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Jennifer Paroly of Tri-City Medical Center: “Become comfortable with change and disruption”

In the world of development, it is all about relationships. As a thought leader, you are in the enviable position where individuals come to you for insight and advice. This naturally leads to discussions and brainstorming that can identify opportunities. Building a strong team, in and of itself, will allow your business to grow. Knowing […]

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In the world of development, it is all about relationships. As a thought leader, you are in the enviable position where individuals come to you for insight and advice. This naturally leads to discussions and brainstorming that can identify opportunities. Building a strong team, in and of itself, will allow your business to grow. Knowing your team’s strengths and empowering them with the right resources creates new avenues for development, new platforms for growing relationships, developing lucrative projects, and discovering potential business opportunities. Success is a magnet for success.


As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Paroly.

Jennifer has worked with Tri-City Medical Center over 17 years. She is an experienced and innovative healthcare leader who is committed to ensuring the highest quality patient care through standard-setting programs, outreach and development/philanthropic initiatives. Focused public servant dedicated to ensuring that health-care facilities meet and exceed nationally recognized standards for the delivery of exceptional care to diverse communities. Additionally, she has managed the American College of Surgeons (ACoS)/Commission on Cancer (CoC) — Cancer Program accreditation at Tri-City Medical Center since 2008. She was also instrumental in Tri-City Medical Center receiving accreditation for its Breast Cancer Center by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC). These programs ensure the full continuum of cancer care from prevention through survivorship or end-of-life care and quality of life.

She accepted the role of President of the Tri-City Hospital Foundation in 2008. Leading up to that position, her development and fundraising experience includes serving as a volunteer leader for the Tri-City Hospital Foundation for the benefit of Tri-City Medical Center and Tri-City Healthcare District since 2008. As Chair of Community Health Initiatives and Physician Relations (CHIPR), she initiated and facilitated the launch of the Low-dose CT Lung Cancer Screening project and the FIT Colorectal Screening project. Launched and advanced grant funding for the medical center’s Cancer Care Navigator.

She originated a campaign to bring in ‘headliner’ entertainment to further develop the medical center’s major fundraising event — the Diamond Gall — leading to performances by Jay Leno, Dana Carvey, Bill Engvall, and Michael McDonald. She has chaired and co-chaired many of the Foundation’s annual fundraising galas since 2008, including the sell-out event with Jay Leno in 2016.

She has volunteered for the American Cancer Society (ACS) and ran the Carlsbad Half Marathon and the ING Marathon in New York City to raise money for the ACS. She is a member of the Board of Directors for the Catalina Film Festival, as well as a Wish-granter with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

She was awarded The Women Who Mean Business by the San Diego Business Journal; the Volunteer Award by the North County Philanthropy Council; and the Spirit Award by the American Cancer Society.

Jennifer is a native of Houston, TX and has lived in CA over 35 years. She has one amazing daughter and three delightful fur babies. She enjoys playing the piano, hot yoga, and sharing time with family and friends. She is an advocate of healthy lifestyles and rescue dogs.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I was born and raised in Houston, Texas and was very much influenced early in life by the devastating loss of my father, a pastor and musician. This forever changed me — and led me down a path of treasuring each day. It taught me to say those “I love yous’” and give those hugs in the moment and not take for granted that there will always be a tomorrow. This, coupled with my passion for music, directed my early career and volunteer choices. This eventually led me to a career in healthcare with a focus in cancer and a strong connection to non-profit activities. Those volunteer efforts dovetailed into my career as a fundraising professional.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

I can share, with authority, that I do not consider myself to be an authority! Seriously, I have always let my heart lead and have found my heart is my North Star.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

We spent many years using the same formula for our annual black-tie gala. And, for many years it worked (2+2=4). Then life and times started to shift, as they always do, and 2 + 2 no longer equaled 4. So, I suggested changing our formula. There was a great deal of consternation, push back, and even fear as my idea was to bring in a headliner to cast a larger net and audience. Of course, that meant greater expenses and greater risks on multiple levels; as well as wanting to always be good stewards to our donors. After a few years of arm twisting, mitigating the fear of the risk, a couple of teary, heartfelt appeals…. we finally had enough on board to move forward and we booked Jay Leno! Needless to say, we doubled our attendance and had to move to a larger venue. And, despite the additional costs, our bottom line was still highly successful. Immediately after the event the conversation was, “Who is coming next year?” The whole mindset had changed. Fortunately, it was a success and we have had headliners every year since. Last year we ventured into the music scene and had Michael McDonald! Disruptive changes can be risky, but OHHHHH the upside!!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?

I am not sure if it’s funny or more cringeworthy. At a fund-raising event I introduced myself to the CFO of our hospital (now our CEO) you might want to add his name? with my mind in a whirl as there was so much going on. Much to my chagrin, he very graciously reminded me we had met before. As common as this may be, the mistake crashes and reverberates around me to this moment. I think I just shuddered.

Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

In my effort to be gracious and accommodating (“the hostess with the mostest”), I neglected the most important aspect of interacting — the OTHER individual. As we know, people may not remember what you said, “…. but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Ok, thank you for that. Let us now jump to the focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is? How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?

It has been said that “thought leadership is by nature evolutionary, in that it must always be part of an evolving flow.” This means if I want to be a thought leader, I am evolving in who I am and how I lead. So, I should constantly look to develop creative solutions and inspire action to address the ever-changing matters we face as a people and as a society. (This creative approach can be chaotic, so be strategic enough to replicate your success.) Find your areas of expertise and share those ideas, in your own voice and style. “Share” is the operative word. And, having a great team alongside you is paramount, as is shining the spotlight on their accomplishments.

There are many great leadership styles, but as individuals, what style may work for one, may not work for another. It is not always a do A, then B, then C approach. It’s like music — there are musical scales that are always the same. An artistic musician moves the notes around the scale to compose a song. A typical leader may tend to fit a fluid melody into a static scale. I see many talented influencers, but I’m not sure that platform encourages others to be creative and individualistic the way a Thought Leader might.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader?

How long do you have? Lol! Discovering talents, abilities, and ideas that you didn’t know you possessed is one of the many benefits. Seeing through new eyes — yourself and the possibilities around you — will be life and career changing! I have found it helps connect my heart and my head, which is such an effective way to approach life. It enhances personal growth, as well as interpersonal relationships — and, let us be honest, you really can’t excel as a thought leader without recognizing the value of others.

Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

Putting energy into a thought-provoking mindset actually reenergizes us as individuals. If you take the time to invest your resources and energy, you will watch both increase exponentially, leading to greater successes and making a meaningful impact on your career and life.

Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?

In the world of development, it is all about relationships. As a thought leader, you are in the enviable position where individuals come to you for insight and advice. This naturally leads to discussions and brainstorming that can identify opportunities. Building a strong team, in and of itself, will allow your business to grow. Knowing your team’s strengths and empowering them with the right resources creates new avenues for development, new platforms for growing relationships, developing lucrative projects, and discovering potential business opportunities. Success is a magnet for success.

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we would love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.

1. Become comfortable with change and disruption. (See the Jay Leno story above)

2. Be passionate about learning everything you can about the topic, endeavor, and audience

3. Always look for a solution. Problems are a dime a dozen; be solution oriented.

4. Lead by personal example. Model the behavior you expect from those you lead.

5. Practice letting go — letting people find their stride. It may not always be perfect, but that’s perfectly ok!

6. Have a sense of humor. I cannot stress this enough. And it’s so important, I’ve been a rebel and added a 6th strategy.

In your opinion, who is an example of someone that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.

Without a doubt, Anne Sullivan. She was a Thought Leader long before the phrase was coined. She opened the heart of Helen Keller, which led to seeing and hearing in a way I strive for even to this day.

Sullivan led from the heart, was prepared, knew her audience, looked for solutions which initially caused chaos and disruption, and was passionate about success. And while she is mainly known for her audience of one, the world was forever changed.

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

I feel any term, idea, or thought that encourages or reminds us to reach for our highest and best should never be avoided. Rather, allow these “trite” terms to be used as a muse to inspire. Repetition can be extremely helpful in developing strong muscles, good habits, and certainly mindful ways to live and lead.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Be as kind to yourself as you are to others. Show yourself the same mercy you show to others.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Kindness. It’s free, renewable, simple, always available, and understood in every language.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

“You can’t go back and change the beginning. But you can start where you are and change the ending.” C.S. Lewis

Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“…start where you are…” applies to every aspect of my life and always inspires hope.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Lenny Kravitz lives by “Let Love Rule” and practices the same! It’s so critical — now more than ever and he shares it with a tangible, palpable caring. And he’s an incredible businessman. He just partnered with Steinway and Sons to design the “Kravitz Grand” a limited-edition grand piano. Steinway is iconic and a timeless classic. Lenny Kravitz is iconic and incredibly creative. He reaches across an eclectic and fascinating swath of humanity and business. Just brilliant!

How can our readers follow you online?

https://www.facebook.com/TriCityMedicalCenter/
https://www.facebook.com/TriCityHospitalFoundation/

Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.

This has been a humbling and enjoyable experience on so many levels! The pleasure was truly mine….

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