have been developed and implemented. Regions of the U.S. with unmet patient need have been identified and strategies are in progress to address these needs. Access to transplant for older patients on Medicare has increased exponentially.

Jen Rosetta, RN, MBA
Hospice Clinical Manager, Allina Health

Learn more about Jen...

At the age of 40, Jen Rosetta, RN, chose challenge over routine, joining the military as a flight nurse to make a difference in the lives of soldiers. After five years as an Army Reserve Nurse, she transferred to the Minnesota Air National Guard in 2015 and is currently a flight nurse with the 109th AES in Minnesota, whose mission is to bring U.S. wounded warriors home.

The training to become a military nurse tests both mental and physical grit, including the month-long survival course where wilderness survival, evasion of the enemy, resistance to hostile interrogation and escape in the event of capture are taught. But perhaps the ultimate test of mental resilience for Rosetta is not knowing when she will be called to duty and required to leave her sons and family behind. During missed family events while on missions, Rosetta focuses her thoughts on the wounded warriors in need of her care and their opportunity to be re-united with their family members. She wants to teach her sons what a strong woman looks like and that following your heart sometimes requires sacrifice. Rosetta recently completed her degree in the Health Care MBA program at the University of St. Thomas. Her classmates and faculty often remarked that Rosetta brings a “can-do” attitude to difficult and complex situations, a tribute to her military training and personal resilience.

Uzma Samadani, MD, PhD
Neurosurgeon, Hennepin Healthcare, and Founder/CEO, Oculogica

Learn more about Uzma...

Uzma Samadani, MD, PhD, exemplifies “courage in motion.” Dr. Jon Pryor, CEO of Hennepin Healthcare, said that Dr. Samadani brings passion, expertise and commitment to improving the care of TBI (traumatic brain injury) to the state and nation. As a neurosurgeon, she performed a 24-plus-hour surgery on a teen with spinal tumors whose successful outcome seemed improbable.

As a researcher and founder of Oculogica, a neurodiagnostics company that provides a non-invasive concussion assessment, Uzma is a renowned researcher in concussion and head trauma who is transforming head trauma care. At Hennepin Healthcare, she is conducting what is believed to be the nation’s largest concussion study plus another one for NFL players.

In her role as a brain injury researcher, Uzma frequently challenges the status quo. She believes that brain injury can be diagnosed more effectively with objective measures, for example, and strives to demonstrate this with her work developing an eye-tracking neurodiagnostic for brain injury. Her goal is to change the way that brain injury is diagnosed and defined, challenging the status quo of relying almost purely on radiographic measures. Her vision and internal optimism embody her calm, courageous spirit.

She became a board certified neurosurgeon in 2010. She has served as Scientific Program Chair of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Congress of Neurological Surgeons Section Meeting in Conjunction with the National Neurotrauma Society from 2014 to 2017, demonstrating her credibility as a neurosurgeon and scientist. In her research, she realized the significance of eye tracking as a diagnostic for brain injury in February 2012. She started Oculogica in August 2013.

Every day, Dr. Samadani is faced with patients who have very little or no hope. One example is a 15-year-old girl who had five spinal cord tumors. Uzma's initial thought was to tell her that her disease had progressed too far and surgery was not an option. But when Uzma met the girl and looked her in the eyes, she knew that as long as she had the capacity to perform that surgery, she would offer it to her, despite the risks of paralysis and loss of bowel/bladder control. In the end, Uzma performed the surgery and the patient did extremely well — returning to full activity even sooner than Uzma anticipated. When she saw the girl get up and walk post-surgery, Uzma said it was one of the “happiest moments of her career” and gave credit back to the teen as “an amazing and resilient kid.”

Leslie Pitt Schneider, JD
Founder and President, Project Lolo

Learn more about Leslie...

Leslie Pitt Schneider, JD, is founder and President of Project Lolo, a global non-profit organization headquartered in Minneapolis, dedicated to helping provide access to orthopedic medical care and orthopedic devices, such as prosthetic limbs or wheelchairs to children. Leslie founded Project Lolo in 2017 under the assertion that no child should ever be denied their right to life, health care, education or dignity because of their differing orthopedic abilities.

The World Health Organization reports that “children under age 5 in developing countries are exposed to multiple risks; including poverty, malnutrition, poor health, and unsettling home environments.” These factors negatively impact children resulting in “impaired cognition, motor, and social-emotional development”.

In 2007, after reading a United Nations report describing the too-often unfair conditions facing children with disabilities in developing countries, Leslie felt a compelling need to act. Though she didn’t know what to do, or how to do it, she knew she had to do something about it. Seeking to partner with other global organizations focusing on the same needs for these children, Leslie found there were none with the same scope.

Ten years and a Graduate certificate in Global Health and Human Rights later, she founded Project Lolo with the sole purpose of helping children get access to orthopedic medical care and devices. She believes that Project Lolo’s efforts will raise the awareness of children living with differing orthopedic abilities by zealously advocating that their voices be heard. The organization seeks to partner with in-country, established, community-based rehabilitative organizations who serve these children.

Leslie has an extensive background in health care, law, and global companies. Throughout her career, Leslie has nurtured a focus on advocacy as a passionate voice for the betterment of people. Through extensive Board leadership roles and community involvement, she has contributed to health care access for those with diverse health care or life challenges.

In addition to Project Lolo, Leslie is an independent consultant at TEK Microsystems, Inc., in the Twin Cities, where she provides her clients with regulatory compliance, policy drafting and policy management services.

Lisa Shafer, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder, NeuroBridge Therapeutics, Inc.

Learn more about Lisa...

Lisa Shafer, PhD, has spent more than a decade focused on neurodegenerative diseases (NDD) like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. More than 8 million Americans live with these diseases today — and if left unresolved, the U.S. could have more than 12 million people affected by NDDs by 2038. The many, costly failed attempts by government, medical device and pharmaceutical industries to develop NDD therapies indicate the need to change the classical silo approach, and Lisa has shown the courage to tackle this significant unmet need.

Lisa spent over a decade at Medtronic (MDT) establishing a portfolio that combined MDT’s drug delivery technology with drugs from pharmaceutical companies to develop therapies for NDD. Eventually, due to changes in MDT’s strategic direction the portfolio lost funding. Lisa courageously led her team to a new path forward that didn’t rely on MDT. This new path involved portfolio acquisition by a pharmaceutical company, Upsher Smith Laboratories (USL) with an agreement to collaborate with MDT. Her first courageous decision was to leave Medtronic to pursue her vision.

Shortly after joining, a series of events transpired culminating in the cancellation of the deal between USL and MDT. Instead, Lisa was asked to lead an initiative to explore operational efficiency at USL. The goal was to assess current state, create, socialize, and execute a new operating model. Lisa concluded that reductions in workforce, significant reorganization and refocusing was needed to give the company its best chance of future success. Lisa's second courageous decision was realizing the optimal strategy for the company really didn’t include her — in fact, it needed someone with skills she didn’t have and didn’t have the chance to obtain given the scope and urgency of change required. In parallel, Lisa’s personal life was about to change drastically. She was pregnant with twins, about to be the sole income provider for her family. Lisa determined that the right path for the company was a new operating model to accelerate productivity and increase the probability of success. This meant a 25% layoff, including herself.

Not only did the change in her company’s goals test her commitment to the purpose she had set out to achieve but it also drew upon her own self-awareness. Being humble enough to realize you may not be adding the most value to the company, and moving over to allow for someone else to take your place, takes a lot of courage.

The change initiative Lisa led resulted in a complete revamp of USL’s structure & strategy — culminating in splitting the company in two. One entity was later acquired in a favorable deal. The other entity operates as an early stage therapy development company. Both entities remain in the Twin Cities and continue to employ local talent. Lisa’s courage also had a positive personal outcome. Three months after leaving USL, she joined Teva Pharmaceuticals. Her courage, devotion to her professional purpose, and commitment to her guiding principal — to only stay as long as she is certain she is adding value, are the positive outcomes that continue to drive her decisions. Soon after our 2018 Forum, Lisa took another leap; she is now Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder at NeuroBridge Therapeutics, Inc., in Stillwater, Minn.

Trisha Stark, PhD
Psychologist in Private Practice, Legislative Advocate

Learn more about Trisha...

Dr. Trisha Stark is a longtime mental health advocate. She received a PhD in psychology and a Master’s degree in health policy from the University of Minnesota and is working on a health care law degree. Dr. Stark is a psychologist in private practice and as a health policy, legislative action and e-health expert for Minnesota on various boards, advisory and legislative committees, task forces, associations and consumer activist groups. She is a well-known legislative advocate for the Minnesota Psychological Association and a frequent visitor to state senators and representatives as she ushers legislative actions related to mental health and health information exchange through the state government. For Dr. Stark, the goal is clear: to promote better, measurable and evidence-based outcomes for persons with mental health conditions. Her aim is a paradigm shift — a transformation in the delivery of mental health care.

Dr. Stark is a quiet, unassuming leader. She calls herself "a random psychologist." But nothing about her is random. Her actions have been felt, and reverberated across mental health for decades. Now she has taken on the task of advocating and planning for a communication network using basic technical standards that are affordable to even small independent mental health providers. There are two objectives: to connect mental health practitioners to the health care delivery system through electronic communication mechanisms, so that a patient’s mental health data is represented in their longitudinal health record, and to have mental health data available at the point of care when and where it is needed for a holistic view of the patient health status. She is determined to succeed. She has been publically scoffed, personally attacked and at times made to feel as if this is an impossible task. But she continues to persevere, always looking for opportunities to connect and co-create with others in the community who share in her vision.

This work has been done mostly on her own, as a matter of personal conviction and personally funded. It is a calling, a personal mission, a vocation born of her intimate understanding of mental health system deficiencies and the hope that we can fix what has been broken for so long.

Dr. Stark has spent thousands of hours advocating, educating and looking for solutions to problems that plague the mental health care system. She has made herself available for advocacy roles — even in the most trying of times and often at personal expense — because she believes in the improvements necessary to fix the mental health care system. She has stood the test of time, is a community asset and expert commonly sought out to represent the needs of mental health practitioners, patients and their families. She works across a large number of associations and promotes multiple high-priority health policy and legislative actions necessary to transform health care. Even when an issue is unpopular, she is steadfast and reliable.

As a result of Dr. Stark's work, many legislative actions have successfully moved through the process and become part of laws or rules. Education has improved understanding and advocacy increased participation in important health care reform efforts on items like mental health provider adoption of electronic health records. Associations have benefited by fundraising efforts, pro bono expert services as informaticist and eHealth and legislative advocacy efforts.

Martha Turner, PhD
Consultant, American Nurses Association

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Professional acts of courage have focused in ethics and human rights for both civilian and military nurses in every role and care setting. Martha Turner was content editor, public-comment analyst, and a lead writer of the revised Code of Ethics for Nurses (Code) (ANA, 2015). Acts of courage occur in contexts ranging from individual nurses, who continue to consult the Code for guidance in resolving their ethical issues on patient care, working with colleagues and social justice responsibilities; to the Air Force (AF) Surgeon General, for whom Martha served as Consultant for Healthcare Ethics in 1997-2006; to the USNS Mercy, which she joined as the ethics consultant during the Pacific Partnership mission. She has had direct impact in leadership and ethics courses, national to global. She has had impact on policy-makers, and provided the nursing perspective to leaders and executives on national panels for genetics in health and society, for human trafficking and for homeland security.

The fact that individuals had their comments heard and, where appropriate, adopted is reflected in enthusiastic adoption of the Code: in 2016 alone, the online version was accessed more than 280,000 times and 28,000+ print copies were purchased. She made 25+ presentations on the Code throughout the country in person and webinar, and is regularly consulted on the Code’s application to emerging ethical issues. Equally significant are the topics addressed through her staff leadership of the ANA Ethics Advisory Board. Since 2006, they published 23 position statements, among them Human Rights (clearly stating ANA’s opposition to torture); Risk and Responsibility (delineating the role of nursing in the Ebola outbreak); Pain Management; End-of-Life Care; and most recently, Capital Punishment (expanding ANA’s opposition to individual nurse participation), to articulating the profession’s total opposition to capital punishment, thus aligning U.S. nurses with the American Public Health Association, American Medical Association, International Council of Nurses and the United Nations. In 2014, Martha submitted a white paper and participated at the Defense Health Board Roundtable on Ethical Guidelines and Practices. Its publication, Ethical Guidelines and Practices for Military Medical Professionals (2015) reflects this effort and work she began as one of four DoD ethics consultants in 1999. She has contributed to nursing and public health teaching and practice in India and Vietnam. She worked with the Indian Army Surgeon General to coordinate an education/research exchange program for U.S. and Indian army nurses and physicians.

In all areas, her expertise has enabled her to work independently or with colleagues to identify and investigate issues, to weigh alternative approaches, to develop policies and positions, and finally to educate others on the rationale for those policies and positions. Her commitment to inclusivity informed her effort to integrate the comments of thousands of nurses into the Code, creating an ethical framework embraced by nurses. Martha is a master educator with significant experience in multiple education programs involving various topics, levels and positions. Effective team work, personal empowerment and lifelong learning were taught with exceptional breadth and depth, nationally and internationally.

Martha has learned that projects move slowly yet successfully with patience. The nursing position opposing capital punishment was published after 10 years of work. Progress, justice and compassion in the care of detainees at Guantanamo is barely realized after almost 16 years. With perseverance, she has learned to suggest, to network, to explore, to partner and most of all to listen. Care of patients in pain — whether children or the elderly, whether in the Emergency Department or long term care; whether able to articulate their pain or not — is still a passion.

Kari Willey
Senior Planning & Operations Consultant, HealthPartners

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Kari Willey has a combination of characteristics that make her a stand out leader among her peers. Kari uses her natural ability to educate and coach others around her while stepping up to oversee projects of immaculate detail within HealthPartners.

Kari’s journey hasn’t always been focused around health care and project management. In fact, after graduating from a small college in Pennsylvania with her BS in Elementary Education, Kari began her career teaching fourth grade students. Although her love for teaching was still a passion, she knew there was more she wanted to do with her skills. Eventually, Kari moved to Minnesota and began her Master’s in Organizational Leadership at Bethel University. Not long after this, she began her journey at HealthPartners, and pursued and completed her Doctorate in Health Administration.

Seventeen years later, Kari has many accomplishments within HealthPartners. Her ability to direct and educate others landed her in the forefront of a Neuroscience Center (NSC) project within HealthPartners. Kari’s responsibility was to manage this project by being the liaison between many leaders within HealthPartners, plus the architects and contractors, and to ensure it happened on time and on budget. Going back to her teaching roots, Kari’s engaging and supportive leadership style gave confidence to her team that most had never encountered before. She made sure all stayed on track and that the project continued to press forward, all while keeping the main focus on the people involved and the culture built around the project. “You can be a conductor, but you can’t lead an empty orchestra!” says Kari. With over 200 staff between the NSC and HealthPartners, all from different departments and different levels of management, she knew she had to get everyone on board and to support one another. She worked with directors, managers and supervisors to support and coach them on preparing their teams for the new practice location. Kari was instrumental in creating the Leader Learning Community (LLC) to connect and support supervisors who were leading and supporting front-line employees. This forum encouraged others to make suggestions, have discussions and celebrate successes. She also helped create the Neuroscience Patients and Family Advisory, which included those who would use the facilities to have a voice on the decisions being made for the NSC.

After three years, in April 2017, the largest freestanding neuroscience center in the upper Midwest (five levels, 130,000 square foot facility) opened to the community. It was specifically designed as a one-stop shop for brain and spine patients and their families. Not only can patients receive their clinical care here, it is also home to rehabilitation, clinical research, imaging, laboratory plus other specialties. As Kari handed her “baby” off, it was important to her that the leaders within the practice were the face of the building. She selflessly supported them — often relinquishing the credit she could have earned.

Today, the NSC is a “well-oiled machine” as simply put by her nominator. Patients feel welcomed, the staff has settled into their roles, and the culture continues as one shared vision, collaboration and collegiality. “Kari should be proud of her lasting impact on the NSC. We are immeasurably proud of her.”

Ghita Worcester
Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Chief Marketing Officer, UCare

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37 years ago, Ghita Worcester was a founding member of a demonstration project focused on providing access to care to Minnesotans who faced challenges. With her colleagues at the University of Minnesota, she helped to make that vision a reality – UCare. UCare grew to become the leading state public program (Medical Assistance or PMAP) and MinnesotaCare health plan serving 350,000 members in 2015. That same year, after a statewide competitive bid RFP process, the Department of Human Services (DHS) surprised the community: UCare would NOT be awarded contracts to administer these programs in any county in the state. As a result, UCare would lose 70% of its enrollment and 50% of its revenues, and 350,000 Minnesotans would lose their UCare coverage.

Ghita never lost faith in UCare being the plan of choice for Minnesotans. She showed determination, grit and perseverance to face an unprecedented test. The RFP results made Ghita look more objectively at UCare’s effectiveness at explaining its value in these programs. Ghita questioned the results given UCare’s strong performance and stellar reputation among members, advocates and key stakeholders for years. She turned her vulnerability into a strength by focusing on moving forward to get the business back. Despite her concerns about the process, she continued to communicate with DHS in a positive and constructive manner about UCare's commitment to its partnership with DHS to provide low-cost, high-quality care to thousands of Minnesotans.

Ghita exemplified the spirit of equity and integrity defining this community-based health plan. Up against tremendous adversity, Ghita followed her heart. She stood up for UCare values and persevered to restore services to the community — if only in one county. She communicated frequently and openly. She kept conversations constructive. She rallied allies to magnify the UCare story, and she remained focused on members and community throughout the process.

The results of the 2015 RFP had unintended consequences. Medica began losing money in PMAP and MinnesotaCare at unsustainable rates. After failing to negotiate higher payments for 2017, Medica withdrew from the programs on May 1, 2017. The state approached UCare to return to serve impacted counties. It was courageous to re-enter the market in a large way and short timeframe, but it was the right thing to do. On May 1, 2017, UCare welcomed 180,000 new members and nearly 70% returning members. The plan also rehired many laid off employees. And the community had its UCare safety net health plan back.

Ghita never lost her focus on doing the right thing. She helped lead the organization through a significant downturn lasting more than a year. Her unwavering commitment inspired fellow UCare leaders to maintain a steady course. Aside from learning valuable lessons, her faith in UCare's value was affirmed by its return to service.

Yvonne Ybarra
Senior Manager, International Product Development, Be The Match

Learn more about Yvonne...

For 17 years, Yvonne Ybarra created stability in her professional life by growing and progressing her skills at GenCure, an organization that applies advances in regenerative medicine to help heal patients suffering from trauma, disease, and the aging process. Most recently in her role as Director of Cellular Therapy, Yvonne worked to fulfill a mission of serving patients with blood cancers. The business of stem cell transplants can be very timely and complicated and finding the perfect match for patients with blood cancer greatly depends on sharing a similar ethnic ancestry to a donor. Yvonne understood this to the highest degree from her work with GenCure and knew there had to be a way to find more matches for patients in need. She identified that unmet need and decided to make the courageous move to Be the Match, a global leader in bone marrow transplantation.

Yvonne’s initial vision for the organizational change stemmed directly from her heritage. Her parents were born and raised in Mexico, which made her more aware to the needs for donors of Hispanic descent. In her new role as Senior Manager, International Product Development, Yvonne helped Be the Match extend its efforts into Mexico allowing the organization to reach an entirely new audience of potential donors. “Her ability to navigate through multiple culture barriers has proven invaluable as we address the complexities associated with growing awareness and trust in Mexico,” says her colleague. Through her efforts, she has increased awareness about blood cancer and the importance of donors in Mexico. She has built up six collection and transplant centers within the Be the Match membership and has spoken at numerous conference and events about their mission. Her work with medical professionals, government officials, and regulatory bodies has been crucial in the expansion of the Be the Match brand in a new territory. Be The Match Mexico has already procured two million dollars and that number continues to grow!

Yvonne’s fearlessness to jump into an unknown territory has not only made an impactful difference in her community, but also a difference within Be the Match. When asking her colleagues for feedback about her leadership, they made mention she is known for her incredible knowledge of the business, industry, and target audience. Yvonne uses her emotional intelligence and compassion to advocate the Be the Match mission of savings lives through cellular therapy. Her nominator writes, “She is committed, resourceful and consistently displays integrity and excellence through her work. Yvonne brings us knowledge, passion, and determination to this work and is changing cultural dynamics nimbly and gracefully.”


Women's Health Leadership TRUST

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