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Find Your Own Career Path by Following Your True North

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Following your own “true north” can lead to a career path that is unique to your personal skills, interests and passions. That’s exactly how Betsy Ha progressed from clinical nurse, to Vice President of Clinical Practice Excellence. In the first post of our UnitedHealth Group Leaders blog series, we’re featuring Betsy’s story of how her passions opened doors to the right opportunities, at the right time in her life.

How long have you been working with us and what is your current role?

I have been with Optum, part of the UnitedHealth Group’s family of businesses, for over five years. I joined UnitedHealth Group through the acquisition of Monarch Health Care. I was the VP of Clinical Program Management and Performance with OptumCare and recently moved to a newly created role, VP of Clinical Practice Excellence.

What did you do before joining UnitedHealth Group?

Before joining UnitedHealth Group, I was the Chief Quality Officer/VP of Performance Excellence and Patient Safety with a health care services organization in California. I was responsible for process improvement activities for 44 federally qualified health centers (FQHC) in Southern California.  Prior to that, I was the CNE and Chief Clinical Turnaround Officer for California Prison Health Care Reform under the Federal Receivership formed by a well-known Civil Rights Judge, Thelton Henderson.

How did you find this career path?

I am very blessed that as long as I have focused on my professional “true north” and followed my passion, it has always led me to the right person, the right opportunities, and at the right time. My career path appeared to me as I moved forward through life.

I started as a clinical nurse over three decades ago. My professional mission has always been focusing on improving care for the most vulnerable population; that has been a key theme throughout my career. I always seek to find job opportunities where I can make the most difference. I started with caring for children with cancer, ventured into managed care, caring for moms and kids in low income families, created a program for persons with chronic conditions and disabilities in Medicaid, and restored constitutional rights to health care for the incarcerated population.

I have always enjoyed learning new skills that may be outside of my own field, and many of my job opportunities were created specifically for my personal skill set. For example, I learned The Toyota Production System (Lean) through a certification program for the manufacturing industry, when the health care industry was still skeptical about it. Now my Lean skills are high in demand in health care.

As a manager, how do you help your team navigate their career growth and development?

I seek first to understand what is important for them as a person, what their passions, interests, and career aspirations are. Then I try to match their passions and interests to job assignments and developmental opportunities to support their professional growth to reach their goals. I believe that by helping others grow as professionals and individuals, it will help you as a leader do your life’s best work.SM

I have supported all my direct reports through leadership training. One completed the Executive Development Program last year; three completed Lean Leadership training. Others completed an MBA and doctorate dissertation.

What advice would you give someone just beginning a career with UnitedHealth Group?

Be true to yourself, be open to new challenges, learn from every mistake, embrace change, make a positive difference, and find joy in your work every day.

Describe how you have been involved in mentorships throughout your career.

At UnitedHealth Group, I had the opportunity to serve as coach in the Emerging Leadership Program, and I will be serving as a mentor in the 2017 Clinical Leaders Program (CLP). Outside of work, I continue to be involved as mentor and coach through the California Health Care Leaders Network.

I am grateful for many mentors in my personal and professional life. Some of my dear mentors have passed. The wise ones never tell me what to do; they always encourage me to listen to my heart. I feel now is my time to give back to my younger generation to carry on the torch to transform health care and humanity.

 

Check back next month to hear what has enabled Betsy to strike a balance in her life, and how volunteering has empowered her as a leader and social advocate in her community.

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