Alan Cullop currently serves as CIO and SVP at DaVita Healthcare Partners, Inc., a Fortune 500 company and a leading provider of health care services. During his 20+year career, he has led the development and expansion of IT systems and teams for numerous transaction-intensive businesses, including, Avis, Priceline.com, Orbitz.com, American Express, Wyndham, Holiday Inn Worldwide, Coldwell Banker/Sotherby’s and MCI. Alan began his career as a developer with MCI Communications and has served as CIO for 10+ years for complex global 100 companies including Berkshire Hathaway’s NetJets, Cendant and the TriZetto Group, a Healthcare Software Services Company. He holds a bachelor of science degree from the University of Tennessee and Georgia Tech’s Dupree College of Management Leadership Forum. Alan enjoys spending time with his family, reading and traveling.
DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc., a Fortune 500 company, is the parent company of DaVita Kidney Care and HealthCare Partners. DaVita Kidney Care is a leading provider of kidney care in the United States, delivering dialysis services to patients with chronic kidney failure and end stage renal disease. As of March 31, 2015, DaVita Kidney Care operated or provided administrative services at 2,197 outpatient dialysis centers located in the United States serving approximately 174,000 patients. The company also operated 93 outpatient dialysis centers located in 10 countries outside the United States. HealthCare Partners manages and operates medical groups and affiliated physician networks in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Florida and Colorado in its pursuit to deliver excellent-quality health care in a dignified and compassionate manner. As of March 31, 2015 HealthCare Partners provided integrated care management for approximately 830,000 patients. For more information, please visit DaVitaHealthCarePartners.com.
STEM and the Art of Value Creation
Alan Cullop, Chief Information Officer, DaVita HealthCare Partners, Inc.
Michelangelo once said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” Such sentiment speaks to the inherent potential of the creative process, and how inspiration can serve to make ordinary people achieve extraordinary results.
Taken in the context of the STEM crisis in the United States and the implications for America’s continued prosperity, I believe that there are three key priorities for the STEM community that can serve to inspire and engage our nation’s youth:
- Position STEM as a creative endeavor
- Create STEM ambassadors
- Contextualize the impact of STEM
Position STEM as a Creative Endeavor
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in occupations related to STEM is projected to grow to more than nine million by 2022.1 These are high-paying jobs, which give today’s students the financial security needed to provide for their families, live fulfilling lives and contribute to the evolution of a myriad of industries.
However, these facts have not convinced students to look at the STEM fields as areas of opportunity. Perhaps this comes as a result of a student’s socioeconomic background, educational environment or a sense that the complexity of these disciplines is too much to overcome. In fact, the 2015 U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index report notes that a range of cultural issues – including early bias and social expectations – still play a significant role in diverting students from the STEM fields, often before they reach college.2
Driving engagement among today’s students is dependent upon our ability to create excitement. Simply put, we must demonstrate that STEM can not only create value and solve complex problems, but also spark new ways of thinking about our culture, our country and our future.
The key to establishing excitement among students is to reposition our fields as creative endeavors. It is imperative that we create forums in which young minds can celebrate inspiration and channel their creativity. After all, STEM can – and should – be considered “modern art” that has room for theorems, equations and code, as well as beauty, simplicity and emotional impact.
Create STEM Ambassadors
As CIO at DaVita, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to help teammates, business partners and executives recognize how IT can facilitate change for the benefit of our patients and our enterprise. In many ways, I am an IT ambassador, responsible for espousing the value of innovation and generating consensus for how technology can truly transform patient care.
In this role, effective communications skills are critical, and the same applies for all prospective STEM professionals. If we want to generate interest and create successful STEM students, it is important that we focus on the arts as well, so students can build skills that allow them to serve as STEM ambassadors.
Being an effective STEM ambassador only comes if we truly connect with our intended audience, but doing so is a learned skill rather than an inherent trait for most of us in the STEM world. As a result, we first need to improve our communications skills – and help students become better communicators – so we can all convey a “why” that resonates, and most STEM fields require team work to be successful .
Second, and most importantly, we need to engage students in a manner that inspires them. In many ways, it’s a self-fulfilling cycle. If we’re inspired, students will engage. If we’re engaged, students will not only be inspired, they will serve as STEM ambassadors in their own right and improve their communication skills in the process.
Contextualize the Impact of STEM
I believe that people gravitate to a career that they connect with personally and gives them the opportunity to contribute to a mission that is larger than themselves. At DaVita, we put this into practice by caring for our patients, each other and our world.
Over the last 12 months in our home state of Colorado, we contributed more than $1.3 million in donations and thousands of volunteer hours to 90 nonprofits and community groups chosen by our teammates. The majority of these organizations focus on education and scholastic engagement among underserved communities in Denver.
By allowing our teammates to choose and influence DaVita’s philanthropic programs, we contextualize our efforts and create a sense of ownership that builds upon itself year after year. Teammates can choose things that matter to them and reflect their personal priorities, which drives engagement, participation and fulfillment.
In the case of STEM education, we should consider a similar approach. By connecting STEM to students’ values and experiences, we can increase recognition for their personal potential to effect positive change.
Furthermore, by contextualizing, we establish a framework that connects STEM to something larger. Perhaps our mission as STEM professionals should not be STEM education in and of itself, but rather to build a greater understanding that STEM roles are creative and exciting ways to solve many of the challenges students face each and every day.
Building engagement for the STEM fields among our country’s youth is a complex issue, and there is no single solution. However, we cannot expect a material change in outcome if we do not shift the engagement paradigm.
As we look ahead, we should expand our focus on communication and use the power of creative inspiration to connect with students in a meaningful way and demonstrate how STEM is as much an art as it is a science.
- “STEM 101: Intro to Tomorrow’s Jobs,” Occupational Outlook Quarterly, Spring 2014, bls.gov/ooq
- S. News & World Report / Raytheon STEM Index, June 29, 2015. http://www.usnews.com/news/stem-index/articles/2015/06/29/the-2015-us-news-raytheon-stem-index