Featured TRUST Member
Senior Vice President, Public Affairs and Chief Marketing Officer, UCare
Ghita Worcester serves as UCare’s Senior Vice President, Public Affairs and Chief Marketing Officer. There she provides strategic leadership in several areas, including Business Development, Government Relations, Marketing, Provider Relations and Contracting, Product Management, Public Affairs, Sales, and the UCare Foundation. Since UCare’s start as a neighborhood demonstration project at the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health 37 years ago to today’s community-based nonprofit health plan serving almost 550,000 people in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Ghita has been a driving force in the company’s growth and its culture of inclusion cherished by UCare’s members and employees.
When and why did you join the TRUST?
Nancy Feldman, UCare’s former President and CEO, strongly encouraged me directly, and by example, to rejoin Women’s Health Leadership TRUST in 2013 after several years of membership lapse. Nancy, Dee Thibodeau, and so many other pioneering leaders in health care inspired me then. I continue to be inspired by my colleagues and the women rising in leadership today.
Do you have a favorite TRUST memory so far?
TRUST sessions are always stirring, but I was especially moved when Ann Fadiman presented at a TRUST event. Several years ago, I attended a dinner with the author where I had the opportunity to talk directly with her afterward. Her 1997 book “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures” truly spoke to me. My first job in health care was in 1974 at Smiley’s Point Clinic, a Department of Family Medicine and Community Health residency clinic. In 1975, Hmong refugees began arriving in Minnesota, and many came to Smiley’s for care. We learned so much from the Hmong community about adapting to a culturally diverse patient base. And at Smiley’s, we had several female medicine physicians the women in the Southeast Asian community trusted for their care. The TRUST event solidified information I had been learning firsthand about changes required to serve important populations that needed alternative approaches and understanding.
How have mentors helped you?
There have been many – both women and men. But I have to say, early in my career, it was Doug Fenderson, Ph.D., who saw something in me I didn’t see before and offered me the chance of going from a clinic setting to the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. Doug said I could take on a visionary role in my career and helped me build skills that were especially useful with the launch of UCare. It was definitely a risk going from a secure job into the unknown, but he had a lot of faith in me. If I had a good idea, he would act on it immediately – he was a phenomenal leader and mentor.
What is the best career advice you’ve received?
Try not to be everything to everybody but do what you know well. That goes with bringing on staff that complements each other’s skills as well as my own. And just as important – take the time to learn and educate yourself for growth opportunities. If you’re not ready to advance, it’s okay to say no and take more time to expand your knowledge and experience.
What support do you need now to evolve your development as a leader?
I’ve had a very rewarding career so far and want to stay engaged with new opportunities that challenge my comfort level. That’s why for me, learning new skills through webinars, conferences and especially from my talented staff is so critical. I don’t want to get complacent and “comfortable.” The events over the past year – the death of George Floyd and the subsequent unrest along with COVID-19 – underscore how much work and learning remain to improve health and racial equity.
How do you support other women in their leadership journeys?
Over the last year, I have been a mentor for a talented woman through TRUST’s Mentorship Program. Beyond that, I try to encourage women professionals to seek new opportunities and hone skills they may not be aware of. That can lead someone to adjust their career path or head in a completely new strategic direction that’s more expansive – and perhaps riskier – than a mentee might have imagined. Sometimes an honest conversation about where someone’s strengths and weaknesses lie will plant a sense of possibility leading to amazing contributions and performance. I’ve seen it happen many times!
How do you cope with the demanding aspects of your career?
Being a good leader means being able and willing to delegate, and I have a very talented group of people around me I can rely on to fulfill our company’s mission. This makes the work always easier to accomplish. I keep a regular exercise routine that includes yoga and walking. It helps me to stay centered and calm. Also, spending lots of quality time with my grandkids keeps me grounded and enjoying life, whether it’s in person or by Zoom. Acknowledging that at times the realities of a demanding career can make one frustrated or angry, I always try to remember what Thomas Jefferson said, “When you’re angry count to 10 before you speak, and if you’re very angry, count to 100.” This always helps keep an open and respectful dialogue.
What is something not many people know about you?
I score very high on the introverted scale. It means I have had to work hard at overcoming my reticence to give presentations in front of large groups. It’s not my natural comfort zone, but sometimes I surprise myself at how I can get in the “zone,” especially when I’m presenting on topics and issues I am passionate about.
Who inspires you?
I want to acknowledge the great women leaders in our local Minnesota community who have inspired me. Nancy Feldman, Jan Malcolm, Julie Brunner, Mary Brainerd and Penny Wheeler were the first women who came to mind. So many others have contributed to my opportunities.
Words of wisdom to live by?
A quote my friend and former colleague reminded me of recently was:
“Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”