Women Of The C-Suite: “Don’t be afraid to have a voice, and don’t be afraid to use it, but do it in a collaborative fashion” With Angela Dowling of Cambia Health Solutions

Over the course of her career, Angela Dowling has designed and implemented creative solutions that align business strategies with consumers’ health needs. As chief revenue officer, Angela drives revenue strategies across brands, products and markets by bringing greater integration and accountability while directing the organization to create better health care experiences for consumers. Angela’s leadership […]

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Over the course of her career, Angela Dowling has designed and implemented creative solutions that align business strategies with consumers’ health needs. As chief revenue officer, Angela drives revenue strategies across brands, products and markets by bringing greater integration and accountability while directing the organization to create better health care experiences for consumers. Angela’s leadership has helped position Cambia as a trusted advisor to many of the Northwest’s most respected companies at a time when sound strategic health care decisions are more critical than ever. In her role as market president, Angela directs and guides the overall performance of the Oregon health plan, including sales, provider contracting, government affairs and community relations. Prior to coming to Cambia in 2012, Angela served at Payne Financial Group, Inc. for 10 years, most notably as chief revenue officer. Angela also served in national account sales at United Health Care in New York City, as the business development officer at Hewitt Associates in New York City, and as market vice president at Aetna Health Plans in Philadelphia. While being a scholarship athlete in college, Angela received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of Michigan.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was living in Montana and doing very well as a benefits practice leader for Payne Financial Group. At the time, I was driven by competition and helping employers cut costs that they could then reinvest in their businesses. But one conversation with a client helped me realize that my influence was limited.

That moment of clarity came on the floor of a farming facility. One of my best customers was a farmer who had 200 or so employees. Clearly frustrated, he walked me over to see his office staff: six or so workers who were all overweight, drinking sodas and eating junk food. “These people are the backbone of my company, and I’m incredibly worried about them,” he said. “I don’t need another spreadsheet telling me how I can save percentages — I need someone who can help my staff turn their lives around through healthier choices. Otherwise I’m going to lose them, and then where will I be?” I walked away from that conversation determined to play a bigger part in the delivery side of health care in order to truly change peoples’ health, and my next stop was Cambia.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I’ve had multiple conversations with hospital and physician leaders. They universally care about their patients, but their lens can sometimes be limited to the specific moment in time when a person is in their ER or doctor’s office. As a partner to employers and an advocate for our members, it’s my role to bring a more holistic view to the conversation: “What will their follow up appointment be like?”, “How can we better coordinate data sharing between their other care providers to provide a 360 view of their health?”, and “What support systems do these patients need to actually stick to their medications or physical therapy plans (and avoid readmission)?” Bringing this perspective to the health care conversation — channeling the voice and concerns of the people we serve every day — with leaders who have the greatest opportunity to create change, that’s my most interesting and rewarding challenge.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

My first job out of college might as well have been a scene out of Glengarry Glen Ross: a sales office full of men, smoking so many cigarettes you could barely see the clock twenty feet away. It was a tough crowd to break into! And an HR violation nightmare on so many levels — both funny and a little scary to think back on to be honest.

My first year I didn’t sell a thing. Finally, one of the long-time administrators, a woman named Carol, took pity on me and took me under her wing. She taught me the business and how to sell, one day at a time. By the end of that second year, I was the top sales person nationally, and it was largely due to her. Valuable advice can come from anywhere. Thankfully in my moment of near defeat I was willing to listen and be taught.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

For the past ten plus years, Cambia has had a singular focus of transforming health care to revolve around the consumer. So much of peoples’ everyday experiences with health care reveals a broken system…one that is too expensive, too complex, and too time consuming.

My most recent example came in the pharmacy line. I got to the checkout counter and was told my son’s prescription skin care ointment had jumped up to $262. Same product, same packaging, now with a 300%+ markup overnight. Thankfully, because I work in this industry, I was able to pull out my phone and access MedSavvy — a Cambia Rx comparison solution — to search for an effective alternative and convince my pharmacist to switch to a medication that costs $230 less.

We all have examples like this where sticker shock poisons our experience with the health care system. The fact of the matter is that health care has lagged far behind other industries when it comes to delivering a simpler, better and more affordable experience. That’s what we’re urgently trying to create for consumers.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Everything I just talked about, we will be solving with a service we are launching soon! It will combine leading-edge technology and personalization with human touch, simplifying people’s health care experiences, and providing them with a single place for all their health and wellbeing information — — wherever and whenever they are on their journey. I believe this will be a game changer for our industry and consumers. More to come!

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive? What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

I would give this advice to anyone, regardless of gender: don’t be afraid to have a voice, and don’t be afraid to use it, but do it in a collaborative fashion. Too often people get dictated, “this is what we’re going to do, and this is how we’re going to do it.” In today’s day and age, that’s not how business gets done. To truly get buy-in, especially with your younger workers, you need to put in the time for consensus building. Listen, be open, and encourage collaboration so everyone has a voice. It takes a lot longer than a top-down directorial style, but ultimately, it gets everyone collectively moving to the finish line faster, and with better results.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

A boss from my former broker life in Montana taught me the power in asking for what you want. He gave me a lot of rope — enough to hang myself — but thankfully our relationship was strong, and I had the confidence to ask for more responsibility and steer my career in a proactive direction. He encouraged me and gave me the freedom to pursue my own path. It was a valuable lesson: don’t wait for the door to open, push it open yourself.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I’m fortunate to be a mentor — formally and informally — to many people throughout our organization. We all spend a majority of our waking hours with our co-workers. To be a trusted voice that helps people deal with their challenges and grow professionally and personally is incredibly rewarding.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. Don’t worry so much — it’s going to be a great journey
  2. Speak up sooner — ask for the leader role before you think you’re ready (because you more than likely are ready)
  3. Trust your gut — it’s always right
  4. Take care of yourself, you can’t do it all if you’re not healthy
  5. Continue to treat others with care and respect, no matter your role or title — it is the right thing to do.

You are a person of great 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. 🙂

I’m very passionate about food insecurity. When people think about social determinants of health, they tend to go right to homelessness and mental illness. These are critical challenges, but access to healthy, nutritious food is almost more fundamental and impacts so many people across our country. If we can tackle hunger, we can move the needle on some of our nation’s most pressing health challenges and give people the opportunity to be more effective in whatever it is they choose to do.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“What could you accomplish if you knew you could not fail.” I think about this daily in trying to get my team to always focus on what’s possible, rather than being overcome by our challenges. We can do SO MUCH more — especially together — than what we think we can.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for all the obvious reasons!

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