Sonal is the CEO of First Baptist Medical Center and has spent a career in healthcare administration. She’s served at places such as Parkland Hospital, United Surgical Partners, and Baylor Scott & White. You will really enjoy the conversation and discussion of the healthcare industry!


Aaron Spatz  00:00

You’re watching America’s Entrepreneur on Youtube. Welcome to the show. I’m your host, Aaron Spatz. And each week we interview entrepreneurs, industry experts, and other high achievers as a detail their personal and professional journeys. Before we jump in, hit the subscribe button and be sure to hit the bell icon so you’re notified every time we release a new episode. Thank you so much for tuning in this week. I’m so excited to bring to you just another amazing conversation with with some incredible people in business. And I’m really excited today to welcome Sonal Ellison to the show someone comes to us from a health care health administration background. And so she got her start at Parkland, worked at Baylor Scott and White Health for a number of years, and most recently is the CEO of First Baptist Medical Center. And so Sonal I just want to welcome you to the show. Thank you so much for being here this morning.

Sonal Ellison  00:49

Thank you so much for having me. Absolutely. So

Aaron Spatz  00:51

I mean, I’m going to ask you some of the most obvious questions ever. So it’s like one is going to be like, how? How did you decide or what, like what caused you to want to get involved in the healthcare business?

Sonal Ellison  01:03

Very good. Um, so back when I was much younger, and of course, I was applying to colleges and trying to decide what I was going to do with my career, I really had my heart set on becoming a physician. And so I went to Texas a&m university, I got my undergraduate degree in microbiology, I did some opportunities to serve in the community, as well as in different cities. I then started taking my MCAT to really apply to medical schools. And at that time, I was working in Austin, Texas, for an ophthalmologist where I was doing a lot of patient care and taking care of patients working with physicians and nurses working in hospitals. And I was watching at that time, a lot of physicians and their lifestyle, and how much commitment it took to become a physician. I determined that for my own personal reasons, I didn’t think that I had it in me to be in school for the next 15 years. And so I was chatting with hospital administrators and physicians and nurses, and asking, you know, what other outlets are there because if I was going to be in patient care for me, it was very important to be a physician. And so they said, Honestly, you’re, you’re a natural leader, you have no problem kind of, you know, taking charge, dealing with ambiguity, you may look into hospital administration, and I was of the opinion that hospital administrators were only physicians or nurses that did that as a part of their career. I didn’t know that that was something with people with a varied background, could get a master’s and maybe pursue a career in this set. And quickly, I learned that this is an opportunity. I applied to Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. It was one of the top 10 schools in the state of Texas back then. And I received admission. And then from there, I enjoyed the program. I was determined to have a residency at an academic medical center. And I really think now watching even my children and watching my nephews and nieces go through programs similar to that or even in different industries. I knew that my passion in academic medical centers was I wanted to be very close to the action I wanted to see level one trauma center, I wanted to be a part of a level four nursery I wanted to be a part of a regional Burn Center and see where everything happened. And so I had my heart set on Parkland health and hospital system in Dallas, Texas. I was accepted into that residency, and had the most amazing experiences there, where I was administrator on call during 911. And our CEO actually passed away while being in office at that time, there were some critical things in healthcare that happened during my tenure at Parkland. And then I was asked to interview with a up and coming company at that time called United surgical partners, which now united surgical Partners is a part of the Tennant healthcare system and the largest ambulatory surgery company in the entire nation. And that really had a great impact on my career. And it was great. Then I decided to step back, I have three kids and we live here in Dallas, and I decided right before the pandemic to take a step back and just to kind of focus on where really my next stage of my career was going to go. And the pandemic happened. And it couldn’t have been a better time to be at home with three kids, three different schools. And then first back just came knocking at the door and this was a great opportunity for me given my career in big health care systems in our metroplex, as well as for profit, not for profit, private public, Lee held health care organization to really slow down and focus on one organization that’s not associated with a bigger hospital system.

Aaron Spatz  05:06

Yeah. Wow. I mean, that’s, that’s quite the story. And I mean, there’s there’s so many different ways that we could we could go from here. But the what I find interesting, and I think you’re just you’re simply hitting on something that I think a lot of people don’t understand is like, Okay, well hospitals need leadership to to thrive and to grow and to continue to run, you know, their day to day operations and the vision of, of the organization and so forth. And I think, I think there’s a lot of people who just don’t even realize that that is that that is an option, it’s, it’s all focused as on being a surgeon or being a doctor or being a nurse or whatever the role happens to be. And so you’re, like you’re playing to your strengths of leadership, and being able to communicate effectively to people. And so you pursued this other avenue. And so looking back on that now, over the last several years, like how, how would you say like, that’s that, that that’s affected? Like, you’re just you’re like, your view of healthcare has obviously changed permanently, once you started to go down the administration route. But what, what are some things that people maybe not understand, or maybe they just miss, when it comes to healthcare, like the the administration side of it?

Sonal Ellison  06:20

Sure, they may think it’s very easy. I will say that I mentor a ton of young entrepreneurs and leaders and up and coming leaders, and they find that it seems very easy. And I said, you’re very transparent. And being in health care has its own sets of uniqueness. And you never shut down, especially at a hospital. So if there’s snow outside, you’re getting there, if there’s a tornado, you are always worried, you’re always engaged, you’re always plugged in, you’re always looking for opportunities to serve your community, and to increase the health of your population. And that sound, that’s just a statement. But the fact of the matter is, there’s so much responsibility that goes with it. Being a leader of any organization, whether it’s healthcare or not, health care, is a big responsibility on that leader, they’ve taken the livelihoods of not only the patients, the physicians, as well as just as the staff, their careers in their hands, and they’re responsible for them. And so I personally take it very serious. And I’m always looking for opportunities for people to grow, develop, increase their service lines, increase their knowledge, increase the opportunities, that we have to make an impact in our community. Of course, we can talk about COVID, and how we kind of shaped our businesses around those items. But what people seem to think about healthcare administration is that it is easy, because you’re just the boss. Well, there’s a lot you have to be well rounded in so many different aspects of administration, whether it’s management, whether it’s financial accounting, whether it’s clinical outcomes, whether it’s quality, patient experience, you’re looking at statistics, you’re looking at financial projections, you have to be very good at HR, you have to be good at interviewing to be good at politics and babysitting, because you’re dealing with people of all ages, and of all different backgrounds that have different reasons that brought them into healthcare.

Aaron Spatz  08:31

Yeah, I mean, it’s a it’s just just my opinion, just hearing you describe that. I mean, it’s, it can be a very intense job, because I’m just thinking about the the complexities of managing people that are like incredibly expert at a specific type of job that they’re doing, right. And then like, so you’re responsible, kind of orchestrating all this data, make sure that it all plays well. And everybody plays nice. And so that I could deal with a lot of different egos, right, dealing with a lot of different department priorities. And so just having having to help lead all of that, I think, for a lot of people, like I mean, as you so well put, there’s just, there’s a lot more that goes into it. And so my question is, then, like, how is that like, how do we make this more of an option for people who I just I don’t get the sense that there’s a lot of attention or a lot of spotlight put on healthcare administration. So like, how, like, how would somebody evaluate their, their maybe their own potential desire to go in to go into that field? Because it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a very unique place to be right. So like, what, what are some things that people should look for? That would maybe alert them to the fact that hey, you know, this may be actually a really good career option for for me or maybe you know what, I’ve never I’ve never considered that before.

Sonal Ellison  09:51

Well, that’s very good question. So I will say that the popularity or the information behind Healthcare Administration has grown immensely. It was almost 20 years ago, 20 plus years ago that I was in a Master’s of Healthcare Administration program, of which at that time, and, of course, at that age, you think you know it all anyways, but thought you’re well connected and what your career options can be. I did take it upon myself, as well as any organization, healthcare organization, and educational organization that I was a part of, after that time period to really increase the knowledge base of what Healthcare Administration is, and to show young, and not just young because healthcare administration can be so obviously, it’s a leadership position, where requires a little bit of past experiences to work on. So it’s not, unfortunately, it’s not something that you just walk into, and you’re CEO of the hospital tomorrow. Really, those best leaders are those that have a well rounded background, not only in clinic, clinical experiences and financial, know how in strategic planning, but also just have, as you said, a well rounded background, I have a true passion of mentoring and leading people into their next stage of their career. So taking nurses and techs and physicians and really working with them, and saying you can do more, if you’re a part of this committee, so many surgeons and physicians join committees, where they just, you know, check the minutes and go over variances and reports and really just say, Okay, I’ve done my duty and walk out the door, I can give you examples of COVID, where you really can take that responsibility a little bit further and really shape how you’re going to respond to a healthcare community or health care need in our community. Um, back to what I was saying about walking in, and being a CEO, right out of your master’s degree, I’ve dealt with that a lot, a lot of individuals think, you know, have this master’s degree from this great accredited program. Now, you know, I want to be given the opportunity that everybody else has been given to be a leader right off the bat, well, that just doesn’t happen, doesn’t matter. Sometimes what’s your background is, a lot of times, it’s what you can contribute at that moment, in a meeting, in a boardroom, in front of patients, in front of physicians in front of other leaders that’s really going to sing your song and tell a story about how you can lead the organization, because your stakeholder, I akin it a little bit to a principal of a school, it is very similar, you have so many different stakeholders, you have the student, which should be your patient, you should have your nurses, which are usually your teachers and your other providers, which are your school staff. Then you also have the the, you know, healthcare community and the public persona, the payers and everybody else so that I would akin to the parents. And so there’s parents, and then there’s the community and all these things. There’s so many different stakeholders, that a lot of times people just think, Well, I’m really good at telling people what to do. So I’m going to be really good as a hospital administrator, are you empathetic? Are you intelligent? Are you quick on your feet? Can you really think about what this decision is going to do to something five years down the road? Those kinds of things are very important.

Aaron Spatz  13:13

Yeah, I mean, that’s a that’s a great comparison in terms of the because that’s something that most people can get their head around if they’re if they’re very foreign, when it comes to understanding how the healthcare system works, and just what what that looks like, most everybody has dealt with, with school or school aged kids at some point, right. So it is it’s a lot easier to kind of draw a comparison. And I mean, to your point, I mean, there’s a tremendous amount of listening. I mean, I’m just thinking of like the principal for the school that my kids go to, I mean, that lady does a ton of listening, man, she is always having to manage competing priorities, competing interests, happy and unhappy people. And so there’s always there’s always something right, there’s always something to consider. And so you become really good at In fact, I even think your your LinkedIn profile said something about being diplomatic, right, there’s a, there’s a, there’s a tremendous amount of diplomatic skill involved in what you’re doing. And so I think that say, for people that are wanting to be kind of in the middle of the action, I think it’s a great it’s a great place to be but then to your point, you’re in this I’m kind of I’m kind of taking some Liberty here to just kind of make an assessment of what I think you’re you’re another point you’re making which like for people that want to make an impact they need to come in they need to add value however, however that would shape up so whether it’s, you know, helping physicians or helping patients or families or other health care administrators within within that organization like how how are you as like a recent master your masters graduate that you think you’re ready for this? How are you contributing to to the team and then trusting that hey, you know, you, you went to bat on an issue for some people or you’re you’re starting to understand the ropes over Time, then you’re gonna have opportunities to start to present themselves to you. But it’s it’s certainly not something that you should expect, I guess rock walking right off of the graduation stage. Yeah, for example. So

Sonal Ellison  15:11

Oh, yeah, I mean, we deal with it a lot. And still more often than that. It’s, I, if somebody goes into this industry, I think that they need to choose their mentors wisely. And the first programs that they’re a part of, I couldn’t have been more blessed to be at Parkland and to have had the mentors that I had to have conversations, you have to bounce right back to, it’s a lot of feedback. And I think that’s actually a good point to people that are interested in going into this career have to know that they are exposed, that might be a little more of a negative term, but a little vulnerable. And, again, you said it, you know, you’re going to give someone the opportunity to lead, you’re going to give someone that kind of responsibility, where there’s risks that go with it, as well as responsibility to the people receiving it, not just are you given the responsibility, but you have a responsibility? Yeah, I touched on it a little bit earlier about a responsibility with their careers, responsibility with their loved ones responsibility with maybe how their lifestyle is going to be changed by this health care intervention. There’s so many things that go into your responsibilities as a health care administration, that I think that people need to be mindful of it.

Aaron Spatz  16:24

Well, and then shifting gears just ever so slightly here than to is, I mean, you’re, you’re running a business, I mean, let’s like, let’s not let’s not kid ourselves, like this is a real this is a this is a legitimate, real business with millions and millions of dollars at stake. And so, I mean, you’re you’re having you’re having to constantly scrutinize and understand exactly what what your numbers are. And so for a lot of people and, again, share as much or as little as you’d like, on this topic, but but like for for people, they’re trying to get their head around, like what that looks like in terms of just managing the the financial position of, of a, of any kind of health care site, like what what are some of the biggest expenses are some of the biggest variables to profitability that people need to be really wary of?

Sonal Ellison  17:12

Sure. So I’m probably a good person to talk about this. I’ve worked for public entities, private entities, publicly traded entities, governmental, non government position at all of the above. And so some of the biggest stakeholders that we kind of project to or are fiscally responsible to, can include a majority of healthcare systems is Medicare. So Medicare is the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services run by the federal government. And some healthcare organizations are a part of Medicare, some are not. But regardless, if you’re participating with Medicare, and Medicaid, and you’re not all your payment structure goes around how it will be paid. And so I was taught very young, that if you follow the dollar, but specifically my organization’s the healthcare dollar, through a system or during a decision making process, you will discover who your stakeholders are. And you will understand the pitfalls and and helping your strategic decision making and understanding where everybody at the table that’s advising or has an input and what where they’re coming from. Yeah, Medicare is the big one. Then you’ve got your big payers, so I’m really starting in bare bones. So you’ve got your, you know, Blue Cross Blue Shield and your signals and your atlas and your night united. Those are all huge payers. Where else is your health care dollar coming from when I worked at Parkland, it was the county. And so Dallas County was a major contributor to the funding for our hospitals, in how we were able to provide care for which access groups throughout the community. And that’s a big one. Obviously, in my later part of my career, I’ve been a part of physician owned operations. So your physicians, surgeons, most specifically, most of my most recent organizations, have led to capital campaigns and contributed to the foundation and then future well being of those hospitals. Of course, then those hospitals are sustained through the payment mechanisms that we’ve been set forth with. But again, it’s all based off of Medicare, even if you take Medicare, you don’t take Medicare, you put your financial policies kind of around those parameters, and what codes are billable and what codes are reimbursable there’s so much to the complexity of health care that you definitely are never bored at but if you are one of those people that have an expectation of unexpected schedule, or an understanding of really, maybe where things are going to go it’s very hard to be a part of healthcare because it’s changing and it touches every single person in a good and bad Whether it’s the birth of a child, or the passing of a loved one, or a, you know, a diagnosis that people can’t even understand or a diagnosis that people can understand, if you’re involved in so much, almost every aspect of people’s lives, that it’s a huge responsibility.

Aaron Spatz  20:19

How’s that feel? How does that how does that responsibility feel?

Sonal Ellison  20:23

It is a big responsibility. I have teenage children, and I’m, I’ve been trying to mentor them and teach them my husband and I are giving them words of wisdom. But we say, whatever career you end up choosing, you will have responsibilities, you will have responsibilities to your home life, as well as to those professionals around you and to your stakeholders. It’s scary, it’s intimidating. It’s also inspiring. And if you are a faithful person, it can also become a mission, a mission to not just serve the patients, which is usually the canned response you get in a college application. But it can also be a mission to those around you. Whether you’re in a boardroom, or you’re in an interview, or you’re chatting with, you know, people that want to sell something to your health care organization, there’s so many stakeholders that you better like people or it’s not going to be a career for you.

Aaron Spatz  21:21

That’s a that’s a great word right there. Because yeah, I mean, it’s it is it is a it is a 100% People focus business. I mean, there is just, I mean, there are so many different stakeholders, or so many different people that contribute, and play and play a part in some way in into making this whole thing possible. And so, yeah, people, people are pretty important. So you better be You better be the kind that, that that enjoys being on interact with, with all sorts of people on different levels of responsibility and so forth. So it’s fascinating, really, really fascinating. But how so you, you talked a little bit about your, your transition out? Right, right, like right before COVID was really hitting. So share with me a little bit about that, and like kind of your decision to do that. And then the COVID impact and then what and then your your reentry, yeah. Back into it.

Sonal Ellison  22:16

So if you were in health care, obviously in January of 2020, you’re watching this. You know you you’re watching CNN or You’re watching Fox and you were the local news, and you’re watching it come by Coronavirus, and so as like any other healthcare admin, administrator or professional, I’m thinking okay, is this the next swine flu? Is this Ebola, you know, is are we gonna see the impact, like we did or didn’t with saving Ebola and again, I said, I’m in here in Dallas, and our beloved health care partners, Texas Health Resources dealt with Ebola firsthand. So I’m just curious on how it would impact then it started taking shape very, very quickly. At that time, that was in my personal professional life, a strategic time for me to make a decision with where I was in my career. Where am I headed? Where am I going, I decided to step back for my own reasons. At a time when we were hitting a global pandemic, who no one knew was a global pandemic. So this is back in about when was it in February. And so changing my professional perspective, stepping back and releasing, where I want to go in healthcare already conquered major health, a hospital system in a big metropolitan community, over 1000 beds, we delivered more babies and then the other hospital, we were a national or regional Burn Center at Parkland. We had done all those great things. I’d actually even with the United surgical partners gotten to go back to Parkland to help them design their first ever ambulatory surgery center. So I’d really conquered that market. Then I’d gone to put my career into United surgical partners, which now we became tenant, all those great opportunities of building ambulatory surgeries, in short, say surgical facilities from the ground up, acquiring them, integrating them expanding them. But I spent a long career in that. And I was really looking and thinking to myself, what is next, like, what do you want to do with this? You have a lot of knowledge, you have a lot of passion for the healthcare community, where are you going to take this? I stepped back global pandemic hits, and then you’re sitting there, and we’re not sitting there very much because I have three children and three different schools. We had high school, middle school and elementary, so I did not know. And that was probably where I made my association with being a principal is that I was going to be a full time educator. And so where my passions lie in healthcare administration, the responsibility of student education is a significant one. And so one that I’m not as diverse in was always a very good student, but I don’t know Good have a at home learning educator I was. So we moved on and and at that time was trying to decide so am I going to stay because if you were a healthcare professional at that time and mature, a lot of us were handicapped, right? So and you’re sitting there, you don’t know how to answer the call. If you weren’t in a big response hospital or community based hospital system. You had a lot of time on your hands to think and to decide, you know, what’s happening around me. What can I do if I’m not taking care of COVID patients or making plans for the recovery of COVID patients were response to them, then what am I doing in healthcare? I was inspired, and I thought, What am I going to do? First Baptist approached me a number of other health care organizations big and small approached me, and I really was very tactful in which organization I went to next. I had already been a part of two major health care systems in our metroplex, Baylor Scott and White health care, as well as parkland. And so I decided I really wanted to hone in on my passion for physician owned operations. And so that’s why I chose first Baptist. Now. I loved it because little did I know what was planned ahead for us. I started and two days or two days later, our state of Texas Governor Abbott re issued a mandate to cease all elective cases. So if I’m a physician owned surgical specialty organization, that is all we do. That’s okay. And team came in, I’m not a part of a big giant healthcare system. I’m not a part of the Dallas County. So what are we going to do for our organization, which has ICUs, we have er, we you know, and we have a patient care beds, we have operating rooms, we have everything. So what we determined was if we obviously kept 25% occupancy in the event that COVID patients need to come to our hospital, we can continue operations, we continued our operations, we thrived, we responded. But again, other than if they arrived with COVID, which were a small surgical hospital, they’re usually going to go to the big ones, we really weren’t impacting. And so that was my that was more my healthcare side and my community side and my mission side that said, Maybe we should look for ways that we can help our healthcare community partners in Dallas. As soon as the vaccine became available. We don’t have the huge bureaucracy at our health care at our hospital. So I gathered with my stakeholders and said, Can we need to order the vaccine, we will do whatever we need to to be able to store this vaccine. I said we’re malleable, pliable, we are accessible enough to the public that if we were to get the vaccine, we wouldn’t have to go through a whole you know, two weeks of implementation or something we could get a shot in an arm asst as we got it. And thankfully, the state of Texas actually gave first Baptist small surgical hospital of vaccines in 2020, at the end of the year, and we were one of the first hospitals to be able to start getting vaccines in people’s arms, we got limited doses, we got a little bit more. As time progressed, in fact, we’ve got we’ve been getting larger and larger shipments. And I’ve challenged my staff to say that we are surgical specialty, but we are going to do our part to fight the pandemic. And what we can do. We also do COVID testing. But that was big, and that was very big for my organization. This hospital also during COVID had a great opportunity to pivot. You know, COVID vaccination is not a business pivot, that is a response to your community. This hospital, we were able to pivot in our service lines, we were able to partner with Southwest transplant Alliance, at a time when all hospitals shut down everything but COVID response as they should have. But people still needed care and people were still passing away in Oregon still needed to be harvested. So southwest transplant Alliance was building their own facility right behind our hospital, they came to us and asked if we would partner with them, and their life saving mission and what a great opportunity that was for my staff for the community for this patients in those families and the future people that they save, and we partnered with them and became a center of choice for them to go ahead and help them with the harvesting of organs and do transfer. We didn’t do the transplants, we got the organs ready for transplantation as they needed. And so that’s a big area of healthcare as well that’s needed.

Aaron Spatz  29:32

Wow. Man, that’s like that’s a lot. Like there’s a lot there’s a lot that was going on in your life. And so it’s really neat that you were able to take a temporary step back and really like focus on your family during a lot of that time, but then also being able to respond to to these various needs. And so yeah, I mean, no doubt I can’t imagine how many people were knocking on your door looking, you know, looking forward to tap your expertise. and your your leadership experience? Because then I mean, I mean, you’re you’re right, you’re right back in right back in the mix of it all. And so I mean, of course, again, I’m not I’m not asking you to, like predict the future or anything here, but like the, but it is interesting just to see kind of how far we’ve come. And I’m, I’m curious, just you know, Okay, are there other other strains of the virus out? There are like, wait, you know, do we have our people? Are people truly immune? What is the, you know, what’s the long term effects of these vaccinations? Like, there’s a lot, I think there’s just there’s a lot of unknowns. But I think I would like to think anyway, that people have been just making the most of, of the situation that they’ve been given. And just going forward, and I feel like Texas handled the situation pretty well. I’m sure there’s always places to improve on of course, but, but I would say, and I just, I look for your feedback on that. It’s like, what, what do you think in terms of how, you know, how’s the state? And again, you feel free to answer as little or as not of this as you’d like to but, but I’m just curious, like, kind of just from your perspective of like, you know, how, how have we done as a as a state? And then really, as a country responding to this? And like, what do you think the future holds for all this?

Sonal Ellison  31:18

Well, I’m very pleased with our response in the state of Texas to having had to deal with a global pandemic. And coming out of it, we were one of the first states to lift the mass mandate to really get back in the after getting vaccinations in a significant part of the populations arms, and really responding to it. Now, we have a lot of things going for us, we have significant infrastructure, we have large dynamic healthcare systems that can help us with our decision making, we spread out that is also a challenge, a challenge as well, as a benefit. We are large geographically, but then, you know, our counties can act as little states or larger cities, and, you know, just implementing things and infrastructure. Texans by nature are very independent. And so they can take on a challenge, and really take it to the next level and respond to it just how us as a state would need to respond to it for our greater good, they may not be as good with their patients. And so that’s why they’re going to be quick to go into decisions. And it is controversial. Do you lift the mass mandate? Do not do you get those vaccines out there? Do you require a vaccine do not require a vaccine, our schools were very much on the up and up, I live, actually north of Dallas Fort Worth, I live in Allen, Texas, and our school districts did a fabulous job of getting those students in our community back in the classroom learning that, of course, they had those two options that everybody else had, or most people had, but really making it so that the students can get back to normal. And I can’t overemphasize how important getting back to normal is. Yes, there is risks in it healthcare risks in it with a disease that spreads so fast as with COVID-19. But there is the mental anguish and the social anguish that I’m still seeing. And we I think we will continue to see into the future student life a family life, employee life has all changed the way that we do things, the way that we respond to situations how we get involved, how much we commune with one another, I do think that’s going to have an impact on people’s ability to thrive, and to even adapt to situations. So unfortunately, probably over the next five years, we’re gonna see the impact of this almost year, year and a half event, and how it really shaped the rest of our lives. Of course, we were around for 911. And that was so significant and had such an impact for so many years to come and still does in our security efforts and such. But this, you know, lasted in everyone’s life for a year and a half. And this wasn’t something that just happened in the United States. So watching it kind of ripple through every population is going to be hard. No, I don’t have a specifics on to the efficacy of our vaccine, and how we’re going to be able to or how and how well we are controlling COVID But there’s COVID. And then there’s all of the implications around the other health care needs around COVID. So the people that delayed their heart care, their diabetic care, those that gained lost weight, didn’t get outside didn’t get that vitamin D, change their eating habits, change their exercise habits, and I go back to this the psychological effects and the isolation effects. I think those are significant.

Aaron Spatz  34:56

Yeah, no, I it’s to your point. I really do think it’s funny Interesting in like the next three to five to 10 years just understanding that from a study, I think there, there will no doubt be countless medical studies and all the other research, other research studies done on that, because that that is it’s fascinating. It’s one of the things that doesn’t get talked about, I don’t think nearly enough I do. I love how mental health has one, it should never have a stigma, but for whatever reason it has in society, but over the last several years, I feel like that, like the ability for people to talk about that has has definitely increased. And so I love I love seeing that, right, I love seeing that people can more openly talk about how important it is to care to care for themselves to take care of themselves mentally, as well. And so it is interesting to see, and it will be interesting. I don’t know if interesting is the right word. I’m trying to try to say it respectfully. But you know, but just the impact that COVID has had on people from a from a mental standpoint, that that’ll it’ll be fascinating to see kind of what that looks like, long term. And he made a great point, though, like with, with 911. I mean, we’re talking to very, very specific events, had a very distinguished, you know, start and stop, obviously, there was a whole ripple effect of, of security implications for our country. But, but for COVID, like you said, everybody experienced it for over a year. And so like, I mean, that’s, it’ll, it’ll be interesting, I guess, just to see just how much of an impact that that’s going to have on people just for the next 20 plus years.

Sonal Ellison  36:31

Yeah, I mean, I’ve had the fortune or misfortune of dealing with that, as well as so many other things in my career. Yeah. And, and those two events have been a part of my healthcare career. And so well, I guess, I mean, I guess that’s kind of a lame statement. Because if you were alive during those times, and of the right age, it’s going to have impact all over and just sure, but it does it, I cannot overemphasize how much we will start to see the implicant implications of our decision making socially and psychologically for all those around us around COVID. Because the isolation is a real thing. And I don’t think that we have come accustomed to isolation and now dealing with it and the lost opportunities, and making the most of opportunities, you may see people be more renegade now that they’ve understood how temporary things can be and how you may not have tomorrow.

Aaron Spatz  37:27

So you know, working in working in healthcare for for as long as you’ve been able to work like what what have been like some of your just your most proudest accomplishments, whether you whether it was a large or small organization, but like, what, what have been some of the most notable experiences that you’ve had, that you that you will look back to is like, you know, what, that’s a, that’s a highlight of my career that I’m really, really proud of, and in this something worth really remembering?

Sonal Ellison  37:52

Sure, sure. I mean, I can break it down into all my health care experiences. Awesome. So I started out as an AI technician. And so I will say on the patient care side, having spent almost three, three and a half years doing direct patient care really set a foundation for my understanding of the healthcare system. And actually, the brings up a good point that I meant to talk about earlier, was the fact that healthcare is interesting. So when I started, I had limited exposure as a patient to health care. Being a young woman, very healthy, fairly healthy. I didn’t utilize healthcare services. So that’s a different part of health care and leadership that you don’t understand until you use you’ve utilized it. So now with almost, you know, over well over 2020 years, two decades of experience as a healthcare leader, my perspective of the care that we give and experiencing this patients and physicians get is so different. Now, I’ve had children, you know, we’ve lived through all sorts of bumps and bruises and diagnosis that are positive and negative. It is so different. So you’re almost naivete when you start if you’re healthy. And but some people don’t start healthy. Some people have experiences it’s going to shape their their contributions to their healthcare leadership position. But But I can’t Oh, what was the eye clinic of Austin that I used to work at just to direct patient care and understanding what we are doing and really understanding that you can take subspecialties and really impact the overall health of the body. That’s what that taught me. I was doing eye care, understanding that Oh, diabetic patients you know, are convenient become your regular patient because they have to come for your sugar levels are going to affect your eyes and your acuity. And, you know, the impact of that that helped me understand just that just that one huge sub specialty. Then when I got my residency at Parkland. Burn camp was a huge one. I was a Parkland health and hospital system sponsor. Insert an annual summer camp for their burn patients. So many children, as you can only imagine, are in circumstances that can be compromised where they were exposed to opportunities to get burned. And by burn, we mean significant portions of their body. And so they lose lots of functionality. So Parkland made camp, I think itchy, which is a camp for kids to be kids all day long for an entire week, and to enjoy the summer. And so I remember being with those patients holding their hands, and really experiencing that, I will say at Parkland health and hospital system, I was a part of the women and infant specialty Health Division, and where we delivered more babies than any other hospital in the nation at that time. That was pretty exciting to know that more babies were being born here in the hospital that I was working at than anywhere else. And so we were part of the Today Show and just learning and reaching out to our large, underserved community in Dallas, and really making sure that they were getting their care. So with that amount of attention, we were able to help fund and open think it was a dozen community prenatal clinics with a spur as sporadically throughout the our geographic community and open those for impact for health care. So that was good that was watching something so fun and a great recognition lead into something even bigger. Yeah. Wow. With the United surgical partners already gave you the example of going back to Parkland and helping them design their first ever ambulatory surgery center, United States partners was huge. That is at a time when healthcare was revolutionizing everything was moving to outpatient care, you didn’t have to stay overnight in the hospital. If you had cataract surgery, if you had a colonoscopy, if you had your sinuses taken care of, or even if you’ve had your hip replaced. I mean, I’ve been in ambulatory surgery so long, I’ve watched a total hip hip being done and a patient discharged before 23 hours. So pretty exciting.

Aaron Spatz  42:10

Wow, man, that’s crazy. Yeah, I’d say I mean, so you, you’ve seen a lot like you’ve seen if you’ve seen the whole gamut of things. And it’s, it’s, it’s really neat. I think going back to your earlier point about just the the impact that that that the organization can have on the community is really real, right? Like you can really feel it, you really see it because I mean, just like that, just like that camp that you’re talking about, like with the with burn victims, like that’s, that that’s a tremendous service, right in that in it. And it impacts not just the patient obviously impacts the patient the most, but their families, right, and their, their families, friends, and all those that they come in touch with. It’s like, man, look at this amazing experience and this amazing opportunity that that was that was offered to us in our situation. And so I think it’s I, I really do think it’s I think it’s terrific. And it’s a great way for it’s a great way for healthcare, to really to really show like another another way of making an impact. It’s not it’s an it’s not strictly just the patient care, but it’s also there’s so much else that goes into it also. So what’s really what’s really fascinating. As you as we as we kind of wind things down here, just would love to kind of turn this back over to you. And really, if there’s any other thoughts or comments that you’d have on for somebody who’s contemplating a potential career in like in, in healthcare, like what if they are somebody who’s wanting to follow a similar career path? Yours? My first question would be, obviously, is what do people do in terms of like, mid career changes? Like, what if someone’s been a teacher for the last 15 plus years, and now they want to get into healthcare? Is that Is that something that you would recommend or advise against?

Sonal Ellison  43:55

Okay, that’s a great question. Um, I absolutely do. I’ve I’m very involved in our education systems here and Alan and so I’m always doing my best to not only encourage the youngsters to get involved, but also those that are going maybe back into their work life after staying home with children or seeking the education that they wanted to, I absolutely advocate for it, you can take your skills, and really hone in on things and provide them to the healthcare community, better examples that I probably have around sales, marketing, finance, strategic planning, all of those items can be done in a different healthcare community or in a different organization engineering. You can take a look at IT infrastructure, you can look at finances and stuff, but you can pivot and do that into a hospital system. It’s very similar. It is a great one you know, you can have an expertise in a system well That doesn’t matter, you could pivot and do that into whatever the hospitals using at that time. Teachers. I think that a lot of teachers naturally make very good nurses to be quite frank. And at a time when we responded to the global pandemic, and we needed frontline workers, and we well, they were busy themselves, but those that maybe had a passion for health care, I find that just by obviously getting the education and the training that they need, they find a lot of satisfaction and being in a patient care environments not much different than tending to those little ones in kindergarten, or even those older ones as adolescents.

Aaron Spatz  45:35

Well, yeah, no. There’s one thing you said, I’m just like, wow. Yeah, really? I mean, especially, especially it? I mean, I can’t imagine just how, how much of an emphasis that gets in into your role, like, how much how much involvement? Or like, how much more important has that become for healthcare in terms of it and just being being aware of the risk associated with that?

Sonal Ellison  45:58

Again, I have a very, everybody does, but I have a unique healthcare experience. I’ve watched it go from the paper charting to an EMR. EMR is your electric, your electronic medical record. And so yes, there’s so many pitfalls, firewalls, CyberSecure, cybersecurity threats, HIPAA has become a thing. Oh, it’s been the thing for a while. But since I started my career, just everything around a training and development, you know, we are still in a employment market where I have nurses that only ever did paper charting. And now integrating them into a healthcare system where you only ever do electronic charting, things go down. There’s so many times even now that you’re just of the opinion, can we just go back to pen and paper, because really, we’re just looking at opportunities to take care of the patient on the bed, less all of these other things, you think that you know, advancing technology and you as a stakeholder, you know, you’re you’re excited that you get your lab results, and you can send it to your doctor right away? But there’s so many pitfalls, how about if the systems go down, or something gets deleted, and there’s so much responsibility, and that is absolutely a subspecialty of healthcare is healthcare technology and informatics, and Whoo, that’s, so you have to know a little bit of everything, especially as a healthcare leader of a hospital or a hospital system. You can’t just know finance, that’s not going to help you. You’ve got to know or you have to inspire people, and you have to bring the best out in the people in the room. That’s really what Healthcare Administration is about. I don’t know, the finer points of our EHR. I don’t know the finer points of our, you know, bariatric training or our joint replacement therapy. I don’t know the finer points of every antibiotic that we use and the counter interdict indications, but I know how to get the people to the table to help with all these items. No,

Aaron Spatz  47:52

no, that’s, that’s awesome. That’s so so so very well said. Yeah. So we’re well said but so I just I really, I just want to thank you for spend some time with me this morning. I’ve really, really enjoyed getting to know you getting to kind of hear your story, understanding some of the some of your experiences inside of healthcare. So I really do. I really appreciate you sharing that with me and for taking the time with me. Thank you.

Sonal Ellison  48:15

Thank you so much for the opportunity.

Aaron Spatz  48:20

Thanks for listening to America’s entrepreneur. If you enjoyed the show, please leave a review or comment on your preferred social media platform. share it out with friends, family, coworkers, others in your network. And of course, you can write me directly at Erin at Bold media.us. That’s a Ron at Bold media.us So next time

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