A Woman of Grace

By Ashley Boyd

Alexandra Drane is the Chief Visionary Officer and Chair of the Board of Eliza Corporation. A mother, daughter, wife, boss, mentor, friend, coach, leader, Alex is an exception to the male majority of healthcare executives. In this interview, Alex shares her motivations and passion for improving healthcare and changing the world.

When did you make the decision to focus on healthcare?
Early in my career when I was at a consulting firm in Boston — my first client was a healthcare company — sometimes the universe serves something up for you. It just gives it to you and ultimately becomes the greatest gift.  I learned then that you should do something every day that you love, and I wanted then and still want to spend all my time helping people improve their lives. I realize that healthcare is at the core of what makes people healthy and happy.

What goals did you set, and how did you go about achieving them?
There are so many different types of people in the world. There are those who plan and those who don’t. I’ve never been a planner. Wherever I am, I want to have made a very informed, heartfelt and conscious decision. Sometimes the greatest adventures happen in little steps that you build over time.

What are your shortcomings/challenges?
My biggest challenge in life is that I care enormously about what I’m doing and the outcomes. Obviously, this challenge has wonderful benefits, but also can be damaging because I bring everything to every moment. That can be overwhelming as well, so I work all the time to get myself to relax. Sometimes I do that successfully and sometimes I don’t.  I love getting older – I’m about to turn 41 in one week and I can’t wait. I love being 40. Forty means I’m legit in that I’m carrying a lot of scars. You naturally become more tempered with age. If you bring your best foot forward every day, this enables you to survive your challenges with grace.

How do you define yourself?
I’d like to think that I’m defined by my genuine love for people. I find them fascinating. I want to know what makes them tick, what makes them happy and keeps them happy. What makes them feel good about their place in the world, how we can squash what makes them unhappy and promote what makes them happy.

What’s on your roadmap of things to do/achieve?
Here’s a strange one – I’ve never been brave enough to eat alone at a restaurant or go to a movie by myself.  I’m too interested in communing.  It’s a goal – I need to just do it – prove to myself that time alone publicly can be its own form of communing.  Truly, all the things that I want to do, I’m doing now. So what’s next?  I want the healthcare space to broaden the definition for the things for which it’s responsible. For example, when individuals are having a hard time in life like divorce, caring for an aging parent, a death in the family, these things impact our health and productivity – the healthcare industry needs to incorporate the reality of life into our system.  It tortures me to think that there are real problems out there and we are not helping people with them.  I want a world where health plans spend time with these facts of life.   Meet people where they are in the messy realities of their lives – and help them.

Why are there so few women today in the healthcare space?
I think the right answer is to look at the leading indicators. There are increasing numbers of women in the healthcare space, and I think this number will only increase. I believe that the things that kept women from being active in the workplace have changed so fundamentally. There’s a new generation of women coming through the healthcare system — women who have the confidence, are role models and have the fundamental belief that they can be successful. The healthcare system and number of women in it will be drastically different five years from now.

What would be your tips to women starting out in healthcare?
Be respectful, be honorable, be graceful and never mask the things about yourself that make you, you.  Point to the blue elephant in the room – take the opportunity to speak the truth, and do it with confidence, elegance and humility.  Women have the ability to see the challenges impacting people and really talk to what’s there with grace and make a difference. I think you have to own your scars and share your experiences. There is a perception that successful people got where they are because they planned and did everything right, and that’s not true. You’re going to have bad days.  Things are imperfect. I think the thing for all women to remind themselves is to find joy in whom they are and the things they love.