21 Sep Fellows creates a powerful network – and a valuable sounding board
Aaron Gani began the 2016 Fellows class as the chief technology officer for Humana, and finished the program with a start-up on the side.
Gani would spend each Fellows class jotting down different ideas and perspectives into a notebook — which he still has — as he plotted how to create his own company.
The perspectives and support he received from his classmates energized his decision to start BehaVR, a virtual reality health care start-up.
Dr. Jana Dreyzehner, also a 2016 Fellow and one of about four child psychiatrists in the United States who can sign, was “one of the first to hear my crazy ideas,” Gani said.
Gani left Humana in May 2018 to focus his full attention on BehaVR, after a grueling 24 months of balancing a full-time job as an executive at one of the country’s largest insurers with being a tech entrepreneur.
BehaVR’s first commercial product, a pain neuroscience education program to help chronic pain sufferers regain function and quality of life, is in 17 clinics in North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana and Colorado. Future plans include inpatient and outpatient addiction recovery programs and partners.
Dreyzehner said both she and Gani have learned that “a whole lot of relationships have to be in place to make something really align.”
Several members of the 2016 class have moved on to different roles and Dreyzehner stated “once a Fellow, always a Fellow. The strong bonds link one another to each other and extended networks, which are crucial when people strike out to try something new.”
It can be surprising when someone at or near the executive level leaves to try something different — sometimes doors aren’t always as open as they once were.
Getting to know Fellows, and how they respond to the curriculum of the program, which pushes people to “appreciate the scale of the challenge and answer the question, ‘what am I going to do about it’” is important, Gani said.
“I have other networks but the Fellows network is my most powerful and relevant one,” Gani said.
The perspectives and challenges that emerge in discussions spotlight problems in pockets of the industry that Fellows didn’t realize existed.
Dreyzehner and Gani are hoping to find a way to collaborate via BehaVR to increase the training and support services for people who work with patients who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.
There is a dearth of training opportunities and those aides or support workers are often forgotten within the system. They are underpaid and often on public benefits, said Dreyzehner, who now has her own company LifeConnect Health.
She’s hoping to work with BehaVR to make important training advances “that could make all the difference of changing the culture.”
Getting traction for fresh ideas on how to improve parts of the industry that may not have an easy or guaranteed answer can be challenging and tiresome especially when it’s required to get a government agency on board, said Dreyzehner, who wants to improve how TennCare provides care for people with disabilities.
Both Dreyzehner and Gani have found energy from the people they met.
“It becomes an encouragement network within the health care system,” said Dreyzehner.
Fellows Class of 2016
CEO, LifeConnect Health
“The important thing about Fellows is we’ve all been in leadership roles and have extensive experience. If we were just out of school, we might have book learning but we are not going to have the real leadership experience to bring to the table. I didn’t want it to end. And it’s wonderful that it doesn’t have to — once a Fellow, always a Fellow. That’s important for me.”
Fellows Class of 2016
Founder & CEO, BehaVR
“It’s not just learning about problems; the speakers are wonderful. For me this asked a really challenging question: what are we doing to do about it? It’s about ‘what am I individually going to do about it.’ That’s what change takes, individuals assuming leadership in the ways they can.”