Progress Report: Q&A with the Executive Director

Christine Malcolm provides an update on the fellowship's achievements and what's next

Christine Malcolm serves as executive director and ex officio board member of the Carol Emmott Fellowship, following a nationally recognized career as a senior executive with Kaiser Permanente and several leading academic health systems. Most recently she was managing director in consulting for Navigant.  In mid-2016, she moved to contract status with Navigant, so she could support the fellowship, while continuing to serve clients part time through Salt Creek Advisors LLC. During her career, she has repeatedly led transformational change for some of the premier health plans, healthcare systems, academic medical centers, specialty providers, medical schools, and children’s hospitals in the U.S.  She recently served on an independent review panel named by the U.S. Senate to review the Department of Defense Health Agency, and is honored to be currently serving as a senior advisor to the Veterans Health Administration in its modernization.

In this interview, Christine provides an update on the Carol Emmott Fellowship and future plans for the program.

What are some of the fellowship’s most significant achievements so far?

We successfully launched a program that meets the needs of the most promising women health leaders − who are already highly educated and experienced.  We designed this program after we had reviewed the progress made since the Equal Rights Amendment was extended to women, and found it to be uneven, and in some cases stalled out.  This is despite the fact that many fellowships in healthcare are at least 50 percent female.  There is data that indicate that women’s careers hit what has been colloquialized as the “glass ceiling” (or “steel door”) once they move beyond middle management.  Carol Emmott initially identified the desire to create a fellowship that could create an inflection point for women who have demonstrated that they are both committed and brilliant. Fortunately, we were quickly supported by 12 visionary health systems, who are seeking to create a better world.

We have recruited some of the most in-demand leaders to participate and share their expertise as faculty, mentors, champions, and executive sponsors.  We have been gratified to see a high level of support from these health leaders who have generously given of their time and insights. They see the need to address gender disparity as much as we do. They also know that to thrive their organizations depend upon a pipeline of exceptional senior leadership candidates. By being part of our program, they too benefit from the rich professional network that the fellowship is nurturing. 

Just as important was attracting high-caliber fellows representing the full spectrum of health challenges. We feel we exceeded expectations with our first class of fellows. Attracting the best and brightest to our program is central to providing participants with strategic networking connections they can turn to for support as their careers progress.  These women are already leading transformation, and will create a better, and fairer, environment for all.

What are you planning for the future?

We are working to find innovative ways to support our fellows, as they continue to work across the United States.  A key decision we made early on was to not ask fellows to leave their institutions for two years, as do many other fellowships.  So, connecting our fellows between our quarterly convergence conferences is essential and deserving of more than conference calls and webinar presentations.

We have planned an education exchange that marries the first-class mentoring and idea-sharing that is the cornerstone of the fellowship with today’s technology. This technology infrastructure will be important as we seek to expand the program and provide ongoing support and connection for our alumnae.

We also want to directly address the gender bias that is inherent in health organizations in multiple ways. We plan to develop a training on inherent bias that fellows can take back to their organizations and implement. This not only will help address the problem, but provides fellows with a strategic leadership opportunity.

Our fellows have identified the need to assist other women, especially women of color, in their home communities and organizations.  We are interested in supporting growth of the program and meeting this need by connecting with, and developing, additional leadership development opportunities. We want to make these opportunities less time and resource intensive by supporting their efforts through some of the same technologies we will be employing to connect our fellows. In this way, we are creating lower-cost options that could serve more women.  

We are actively seeking partners who are committed to seeing the same changes. There are many others who know that until we all have the opportunity to bring forward our whole-hearted efforts to transform our field, we will not succeed.  There are nongovernmental organizations, associations, health systems, universities, and corporations that we are interested in partnering with to create the breadth and depth of change we seek.  This year, we will be exploring further how to create even broader impact through partnership. 

Finally, we are exploring generating original research on the impact of gender disparity in health leadership. Those who work in the health field, and at the highest levels of medicine, see the problem vividly. They see the blind spots and gaps in perspective that have real consequences because today’s leadership does not fully reflect the workforce in health. Many outside of health, however, don’t understand the full extent of the problem and how it hampers innovation. We want to initiate research that helps illuminate the issue and helps accelerate solutions.

How will the fellowship support this growth?

We are attracting a high level of support from individuals and sponsoring organizations who grasp what’s at stake if we don’t address gender disparity in health leadership in our lifetime. But we need to expand on this base.

We know that our supporters also want to be engaged in our mission and be fully part of what we’re building. To fully recognize and say thanks to donors who give us $1,000 or more, we have formed the Catalyst Circle of sustaining support.

The group is named the Catalyst Circle because research shows we must intervene to make a difference in our lifetime. At the current pace, it will take more than a century for women to “catch up” given the current rate of change, and far longer for women of color.  We know our supporters agree that’s not acceptable and we will work together to close this gap in our lifetime.