Baltimore County Leader Insight: Dr. Darryl Williams

Leader Insight - Darryl Williams, EdD, Superintendent, Baltimore County Public Schools

A Special Interview: April 2022

What do you consider to be the most important education issue facing Baltimore County and how are you working to address it?

The most important issue today is addressing the impact of learning loss brought on by the pandemic. In order to accelerate learning, we must first address the social emotional needs of students and staff. We have developed a year-long professional learning plan for all members of Team BCPS that in part focuses on social emotional learning, learning acceleration and increased data literacy. By equipping educators with these tools, we anticipate that they will be able to meet the needs of students and provide supports to improve outcomes.


What is the most challenging part of working towards equitable education?

Ensuring that everyone understands the definition of educational equity and changing behaviors to ensure that outcomes are not predictable by race, service group or socioeconomic status. Creating processes and procedures to consistently monitor and evaluate our practices to prevent unintended impacts on students is very challenging.


How are you inspiring the next generation of educators?

I believe the next generation of educators must reflect the diversity that exists within the system to help students see themselves as leaders. The next generation of educators must love the profession and be able to work with all students regardless of race, service group, gender or socioeconomic status. I focus on nurturing students who are our future leaders in all of the classrooms that I visit. I spend time speaking with staff and students and providing them with opportunities to consider their potential impact and discuss the rewards of a career in education.


What life experience has most shaped who you are as a leader?

My experiences as a student and parent have shaped me as a leader. As a student, having that cool, great teacher – Mr. Leroy Swain and principal who did everything well for the school community, shaped and inspired my vision of success. When I became a father, I immediately understood that parents wanted the best for their kids and what was needed from the school system.


In your opinion, what personal trait is most important to being a good leader and why?

Interpersonal skills. This job is a “people” profession, and you must like people in order to interact, relate and connect in service and support of students.

Baltimore County Leader Insight: Cathy Grason

Baltimore County Leader Insight: Cathy Grason, Director of Government Affairs, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield

A Special Interview: March 2022

What do you consider to be the most important issue facing Baltimore County and how are you working to address it?

CareFirst is a nonprofit organization driven by our mission of making healthcare affordable and accessible to our members and the communities that we serve, including Baltimore County. Integral to our mission is support for organizations and programs that help people who lack adequate access to healthcare or cannot meet basic living needs.

From 2017-2021, CareFirst provided more than $1.8 million in grants and sponsorships to support core programming addressing access to care, behavioral health services, and more. Recent grant investments serving Baltimore County include:

  • Family Crisis of Baltimore County: $10,000 in 2018 to support enrichment and nutrition programming for families exposed to Intimate Partner Violence.
  • Community College of Baltimore County Foundation: $89,808 in 2019 to support simulation education for nursing education and other allied health services.
  • Baltimore County of Chamber of Commerce: $5,000 in 2021 to support core programming and services for the business community of Baltimore County.
  • Baltimore County Health Department: $50,000 in 2021 to enhance upstream, community-driven interventions through authentic partnership and engagement with communities to address diabetes.

In addition to providing financial support, CareFirst associates are actively involved volunteering in the communities in which they live and work. In 2021, CareFirst associates donated 1,199.31 hours to charitable organizations directly serving or headquartered in Baltimore County. Personally, I helped to organize a training this year co-sponsored by CareFirst, the Pro-Bono Resource Center, and the Homeless Persons Representation Project to learn how Maryland attorneys can assist pro bono clients in our region in the expungement of criminal records that hinder their ability to access basic needs and professional opportunities.

I am grateful to work with colleagues that are both personally and professionally committed to improving our communities, and for an organization that empowers us to do so.


What do you want people to know about challenges for health care insurance providers?

CareFirst believes that healthcare needs transformation. Costs are too high and quality lags. Access and outcomes vary widely based on factors like race and income. There are provider workforce shortages in a number of critical care areas, such as behavioral health.

To create a better healthcare experience, we must transform it. This is our call to action. To this end, CareFirst is engaged in a number of workstreams to enhance care to support people’s complete health and well-being-physically, mentally, and emotionally. We are creating innovative solutions that drive better health outcomes through partnerships, data, and technology and we are collaborating with policymakers to remove barriers and create incentives to place care at the forefront. We are championing the right to access affordable, quality care and improving health equity for all we serve, and we are investing in community programs that support these critical endeavors.
There is much work to be done, but CareFirst is committed to driving these critical changes in our region.


How are you inspiring the next generation of public service leaders?

I have been fortunate throughout my career to work for and with smart and innovative leaders in insurance, public policy, and government affairs, who luckily for me, have been willing to share their experiences and advise on my professional growth. I strive to pay this kindness forward and to invest energy in “the next generation” as they develop and progress in their own professional pursuits. To those who much has been given, much is expected.


What life experience has most shaped who you are as a leader?

Waitressing. I gave that answer when I applied for my first law clerkship in the summer of 2009, and it remains true today. I spent a good bit of time in the food service industry waitressing and bartending to earn extra income as I pursued my education and early in my career. The lessons I learned during that time about humility, hustle and grit, time-management, and maintaining composure and customer service with all types of people in a high volume, fast paced environment, are things that I apply every day as a leader. I hope that each of my four daughters will do a stint in the service industry as part of their professional development — it keeps you humble, reminds you that we’re all human, and gives you unique perspective on how to deal with challenges as you juggle tasks and manage people.


In your opinion, what personal trait is most important to being a good leader and why?

Humility. Good leaders consider themselves to be part of the team, not just the team captain. They are not “above” any tasks necessary to move the mission forward, no matter how elementary or tedious. They take ownership of wins and losses of the people that support them, give credit to others generously and often, and are not afraid to ask themselves or others how they can do better. Good leaders do not think that they “know everything” — to the contrary, they are constantly striving to learn new things and refine old ideas, informed by diverse opinions, including those contrary to their own. Strong leaders know how to meet all personalities where they are and respect everyone they encounter, including and especially adversaries. It is in these traits that leaders earn the respect and loyalty of a diverse array of teammates and colleagues, internal and external to their organization.

Well-rounded leaders understand healthcare trends and effects

Class of 2022 shown in individual screens on ZoomLeadership Baltimore County Class of 2022 examines the health of our community

More than two years into a global pandemic, we have had a crash course in how critically healthcare underpins society and has far-reaching effects on everything from the economy to education. For those working in healthcare or dealing with a personal medical condition, the topic is always front and center. For others, the impact of health care on our daily lives can be more subtle, even hidden.

Leadership Baltimore County regularly asks its classes to take a closer look at healthcare. As leaders in our community, a deeper understanding of healthcare helps shape better public policy, business decisions, social justice and the future of the greater Baltimore region.

It’s a massive topic to tackle in a single day. Sponsored by CareFirst, the LBC Class of 2022 brought in healthcare experts to provide their perspectives, including Dr. Gregory Branch, director of Health and Human Services for Baltimore County, Pothik Chatterjee, AVP Innovation & Operations Support at LifeBridge Health; Emily Durfee, director of Strategy & Portfolio Acceleration at Healthworx, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield; Sarah Kachur, executive director of Population Health Analytics, Strategy and Solutions at Johns Hopkins Healthcare Solutions; and Jill Degraff, vice president of Regulatory of b.well Connected Health. Their insights were invaluable.

Dr. Branch focused on how effective leadership in times of crisis begins by planning in times of stability, before you get to the crisis like a pandemic.  It means building a skeleton infrastructure in advance, testing organization-wide communication systems and having a strong team that can all adapt to any crisis that arises.

Dr. Branch speaks on Zoom“I really appreciated Dr. Branch’s enthusiasm, knowledge and dedication,” said one class member.

Pothik Chatterjee, talked about the need to explore new ways of getting health care messages to people, sharing an example of partnering with barber shops to deliver health information and leveraging technology to reduce emergency re-admissions. The approach helped LifeBridge clearly imagine how innovation can impact wellness in our community.

Emily Durfee, Jill Degraff and Sarah Kucher all talked about the revolution in data analytics that illuminate new approaches and help people get to care with as little friction as possible. While data creates insights, it is critical that healthcare organizations invest in building trust and transparency with patients and communities.

Class participants were also able to virtually tour the emergency department of the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center. In Maryland, there is a unique approach to the economics of healthcare, rewarding hospitals to take a more active role in preventative health measures designed to deliver care that keeps people with recurring conditions out of emergency rooms.

The state’s global hospital budget model sets the prices hospitals can charge, also known as all-payer rate setting. Maryland has also capped how much health spending can grow overall, including hospital revenue.

Four speakers (one man and three women) speak to class in individual Zoom screens.Although unique in the U.S., it is a more common model worldwide. It is designed to contain healthcare costs. Hospitals in Maryland are incentivized by treating the condition, rather than full waiting rooms.

While the model’s effectiveness is still under evaluation, LBC classes are made aware of the unique system in our state — a critical starting point in conversations on rising costs, healthcare workforce development, health insurance policy and treatment innovations.

The class also examined how social factors determine the quality of a person’s health. Social determinants like income level, race, and where you live are all factors.  Poor environmental conditions, access to clean water and nutritious food sources, and proximity to quality health care institutions shape health.

Ryan Mihalic, LBC ’18, of CareFirst said the healthcare insurer is aiming to create fair opportunity for people to be as healthy as possible. They are working more on understanding and addressing social determinants of health.

To examine this topic, LBC ’22 class members adopted personas with different social determinants to better understand challenges they might face in getting treatment for cancer. They looked at differences in access to transportation, distance from healthcare, and access to funds/insurance as factors in treatment.

The LBC health care session was a chance for leaders to build a deeper understanding of this critical topic, hear from local experts, understand how healthcare interconnects with other issues, and even try to experience another person’s journey to better inform their own.

Congratulations to the Heatlh Care Day Planning Team for putting together such an engaging day:

Credit: Guest writer Aaron Koos, LBC ’21, with BGE.

Baltimore County Leader Insight: Pothik Chatterjee

A special interview: February 2022

Pothik Chatterjee serves as the AVP at LifeBridge Health, overseeing the Innovation & Operations Support, which has received multiple awards including Becker’s Top 40 programs and Corporate Innovation of the Year from Technical.Ly Baltimore. His scope includes oversight of operations in digital health, patient access and biomedical research. His team manages digital health and research partnerships with payers, pharmaceuticals and biotech companies. He also manages the LifeBridge Health & CareFirst Innovation Fund and the upcoming Innovation Center in Baltimore.

Before LifeBridge, Pothik co-founded Brigham Innovation Hub at Partners Healthcare where he also supported ambulatory growth and network development for the Brigham Physicians’ Organization in Boston. Pothik completed his MBA at Harvard Business School, his MA from Johns Hopkins University and graduated from Georgetown University with honors. Pothik was selected to the Baltimore Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” list in 2019.


How is LifeBridge leading innovation in healthcare?

LifeBridge Health has an illustrious history of innovation, dating back to 1969 when Dr. Morton Mower met Dr. Michel Mirowski at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore. Together, they co-invented the Automatic Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator, now implanted in well over 300,000 patients. The ICD monitors and corrects abnormal heart rhythms and is 99% effective in treating sudden cardiac interest.

Today, LifeBridge is leading innovation in healthcare in several areas – including health technology (with our 1501 Health incubator and investment program for early stage digital health startups), biomedical innovation (our LifeBridge Health BioIncubator at Sinai Hospital) and community health programs like our Community Mobile Clinic that provides Covid vaccines for vulnerable communities in West Baltimore.


How do you think technology is changing the relationship between patients and providers?

Technology has progressed at a remarkably rapid pace, with the rise of automation, AI and machine learning, and those developments are transforming healthcare delivery and how patients access care and monitor their healthcare symptoms, medications and treatment plans. The pandemic led to a historic acceleration in telemedicine and in our “new normal” we are seeing a hybrid of in-person and virtual visits, particular for lower acuity and chronic conditions. Patients expect digital services in healthcare, whether it’s for online scheduling, finding providers or communication post-discharge through a mobile app for follow-up appointments and automated reminders.

Now that our electronic medical records are digitized, I see tremendous opportunities through harnessing automation and predictive analytics on data to deliver insights that can lead to earlier detection and diagnosis. At LifeBridge Health, we used RAPID technology to use AI to quickly analyze the CT and MRI scans of patients having acute strokes to optimize patient selection for transfer and thrombectomy, reducing “speed to decision” time to generally less than two minutes.


How are you inspiring the next generation of healthcare advocates and front line workers?

Sometimes the best ideas and inspiration for healthcare innovation come from other industries! One example is Even Health, a mental wellness startup in our 1501 Health program, that initially focused on the U.S. military. They developed Cabana, a digital counseling platform designed for anonymous group support in a virtual reality (VR) setting. Over time, they found that mental health and wellness were also major needs for providers on the front lines, particularly as we enter the third year of the global Covid pandemic and increasing levels of provider burnout and mental stress. Cabana was introduced to LifeBridge Health employees in January 2022 and it is truly inspiring to see how Cabana is helping to reduce the stigma of therapy and mental health for providers at a crucial time.


What life experience has most shaped who you are as a leader?

The intersection of several life experiences have shaped me as a leader. As an immigrant son of an Indian family that lived across three continents before settling in the United States, I have learned to be adaptable, adventurous and appreciate both cultural differences and the common values that bind us together as human beings like integrity, honesty and teamwork. As a proud member of the LGBTQ community, I learned about leadership from my early days at Georgetown University undergrad, marching with the Human Rights Campaign for Pride in Washington D.C. and advocating for equality for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities in a Catholic setting.

I am passionate about healthcare innovation and adopting a mindset where we strive to understand and incorporate the perspective of diverse patients and vulnerable populations that have been underserved historically. The pandemic brought to light some of these longstanding inequities here in the United States, and my hope is that we can help to reduce the digital divide and promote healthcare access and care for all members of our communities.


In your opinion, what personal trait is most important to being a good leader and why?

Humility – the wiliness to learn and grow from each experience. I am a strong proponent of the Servant Leader philosophy and I am indebted to our fantastic Innovation team at LifeBridge Health and all our collaborators within the health system and the Baltimore ecosystem that help us tackle complex challenges with a creative mindset, and stay true to our mission to improve care for our patients.


Class of 2022’s Behind-the-Scenes Virtual Tour of Emergency Department

Students from the Class of 2022 participate in a virtual tour through Zoom.In preparation for the upcoming Health Care Day on Feb. 9, the LBC Class of 2022 took a virtual behind-the-scenes tour of UM St. Joseph Medical Group’s Emergency Department.

Nurse Manager Beth Nash shared many insights with the class. For example, the ED sees about 130 people each day and that the ED opened a Flex Care Unit in January 2020 to better serve behavioral health needs.

The ED staff is committed and compassionate, but needs the help of our community leaders to meet the ever-growing demand. Some of the ED’s immediate needs include:

  • Support for patients with autism, such as referrals for bed placement and in-home resources
  • Training for hospital security personnel
  • Training for clinical staff on personal safety
  • Psychiatry student rotations
  • Advocate for more pediatric services of all types
  • Child life specialist volunteers
  • Video games, books, puzzles, games, crayons
  • Group and individual counseling for clinical staff

If you or your company can help with any of the ED needs, please contact Beth Nash at

Let’s see our LBC alumni network in action!