Marc Harrison: Hi, I'm Dr. Marc Harrison, CEO of Intermountain Healthcare. Today I'm with Janice Ugaki, who's the President and Co-founder of a marketing and technology company called Firmseek. She's also a member of Intermountain's Board of Trustees. Janice, thank you for taking the time to join us today. Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
Janice Ugaki: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Marc. It's a pleasure to be here today. So as you mentioned, my name is Janice Ugaki, and I am the President and the Co-founder of a tech company. It's a strategic marketing and tech company called Firmseek, based in Washington, D.C. And I'm really proud to say that it's a women owned, minority owned company, which was really quite a feat and quite an anomaly 20 years ago when we started the company.
Marc Harrison: Wow. Now, did you grow up here in Salt Lake or in Washington, or are you from elsewhere?
Janice Ugaki: You know, I actually grew up in a very small town in Blackfoot, Idaho, and I went to the University of Utah Undergrad, so I know the area, Salt Lake City quite well. But then I went on to law school back east, and then went to England and studied for a while, and then came back to the area.
Marc Harrison: So I think that's code for you went to Harvard Law School and you were a Rhodes Scholar. Is that right?
Janice Ugaki: That's right.
Marc Harrison: So yeah, Janice, we really appreciate your leadership on our board, and I know we share an interest in diversity, equity, and inclusion. I think for all the right reasons, primarily so that we can serve those that we're meant to serve more effectively. Can you talk a little bit about how you see the role of governance in helping to both support and drive diversity at Intermountain Healthcare?
Janice Ugaki: Yes, absolutely. I feel very strongly about diversity on boards, and not just the main Intermountain Board, but also all of the local community boards. The local leaders on the boards are able to really have their finger on the pulse of who their community is, what their specific needs are. And the more diverse a board is, the more they really understand that diverse community and what the true needs are. Strategically, how to use limited resources, how to push forward new ideas, how to break molds that the idea of, ‘oh, it was always done this way.’
I think in order to innovate you really need to have a diverse group of people, not just merely racial diversity, ethnic diversity, or gender diversity, but also age diversity, diversity of experience, diversity of skills, diversity of-
Marc Harrison: Opinions.
Janice Ugaki: Yes, of opinions. I think that’s really critical. And I think that with Intermountain Healthcare, I'm very proud to be part of not only the main Intermountain Board of Trustees, but also at the Park City Hospital I chair the Foundation Board and I sit on the Governance Board there. They really do value, not only diversity, but inclusivity. And I think those really go hand-in-hand.
Marc Harrison: I think you make an excellent point as usual, that diversity is really demographics to some extent. You can have diversity but without inclusion…
Janice Ugaki: Right.
Marc Harrison: …that doesn't do a heck of a lot of good, does it?
Janice Ugaki: Absolutely.
Marc Harrison: I think something that you probably don't give yourself credit for, that I've heard frequently, is that when people are in leadership positions, in governance positions like you, you also serve as a role model for people who might otherwise not think that they can aspire to those positions. We've heard on a number of occasions this year, as I've talked to folks from diverse backgrounds, about how they've actually, either they've been inspired by somebody who looks like them, or sound like them, or has a country of origin like them, or how they've inspired others in their community and their family to believe, "Hey, I can do this too." I think there's both symbolism, and I think there's also practical operational leadership.
Janice Ugaki: I definitely agree with that. In that, when I was growing up as a Japanese American girl in rural Idaho, there weren't very many role models locally, but I remember Connie Chung was…
Marc Harrison: Right.
Janice Ugaki: …a national newscaster, and she was an anchor woman, and I just thought, "Wow, that's amazing." It is someone that looks like me, sort of…
Marc Harrison: Sort of.
Janice Ugaki: …and, I think that it does inspire people in that way of just saying, "Wow, I could do that. I can come from a really small town. I can come from my racial background. I can come from whatever walk of life and really be inspired to try to do more.”
Marc Harrison: So as one of our governance leaders, what do you aspire to for Intermountain from a diversity, equity, and inclusion standpoint?
Janice Ugaki: I think that one thing I'm very proud of now is you, with your leadership — and I know you'll be modest about this as well — you've really created a culture and you're creating a culture where diverse opinions are valued. You don't want to be surrounded by yes-men and yes-women, you want pushback. You want someone to say, "Well, have you looked at it this way? Here's a blind spot."
Marc Harrison: You're really good at that by the way.
Janice Ugaki: And I think that, that's what I'm proud of. What I really want to aspire to going forward, not only as a the board but as an organization as a whole, is to not become complacent. And, knowing how active you are, not only personally — physically — but also how you're always pushing the envelope on the national scene, the world scene, really bringing healthcare and healthcare innovation to the forefront. I don't want to see us stop doing that.
Marc Harrison: So don't worry about that, we've got a lot of work to do. Healthcare is unaffordable for Americans and until it's affordable we're not stopping. I think that, if I have one hope on the diversity, equity, and inclusion front, demographics aside, there's still occasionally an attitude that some people have that, if I respect a new group of people, somehow or other that diminishes the respect that others get. And there are some folks who look at diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect as a single size pie and if your slice is bigger, then my slice is smaller. I actually think that's the wrong way of looking at it. I think what we need to do is just make the pie bigger, and that by respecting more people we end up with a more harmonious and effective business and, most importantly, community.
And when we see some of the bad stuff that's happening, some of the lack of tolerance, some of the anger, some of the uncivil speech and action, I actually think it's our job as community and business leaders to not tolerate that, and to actually objectively stand up for civility, thoughtfulness, inclusion. Not only embracing diversity, but seeking it out. I think it's the antidote to some of the hateful stuff that we're seeing right now. And I've been so proud to work with the Intermountain Board because it has showed real courage as we've tried to do hard things in the best interest of the community that we serve.
So give me some advice. Here you are, a super successful business person. You've been successful in all kinds of ways. You've got lovely kids and a wonderful husband. Give me advice about what I should do as the CEO of Intermountain Healthcare around diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Janice Ugaki: I think that there are underserved areas or parts of our population that really need more attention, more assistance. I'm not talking just handouts, but I'm talking about looking at them holistically and saying, “How can we better these communities overall?” I think the Intermountain has taken some amazing steps nationally, in terms of the social determinants of health. Looking at communities to say, “How can we make this population as a whole, that has been neglected in various ways from healthcare, transportation, basic human needs, and being able to be that linchpin that pulls it all together?”
I think the Intermountain is taking those first steps with community partners and really blazing that trail, but I think it's going to be a very long, difficult trail, and I think it's going to take a lot of perseverance, a lot of courage to keep going down that path. Even when, like you said, other people are saying, "Hey, where's my piece of the pie going?" That, really trying to get that message out that the pie is growing, and we're growing as a community and becoming stronger as well.
Marc Harrison: Well, the Harrison family motto is relentless forward progress — RFP. So you can actually count on me to be relentless on this front, and I'm really hoping that the board holds me and holds my team accountable to doing exactly what you said. So thank you Janice.
Janice Ugaki: Thank you.