January 28, 2022

Providence Female Leaders Share Perspectives on Leading Through Change with The Portland Business Journal

Recently, five Providence Health Plan (PHP) female leaders sat down with The Portland Business Journal for a panel discussion where they offered their insights on the topic of women navigating and leading through change. The five women — Marya Choudhry, health equity leader; Jill Nowak, business development director; Helen Noonan-Harnsberger, managed care and population health pharmacy leader; Caresse Sakagawa, vice president of product development and marketing; and Christa Shively, associate vice president of quality and interim leader of transformation management — shared their unique career paths as well as key lessons and experiences that have molded them into the leaders they are today.

Below are a few of the topics and insights from the panel discussion.


Their Individual Journeys

No two paths have been the same for each of these women. For example, Helen was inspired by a community pharmacist from her childhood to choose a career that would allow her to serve others. Christa previously worked in Washington D.C. for a Congressman and then for a federal organization before making her way to PHP. An inspirational story was shared by Marya Choudhry, who immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan at a young age, which she has cited as a pivotal moment in her life. This experience taught her lessons that have helped her flourish in the face of challenging situations throughout her life, “My journey has been very much defined by me wanting to continue to grow and learn as a person professionally and personally, absorbing information and learning from people who I work with at different levels of the organization.”


Key Lessons from the Pandemic

The pandemic has affected us all in one way or another. Despite the difficulties and hardships, these women learned crucial lessons including the importance of flexibility and how to foster relationships in a remote environment. One of the main takeaways the women shared was their desire to continuously show up for their teams and fellow caregivers. Caresse Sakagawa explained, “How we all showed up for each other throughout the pandemic has been really special - our team volunteered to help each other out with life – early on delivering groceries, shopping, doing household chores, finding childcare options and even providing childcare at times. These are the moments that really matter – it brought us closer and formed bonds that may not have otherwise happened.”


The Importance of Setting Career Goals

Throughout their careers, these women have found it extremely beneficial to set career goals and identify various ways to achieve them. Whether through mentorship, educational workshops or training programs, each person has taken proactive steps to develop new skills and grow competencies. Jill Nowak offered this advice for anyone looking to set and achieve career goals, “While it's worthwhile to check what else is out there, to try new projects, new roles, maybe work for another company, don't forget to take advantage of opportunities that are probably available where you already work.” 


Continuing to Serve Members

Not only leaders within PHP, but the panelists are also caregivers who serve members daily. As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, PHP has worked continuously to provide members with the services and resources to enable the best possible experience. Although each person works in a different area within PHP, they all understand the importance of taking care of members and helping them navigate complex situations that they or loved ones may be facing. Caresse Sakagawa shared the promise that PHP has for members and how she takes it to heart every day in her role, “As an organization comprised of high-quality doctors, hospitals, cancer institutes and a health plan, we have a promise ‘know me, care for me, ease my way,’ which is how we approach our work. Part of our core values is to show up for members in a meaningful way, treating everyone with dignity and respect.”


We are grateful to have these women who embody our Mission as caregivers at PHP! We encourage you to read the article from The Portland Business Journal in its entirety here.

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