Committed to Serve – Umbereen Nehal

SpreadLove In Organizations
SpreadLove In Organizations
Committed to Serve - Umbereen Nehal

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and don’t forget Belonging. Belonging is one of the most crucial aspects we talk less about but greatly impacts us. We also talked about Health Equity, what it means, and what we can do as healthcare leaders – it starts by raising the problem for us to start solving it! Hear why quality is about love and other incredible insights in this conversation with a Top Voice in healthcare, Dr. Umbereen Nehal.

“You have to raise a problem for it to be problem-solved.”

MEET OUR GUEST Umbereen S. Nehal, MD, MPH is a Dean’s Fellow and Sloan Fellow at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Her work is at the intersection of technology, policy, and healthcare delivery to diverse populations.

Umbereen is a recognized thought leader on human-centered health information technology (HIT) design, ethical artificial intelligence (AI), payment reform, quality, and reducing disparities. Educated at Aga Khan University Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Nehal trained at Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine followed by the Harvard Pediatric Health Services Research Fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital. Four times Dr. Nehal has been named “LinkedIn Top Voice” for “Healthcare” and as a “Top Female Voice” on International Women’s Day. As Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Medical Affairs of Community Healthcare Network, Dr. Nehal led a 14-site multi-specialty certified Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) serving 85,000 New Yorkers including behavioral health integration and telehealth. She had oversight of over 700 staff and a $100 million operating budget.

Dr. Nehal served as Associate Medical Director of MassHealth — a Medicaid program serving 1.6 million members and accounting for 40% of the state budget — providing leadership on program development and evaluation, cost effectiveness evaluation, population health initiatives, and state-wide information “HIway” for intraoperability. Dr. Nehal served as clinical lead for the 5-year restructuring to create new Accountable Care Organization (ACO) models, co-leading a successful bid for $1.8b in new investment from Centers for Medicare
and Medicaid Services (CMS). Dr. Nehal has expertise in leading multi-disciplinary teams for change management. She designed novel HIT for Medicare Advantage plans to track and rank new forms of data used for payment by CMS and contributed to a Series C fund raise for a client that offers an integrated cloud-based medial data and extraction platform enhanced by AI and natural language processing (NLP). As an MIT Sloan Fellow Dr. Nehal led an AI-focused hackathon, drawing hundreds of innovators from around the world, for human-centered
design solution in the age of COVID-19 and was an invited senior author on a chapter on business models, payment metrics, and business ethics for medical AI.

Dr. Nehal served as co-chair of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Healthcare Delivery and Disparities Research advisory panel, she informed national funding priorities for a portfolio of over $300 million clinical effectiveness evaluations. She co-authored national curriculum on the Patient-Centered Medical Home, now disseminated to over 8,000 residents. She is published on use of the Electronic Health Record (EHR) to promote transition planning for children with disabilities. She provided expert review to the Connecticut Department of Public Health’s medical home curriculum. Elected by her peers, she served as district representative and on the board for the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. A frequent invited stakeholder to the White House,
CMS, HHS, and NIH, she was asked to moderate a panel for U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Regina
Benjamin. Dr. Nehal served as the Principal Investigator of a community health grant to partner with community-based organizations and faith groups in low-resourced communities to promote improved heart health aligned with the Culture of Health. Dr. Nehal’s national leadership on community engagement won recognition from President Obama.

The most important humanitarian leadership lesson

Googling “leader” or “leadership” gives us great definitions and different perspectives. It goes from command and control to creating a vision and inspiring people. Leadership skills has definitely evolved since the last century and constantly change. We can read a lot about leader vs manager and all that goes with this from command and control to inspire and empower. Nevertheless, in corporations, reality is that a leader (former manager) is a hierarchical position given to a “talent” (many times a technical performer) to command, perform, control and report to a “bigger” leader. But even in this model, we have what people would call a “real leader”, and through my different experiences and talking to teams, it spontaneously goes to a simple sentence: “she/he is someone I would follow no matter what”.

It was tough for me to evaluate in the business world and current organizations how true the “no matter what” is. It might be easier in flat liberated organizations to do so but still…

Thinking through this, took me to my humanitarian experience in the Lebanese Red Cross where I served several years during moments of tensions, war, crisis and terrorism that hit Lebanon. The Lebanese arm of this international humanitarian organization is practically the only emergency medical system in the country taking in charge all “human” emergencies. The team in the Red Cross is extremely diverse; different ages, backgrounds, cultures, beliefs, studies, etc. Nevertheless, we all – truly and deeply – shared the same values, the exact same vision and mission, the same “why”: to help and serve people in need. Being a leader in this organization suddenly looks simple no need to create a vision or inspire for teams to follow you: people come for the same “why”, volunteer, perform, grow and have a real social impact as a team… It’s thus all about coaching them, teaching them emergency techniques, managing them not to perform errors when in an emergency, commanding them to perform the right moves when on the field with a patient and making sure they keep this “flame” and this “why” to keep on volunteering and coming day after day… Easy!

Let’s dig a little deeper though: war, bombing, real life-threatening risks, not only in your community… Would you really follow the leader “no matter what”?

Why would your team follow you in the ambulance? Why would they litterally risk their lives, hear what you say, and execute what you ask? Why would they go into a risky war zone and follow your commands on the field? Because of the “why”? Because of the “adrenaline”? The “heroic act”? The nice “story to tell their kids”? Probably all of that, but the single foundation for me stands to the TRUST you created as a leader… The trust that you won’t let them go, that you would risk your life for them, that you’d go save them if anything touches them, that you’ll back them up, that you’ll run for them as they would do for you, that you’ll care not only for them but for their families and community too… But is this enough? Certainly not… It’s also the trust you create as a leader in the organization they work for and serve. We were out in war zones with no fear because we trusted each other, we trusted our organization and believed that “it” will protect us no matter what, that the leaders will be there, the community will stand for us, the country… We were maybe naive but it taught me this single leadership principle: BUILD TRUST (honest true trust). Without trust, without this “safe” environment, without a real genuine caring community, without love, you can manage, decide and command by hierarchy but will you be leading teams willing to follow you “no matter what”? The “why”, the vision, the mission and the values are the basis of success in any business or organization, but all those without TRUST might bring performance and growth BUT in moments of tensions, moving risky environments and stress would people stay here with you and follow the leader “no matter what”?