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How My Mother Prepared Me For A Career in Healthcare Marketing

Posted Feb 22 2011 4:18am

One of the things I enjoy about working in healthcare marketing is that I collaborate with so many powerful, intelligent women – marketers, strategists and administrators at client organizations. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that not everyone (male or female) does well working with strong women. However, there is something about my makeup that leads me to thoroughly enjoy collaborating with these leaders. I give the credit to my mother, Patsy Dunlop, who just turned 80 last year. She has always been a powerful woman – outspoken and firm in her convictions. A staunch Democrat. She raised five children while working and dealing with a husband who traveled constantly on business. I guess I grew up to admire women who share qualities with my mother. Of course, in my upbringing, my mother made certain that I respected and valued women. She was a natural-born coach, and I continue to be her student.

I also learn daily from my wife and daughter! In our home, we celebrate powerful women. One obvious symbol of female power in our home is our massive painting of Lilith that rises above the fireplace in our living room. In Jewish folklore, Lilith was Adam’s first wife. In fact, Lilith and Adam were created at the same time and both made from the earth – with Lilith being Adam’s equal. This is in stark contrast to Eve (Adam’s second wife), who was created from one of Adam’s ribs. According to legend, Lilith left Adam after she refused to become subservient to him and then would not return to the Garden of Eden after she mated with archangel Samael.

Ellen Zane, Tufts Medical Center

All of that is a preamble to my dissertation on the powerful women I know in and admire in healthcare. This post was prompted by the announcement last week by Ellen Zane, president and CEO of Tufts Medical Center, of her impending retirement. I have met Ellen several times, although I don’t know her well. We’ve sat in lots of meetings together. I admire her greatly. She is one of the most effective leaders I’ve ever met in the healthcare industry. She has transformed Tufts Medical Center and positioned it for success. That success was in doubt 7 years ago when she first joined the struggling hospital. As Ellen stated in her email announcement: “The road ahead for all hospitals will not be easy as continued government cuts, a difficult economy and pressure from health plans pose great challenges. However, Tufts Medical Center has shown itself to be the solution for what ails health care in the United States. We are a high quality, value provider. This position will take Tufts Medical Center far in the future.” Of course, Zane would give credit for Tufts’ turn around to the employees of Tufts Medical Center.

If you’d like to read more about this remarkable leader, there were several articles written last week that tell her story:

We really are blessed in healthcare to be in the company of so many amazing female leaders. If I just quickly scan the horizon, I can easily come up with a list:

  • Brooke Tyson Hynes – Tufts Medical Center
  • Deb Joelson – Tufts Medical Center
  • Molly O’Neill – Duke Medicine
  • Karen McCall – UNC Health Care
  • Anissa Davenport – University Health Systems
  • Jill Lawlor – Cooper University Hospital
  • Marie Gross – Signature Healthcare
  • Janet Mullaney – University Health Systems
  • Linda MacCracken – Thomson Reuters Healthcare
  • Gabrielle DeTora – Strategic Marketing Consultant
  • Judy Neiman – Forum for Healthcare Strategists

What makes these women powerful is not the positions they hold, but rather the intelligence, drive and passion they possess. When working with them, I fully expect to be challenged, and I expect their input to improve the final product. They are amazing role models for other women in their organizations.

I’m sure that each of you could add another dozen names to my list. And there are dozens more I know through Twitter (@stales, @healthythinker, @SeattleMamaDoc, etc.). The point is that my professional life (and hopefully yours) is enriched by having the opportunity to work with them. I don’t think this would necessarily be the case if I were working in another industry or profession. Healthcare and healthcare marketing seem to have drawn amazing talent. I, for one, am fortunate to have worked with the likes of Ellen Zane.

Post by Dan Dunlop, The Healthcare Marketer


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