Alicia Hardy, CEO of OLE Health in Napa and Solano counties
Nutrition education, lifestyle management, and quick house calls are things we don’t get paid for. We cannot design our model of care to meet patient needs, as none of this is reimbursable.
The question is, how do you really transform the care you need to have flexibility and make it financially viable? The state is working in this direction with Medi-Cal management plans through a pilot alternative payment method.
How does the national economy impact your business and what are you doing about it?
The national economy and inflation have had a huge impact on our business. Like other industries, we have increased compensation to help support staff cope with a higher cost of living.
We also rely on the generosity of our donors and have implemented more aggressive fundraising strategies and grant funding opportunities.
What brought you to live and work in Peru and Nigeria, and how have your experiences in these two countries brought you to where you are today?
From an early age, I wanted to see the world and learn about different cultures. As I got older, I knew I wanted to live a life of service and give back to communities – both local and global.
After graduating from Boston College, I participated in an international volunteer program where I lived and worked in Peru for two years. I left Peru not only with a deep appreciation for the culture and language, but also for the struggles with food, economic and housing insecurity that so many families experience every day.
Peru reinforced this commitment to service, hoping that I could find a career devoted to fighting injustice by reducing various social disparities.
During my graduate studies, I had the good fortune to travel as part of a grant-funded project in Nigeria to study access to contraception for HIV-positive women in the city of Abuja. I learned how important it is to have access to accurate information and healthcare resources.
My time in Nigeria further reinforced my commitment to health equity and making a difference in historically marginalized communities. These two opportunities gave me new perspectives on the impact of poverty, the diversity of people’s experiences, the power of resilience.
These experiences brought me to OLE 13 years ago and help me try to lead from a place of humility and empathy as we work together to create better health for the communities we serve. .
What would you do in your career and why?
I think I would have learned finance and quantitative skills sooner. I picked up a lot of these skills on the job and am in the process of finishing my MBA, but I think if I had been more comprehensive in my skills earlier it would have helped.
We often gravitate toward what we love, which for me as a scholar of literature was reading, writing, and other soft skills. I think it’s important to force yourself to balance the areas where you need to develop greater expertise.
What was your first job? What was your first professional job?
My very first job was to wait on the tables. My first career job was as a teacher in a very underserved, high-crime neighborhood in the South Bronx.
I worked at a small charter school in Hunts Point, then co-founded an all-girls college. It was an amazing experience that taught me a lot about community organizing and the importance of relationships. This experience is what inspired me to go back to school to get my first master’s degree at UC Berkeley in their management and planning program through the School of Social Welfare.
I loved learning in partnership with the community, and I wanted to improve my skills and strengthen my leadership to have even more impact in the future.
Is this the job you wanted when you were young? If not, what were your previous professional aspirations?
My father was a doctor and my mother was a nurse. Sometimes on weekends, I accompanied my father while he made his rounds in the hospital. He had such a good bedside manner and his patients were so grateful to him for the care he provided. I always thought I would follow in his footsteps and even started as a pre-med in college.
Then I realized that I couldn’t tolerate blood or bodily fluids. That’s how I ended up on the administrative side of health care.
What, since your childhood, was a clear sign that you would be in the C-suite?
I am the first in a family of three children and have always been comfortable taking the lead, handling additional responsibilities and making decisions. I can’t think of a specific example, but I would say I had leadership qualities from an early age.
What are you doing to relieve stress?
I enjoy spending time with my family and my three children, who enjoy arts and crafts, cooking, and spending time outdoors.
Also, exercise for me is essential. I’ve run several marathons and find running to be both calming and meditative, a great way to clear my mind.
I also like to read, especially fiction and long novels which stimulate my imagination and broaden my way of thinking about the world. Managing stress has been more important than ever for the past two years trying to balance a demanding job, being in a full-time MBA program at Yale School of Management, and leading through COVID.
What advice would you give to someone starting their career in your industry?
If you want to be a leader, it’s so important to really understand the job. I would advise anyone to do different frontline jobs, where you’re really in the weeds and understand the day-to-day experience before taking on a leadership role.
My first job at OLE Health was as a behavioral health care provider. I have a license as a Certified Clinical Social Worker, and although I aspired to leadership and knew I wouldn’t be a clinician long term, doing this work and hearing the patients’ stories firsthand was invaluable. I always use those experiences in my decision making because I know what that experience is like.
Kathryn Reed is a journalist who has spent most of her career covering Northern California issues. She has published four books, the most recent being “Sleeping with Strangers: An Airbnb Host’s Life in Lake Tahoe and Mexico”. She can be contacted at [email protected], kathrynreed.com, or follow her on Twitter or instagram.