Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the podcast for purpose-driven healthcare leaders, striving to make life better around the world by leading their teams with genuine care, servant leadership, and love.
I am Naji, your host for this podcast, having the pleasure to be joined by Stephanie Chen, ChenMed’s Chief Legal Officer and Culture Officer. Stephanie has been with ChenMed since 2006, and served as General Counsel prior to being named Chief Legal Officer in 2016. A graduate of New York Law School, which she attended on a Harlan Scholarship, Stephanie was admitted to the Florida Bar in 2008. She graduated cum laude from Boston College with a degree in economics.
Stephanie and her husband, Dr. Chris Chen, the CEO of ChenMed, have four children together and live in Florida.
Stephanie – It is such a pleasure to have you with me today!
Stephanie Chen: It’s a pleasure to be here, Naji. Thank you so, so very much for the warm welcome.
Naji Gehchan: Uh, can you first please share with us a little bit more about your personal story from law to now being in healthcare as chief legal officer and culture officer, uh, in this industry?
Stephanie Chen: Definitely, um, you said with love. So I’ll start with, um, I married my high school sweetheart. Uh, Chris and I have been together since I was 15 years old. Um, we went to prom, my prom together and he came to my high school graduation. So we kind of have a, a funny story in that way. Um, I was married as a college sophomore.
Um, and so that’s kind of, if anyone’s been to Boston College in your audience, that’s not normal. at Boston College. Uh, and so most, most students live on campus there. And so I was off campus, married to a, uh, uh, Beth Israel Deacon as resident. But, um, we, we grew up together. Um, and, uh, I wouldn’t change any of it.
He’s a great guy. So that’s my, my my love story. Um, and then growing up in healthcare, um, to be honest, if you had asked me when I was maybe 12 or 13, , I don’t know if I would’ve said I’m gonna end up in healthcare. I, I loved caring for people, but I’ve never loved science. So what’s really wonderful about the health candu industry is that I get to care for patients and people and not be a physician or a nurse, or a nurse practitioner, or even a medical assistant.
None of those things appeal to me. Um, But I, but changing the world appeals to me and caring for people has always appealed to me. So healthcare, I think, um, has both of those things, an impact on the world and an impact, uh, and a chance to love on people in an individual way. Oh,
Naji Gehchan: for sure. This is, this is our why.
This is why we wake up every morning trying to make an impact and help patients live better. Uh, I, I’m really intrigued by Chen Med, uh, and specifically after I received from a friend who sent me an article about, uh, how you are transforming love into profits in healthcare. So I was very intrigued because my podcast talked about spreading love in organizations.
So I’d love to hear a little bit more about what you do and really the values, uh, that you bring in your in. I shouldn’t say company. It’s more in your organization, I should say.
Stephanie Chen: Yeah. Well, thank you for asking Naji. So, um, maybe like eight years ago, I remember being in a room where, um, Chris was presenting, um, to the family where family run.
Company, right? Family owned and operated. Um, but we have an executive team and we’ve got like 6,000 employees. So we’re not a mom and pop anymore, but it still very much feels like a momand pop. Um, he presented to the family the, the values that he wanted our company to have. And there were three, and I remember being so critical in my mind because the three were love accountability, and.
And I just spoke up and said, you know, love and passion in a workplace environment sounds so weird. It sounds like a, like a litigation waiting to happen, right? Like, we’re gonna get sexual, uh, harassment claims, , you know, like love and passion, you know, , um, sounds like something that should be on an e true Hollywood story.
Um, but he was really convicted and, um, and and really passionate about making those three our company values. And we have them as defined terms. You know, we have, um, like love is defined in four ways. Accountability is defined in five ways, and then passions defined in four ways. And we really are those three things at ChenMed.
Um, and we live. Love, um, for each other. That’s one of the things we, we value every human being as an incredible creation of God who brings value. And so that’s one of them. We also love people enough to tell them the truth. That’s one of our values of love. Um, and give them open and honest feedback. And so, and we invest in others as part of our love at Chen.
And help develop everyone to be the best they can be. Um, and then accountability obviously in healthcare is, there’s so much data, right? Um, and there’s just so much around results and obviously the results are bigger than profits. The results are changing people’s lives and keeping people healthier longer, and, and changing the healthcare statistics in the country, right around cancer survival rates.
Chen Med has done that, um, around, um, Like just, uh, life expectancy in, in the zip codes we serve. Um, there’s a 20 year age gap in the zip codes we serve versus in the zip code maybe, um, that you or I would live in Naji. And so like just really working at that, at that life expectancy, discrepancy and shipping away at that.
And so that accountability is huge. And then passion is just like our zest for what we do. And at ChenMed we really love what we do. Um, We wake up in the morning with inspiring energy. Um, and that’s how passions defined and we bring new energy to each day. And so when Chris said those three, I was like, this sounds like a nightmare, but I was really wrong because, um, they really are the best values to define what it’s like to live and work at Gen Med.
And I think because of those people are, are just confident in how they bring their passions and their zaniness and their love to work and even their accountability. .
Naji Gehchan: I love it. And I, I, you know, when I, when I came for the little story, when I came, uh, from France, uh, to the us so I, I’ve been spreading love in the organization where I work for some years now.
Uh, and when I moved here, the first thing they told me, don’t talk about love in the workplace. You’re gonna end up in a very bad situation as a French Lebanese guy, you know, talking about this . So when you said like, love and passion, You know, legally what you thought about it was the same for me, but at the end, as you said, like this is actually what can bring impact, caring for one another for us to, at the end, care for the customers and ultimately help patients live better.
So I, I love how you define it. Um, how do you build this culture daily? You know, in Chen, because there’s so much you’re doing. Um, so how, how, how daily do you build this within the team? For them to be focused truly on love for people for one another and love for the patients. ,
Stephanie Chen: you know, it’s one-on-one, which does not sound scalable, but it really is.
We have to hire for people who really want this in their own life as well. And then they have to, want to push it out because I can’t be in Detroit or Louisville or Atlanta or New Orleans or you know, Memphis. Right. And, and none of us can. And so we have to hire beautiful, loving people in Memphis and in Detroit and Atlanta, who, who want this in their lives as well.
and then that’s the first thing. So it’s people. You gotta get the right people. And then the second thing is it’s cultivated. So in our town halls, in our emails, in our meetings, we really do try to remind everyone of the beautiful purpose of why we’re here. One of my favorite books is Simon Cenek. Start With Why.
And he just hits the nail on the head with, with, we have to constantly be reminded of why we’re doing things, um, and, and why we’re here. And so I think just starting with why. And so our town halls are literally like a one hour love meeting, like a love fest to make that, you know, sound funny and inappropriate.
But it really is celebrating our team members who have gone above and beyond celebrating our, our patient victories and the data. Celebrating. We had an 87 year old patient get engaged cuz she wasn’t healthy, um, enough to even like leave her home. And then she became healthy enough to be social and then she became healthy enough to like find a fiance and she was just so happy.
And so that’s like a story we told on our Town Hall of Loneliness to Love and just celebrating those because we, we impact so many patients and we have to know and be reminded because our job is very hard, um, in healthcare everywhere. It’s a very hard job. So we have to constantly remember why we’re doing.
Naji Gehchan: So talking about this, that was actually my second question, right? If you work in a highly stressful environment, uh, these days with low staffing, uh, we, we read all over overworked healthcare professionals. Yeah. Uh, h how do you do to keep really love at the heart of what you do and actually support, support this mission?
Stephanie Chen: You know, I wish I could say we did it perfectly. I’m constantly striving to figure out how to do it better. Um, that’s like my full-time job because it’s, it’s understaffing triple masking, um, changing protocols, right? The stress is just so very high and it’s always like, do more and do better and do faster and do better quality in healthcare, right?
Like, and so, um, I would say,
Okay. I would say that, um, uh, we, we work on care teams. We say that we are all here to serve our physicians and our nurse practitioners. And so, um, it’s a team that, that really does help encapsulate with returning messages, looking at emails, getting scripts organized. Um, calling the day before and asking our patients, our senior patients, can you bring all the medications you’re on so we can see what you’re taking, what you’re out of.
Um, we really do try to have a one stop shop at ChenMed. I don’t know if you’re familiar with our model, but, um, it’s all encompassing care and we look at all the social determinants of health. We look at if they don’t have the money for their copay and they’re not taking their blood thinner, well, what does that look like for a hospitalization?
Right? and so, hey, how can we get that copay in a payment plan for you, even if it’s only five or $10? How can we help you pay just 50 cents or a dollar today so that you don’t stop taking an important medication? We make sure they have Uber health and and rides. , they’re specialists, and if their doctor, daughter, or son or brother or sister can’t take them to a specialist, we make sure they get there no matter what.
And so we really do try to have this care team that comes around, the physicians and the nurses and the staff to make sure that that load is, is. Co-labor and that the burden is carried together with others. We really do believe that it’s gotta be a team. It’s gotta be kind of like, I don’t know. Um, we have a strong Christian faith and so a lot of my analogies are from the Bible, but there’s this chord of three St.
Strands cannot easily be broken. And so it’s like, I think burnout comes when a physician feels alone. I think burnout comes when a nurse feels alone and that they have to carry the heavy weight of their panel. By themselves. And at ChenMed that’s not the case. They should be fully supported by our home office staff and by their care team.
Naji Gehchan: I, I’m intrigued since you’re talking about teams. Uh, are you, do you, for example, train your people? Do you have like leadership efficiency work together and what, what are the ones you are focused on since like, one of your values is love and passion so much
Stephanie Chen: training , so much training Naji. Um, we believe in lifelong.
um, at ChenMed. So, um, even our physicians, basically we realized that. In medical school, um, you’re not really totally trained on kind of like, um, the positive no. Or, um, even, uh, degrees of influence. Now, I didn’t go to medical school, and I don’t mean any slight, but I know in four years you’re learning a lot of other things more than kind of like family influence or.
Or, or things like that. And so at ChenMed we have so much physician training around, um, how to influence, how to provide for full care, how to ask different questions to get to the right answer, um, and, and things like that. So they can go through training here at ChenMed that we’ve spec specifically designed for our physicians and, and p c leaders.
Our PCP leadership train is amazing. Um, I was just at a partner’s weekend in Orlando. And, um, it’s just awesome to see people who’ve been employed here 20 years, um, you know, 15 years, 18 years, and just keep getting promoted, promoted, promoted, and so, and now are leading teams and markets and, and, and national, national groups.
Naji Gehchan: I, I would love now to go to a part where I will give you a word and I’d love to, your reaction to it.
Stephanie Chen: I am the most excited and nervous about this. Nudie, I knew you were gonna do this. And I kept thinking, what is he gonna
Naji Gehchan: say? ? So the fir, the first one is
Stephanie Chen: leadership. Okay. Um, oh, I think by example. I think, um, to be a good leader, you have to walk what you talk and the, you gotta be consistent and yeah.
What about health equity? Uh, That breaks my heart is the first thing I think about it, because it feels like a fundamental right, that we should all be the day we’re born. We should have the same chance as everyone else. Um, and, uh, the fact that that’s not the case here in the United States as a developed nation really should break everyone’s heart that what’s that, wakes me up in the morning and keeps me doing my job every day.
Naji Gehchan: uh, I wanna double click on this because this is one of the focus areas that you work on, uh, in Chen. Can you tell us a little bit more what you’ve done and also the data that you’ve been able to deliver?
Stephanie Chen: Sure, sure. So, um, Started in Miami Gardens and um, that’s a, if you don’t know Miami well that’s a, a, a poorer neighborhood in Miami.
A beautiful neighborhood in Miami, but lower income and medically underserved, which means, um, the doctors to people who need doctors ratio is low. Um, there’s not enough doctors in that community and we just happened to start there. My father and mother-in-law had one office. Um, their story is incredible.
They’re, they’re two immigrants from China who came here. Um, went bankrupt in a restaurant business and, um, then they’re very brilliant. My father-in-law, PhD already in Wisconsin, moved to Miami, homeless with two children and, and op and went to medical school in two years cuz as a PhD they had that program and then became a physician in Miami Gardens, um, with these two sons, um, basically without a home.
But, um, the, in Miami Gardens, what he found was that so much of healthcare actually was just care and not even anything to do with medicine. And, and so he found that, you know what I said about missing a co-pay or missing a specialist appointment, or just using the emergency room as their only only form of, of healthcare instead of.
True prevention, right. With colonoscopies and mammograms and, and everything else. And, and blood work and, and staying, you know, staying healthy and diet and, and so, and loneliness and community. So they started this, this one center in Miami Gardens in a medically underserved neighborhood and realized the great need.
And so that became the model. Is, where else can we scale and go where there’s a need for doctors and let’s not move into like the, the county hospital where there’s already, you know, 700 doctors on the elevator list. Let’s go, um, in, into medically underserved neighborhoods and help the communities that need us most.
And so we’ve done that and, um, we’ve grown exponentially, mainly word of mouth. I mean, until very recently we didn’t have a marketing team. Um, you know, we don’t pay for Super Bowl commercials, , um, or anything like that. And so it’s very grassroots, word of mouth. Once one person in a church finds out about us, we end up having like 300 patients from that church and things like that.
And so, um, but really a heart to change the outcomes. And so if you check out our impact report, um, the data is all there, but we have, um, doubled cancer survivor rates in six months, which is just insane. If a drug could do that, I think it would be like multi-billion Naji. And, and ChenMed has done that through.
um, our care model, we see our patients frequently and often, and we have smaller physician panel sizes so that we can know our patients intimately well. Um, and I think that, that, that is kind of back to almost the old and days in our minds in the movies where a physician would come to your home with like the leather bag.
You know? I don’t know if you’re getting that. But, and they would know the brother and the son and the, you know, like the, the horse’s name. And so we don’t have horses. But , the, the thing is like, if you know someone really, really well, you know what’s off for them or what’s low for them or what’s high for them, and so then you can cater your medicine to them.
So that’s, that’s our model in a nutshell. There’s more data on the impact report. I didn’t give you that much, but I wanted you to check it firstname.lastname@example.org.
Naji Gehchan: I will. And, uh, so one that might be related Modern healthcare. Hmm.
Stephanie Chen: Oh, the, well, I’m sorry. Mother
Naji Gehchan: Modern Healthcare. How do you Oh, modern healthcare, I’m sorry.
Reaction for this?
Stephanie Chen: Yes. Um, I think it’s disjointed. Um, and f and fractured, I think, um, you can get a lot of tests done. Um, and because of. I don’t know if it’s various electronic medical record systems or HIPAA or lack of communication, but a lot of, there’s like a lot of tea leaves, but no one reading all of them, if that makes sense.
Like, uh, especially if you have something you’re really trying to get to the bottom of, it can take a long time because of the disjointed and fractured system we have and physicians not speaking to physicians kind of all in a, in a, on a unified team, if that makes. What about spread? I don’t mean, I don’t mean that to sound overly critical.
Naji Gehchan: No, no, no. It’s, it’s your view on the challenges we are facing, which is, which is definitely, uh, data is definitely one of the biggest challenges and how they are interconnected and who owns them, and are we really looking into them for us to make, you know, intentional decisions about our health. Right.
The last one is spread love in organiz.
Stephanie Chen: Uh, um, with how you show up, um, like one human at a time. Uh, I think there’s something wonderful about being, uh, at scale. We’ve certainly grown exponentially at ChenMed, but, uh, the only thing I would say is. , um, you’ve gotta have like a playbook and a strategy around love.
You can’t forget about it. Um, I think people are so quick to make sure the model is scalable and the, and even us sometimes at Chen Med, and how do we figure out how to hire at scale and grow at scale. But you have to figure out how to love at scale and you have to figure out how to, um, uh, always look for a situation where, where everyone can win.
Like a win-win situation that’s part of. Mission statement at ChenMed. And I think, I think that’s loving others. If I’m looking for how you can benefit Naji and then you’re looking for how I can benefit, and then we’re both looking together at how our patients can benefit. That’s how we really spread love.
Naji Gehchan: yeah. Thank you for that. I, I love it. Love at scale. I love this. . Any final word of wisdom, Stephanie? For healthcare leaders specifically around the.
Stephanie Chen: Oh, do what you love. Don’t, don’t defer your life. Don’t have a deferred life plan. There’s kind of like we grow up, at least in America, I don’t know about in France or in Lebanon, but if you eat your peas, you get the pie, right?
Like if you do the hard thing, you get to do the good thing. And I think a lot of people live like, if I work hard now I can do what I love when I retire. And I think that that is a. So don’t buy into that lie. Um, I read that when I was like 18 years old in a book, the Monk in the Riddle, and I just ha, I try to live every day, waking up doing what I love, and there’s so much room in healthcare to do what you love.
You don’t have to switch jobs, you don’t have to retire. You don’t have to become an author. Um, stay a physician, but do what you love in a place that believes in you and, um, is for you and where you can do what you love. In healthcare, don’t leave healthcare to do what you love. You can do it in healthcare at the right spot.
Naji Gehchan: That’s such a great advice and word of wisdom. Uh, for sure. Life is too short to do things we don’t like.
Stephanie Chen: Too short. And what if you never get to retire? Right? Like, what if we we could, we could either of us have something horrible that happens tomorrow, so we gotta do what we love today.
Naji Gehchan: True. So true.
Thank you so much again, Stephanie, for being with me today.
Stephanie Chen: It was such incredible. What an honor and privilege. Have a great day.
Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s podcast. Drop us a review on your preferred podcast platform
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