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.

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.


Baltimore County Leader Insight: Mark Millspaugh

Baltimore County L:eader Insight, Mark Millspaugh, Director, Baltimore County Department of Social Services


A special interview, January 2022

  1. What is the most important issue facing the Baltimore County Department of Social Services (BCoDSS) right now and how are you working to address it?

BCoDSS believes that strong families are the essential building blocks for strong communities, and strong communities are the essential building blocks for a strong County, State and Nation.  As such, supporting families is essential so that all members from all generations are able to meet their full potential. Sadly, we continue to see the negative impacts of substance use, mental health disorders, trauma and the many ramifications of poverty create challenges for families that prevent them from fulfilling their potential as the strong building blocks we know they can be.

  1. How are you and your department inspiring the next generation of social workers?

What we do in the Department of Social Services isn’t rocket science; it’s a lot harder.  Each human brain is different and reacts differently to intervention.  As such, the same effective intervention used for one person may not work for another.  That makes our work challenging but also very rewarding.  We literally work in an agency where every employee can make a significant, positive difference in at least one person’s life every day.  What could be more inspiring than that?  As our recruitment ad says: Find a job that matters!”

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

I think all leaders are shaped by the amalgamation of experiences throughout their lives since good leaders are always learning and adapting.  From “learning what not to do” from a particularly ineffectual leader you previously worked with (or for), to “picking the brain” of a mentor who teaches critical lessons of leadership, we all develop skills through observation, study, trial and error.  As for life experiences that have shaped me, I have chosen to work in a “helping field” for my entire career after attending a Quaker college that emphasized the values of Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality and Stewardship.

  1. Where do you have the most impact?

The Department of Social Services has a broad and deep impact in promoting individual well-being, protecting vulnerable children and adults from abuse or neglect, and providing the supports needed to help people achieve and sustain independence. We do this through a variety of programs and services delivered efficiently and effectively that demonstrate the best practice standards outlined through the Council on Accreditation.  My role is to empower and support leaders at all levels of the Department to achieve these outcomes.

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

Being open-minded is an essential aspect of leadership and one I continually strive to achieve.  The last 22 months has proven that no leader can predict the future and no leader has all the answers to what life may bring forth.  Being agile, accepting input from others, and being willing to try new things are all parts of being “open-minded” in my leadership style.  In my experience, autocrats don’t last long and their organizations don’t grow and prosper since they are closed to other people’s ideas and don’t grow new leaders.