How Fellows, and Health Care Tech, Built a Friendship

Ray Guzman started making new relationships well before he slipped into his seat in the first Fellows class.

Guzman was paired with alum Marty Bonick, CEO of PhyMed Healthcare Group, to meet ahead of the start of the 2017 Nashville Health Care Council Fellows class. The two hit it off so quickly that they each texted their assistants to rearrange their afternoon schedules. Lunch was going to run long.

Since then, the spark from their initial meeting has transformed into a personal and professional relationship one would expect from a lifelong friendship.

It’s led to partnerships and referrals, but the business opportunities weren’t what drew either of them to the program.

Bonick wanted to meet people on the ground in Nashville — he’d previously worked for Community Health Systems in Nashville but worked on out-of-state facilities.

Guzman, then the CEO of WPC Healthcare, wanted to meet more people who could help him think about the industry’s challenges.

“I was very cautious to not bring up what I did for a living and all, because it wasn’t why I was there,” said Guzman. “If someone inquired I was happy to tell them what I was up to, but that wasn’t the agenda at all.”

If the two had met elsewhere — say a more traditional networking event — they doubt they’d have been able to realize they shared similar outlooks on the role technology and data will play in the future of the health care industry, not to mention life.

In hindsight, they said, the Fellows program encouraged learning and connecting, in ways that are often rare once people leave universities.

“You get to know people beyond their 30-second elevator pitch. We’re all real people. We all have real problems and real issues,” said Bonick.

Having the Fellows stamp on a resume gives an extra layer of credibility — Guzman called it a secret handshake — to those who have gone through it.  Bonick said the program is akin to a business fraternity because you feel a connection to people from other classes.

It leads to trust that brings and boosts confidence in corporate partnership talks — or to bounce ideas off the other person.

They’ve since collaborated professionally on data initiatives — bringing Guzman’s expertise into PhyMed — and talked about what it would be like to go through an M&A process. Guzman’s WPC was bought by Intermedix, which was acquired by R1 RCM.

Guzman’s previous company helped PhyMed unlock data so it could bring more value to hospital clients, said Bonick.

Often it’s simpler to bring in a partner that’s already built the expertise than develop it in-house, but the partners have to be on the same page.  The Fellows program helped close that gap by fostering this relationship.

“While we’re a traditional business, we’re doing things very non-traditionally using information that wouldn’t have been possible without the partnership,” said Bonick. “You can get a lot further, a lot faster.

Both Bonick and Guzman stay in touch with Fellow classmates and try to connect with people from other years. The structure, with rotating seating and many chances to really talk to classmates, forges connections often associated with time in undergraduate or business school.

Guzman’s class is planning to have an annual Christmas party.  In fact, Bonick said some of his best friends in Nashville are a result of the class.

“There’s obviously a ton of health care people in this community, but what’s not obvious is how large the health care ecosystem truly is or more importantly how to tap into it. For me, I didn’t become a Fellow just looking for business connections, it was about becoming more connected to Nashville. It was about getting to meet people who see the world differently and learning what else was out there beyond the day to day world I live in,” Bonick added.
Meet the Fellows

Ray Guzman

Fellows Class of 2017
CEO & Co-Founder, SwitchPoint Ventures

The Fellows’ program helps “create perspective you can’t have inside your own silo.” When listening to people talk about their companies in different parts of health care, “you quickly start to realize that the answers that seem so obvious to you are obvious because you don’t have all the information. As you realize how fraught it can be, it also broadens your thinking about how to approach these problems. I think ultimately change is going to require collaboration and I think the (graduates of the) Fellows are beginning to realize it’s happening organically.”

Marty Bonick

Fellows Class of 2014
CEO, PhyMed Healthcare Group

“There’s a ton of health care in this community, obviously, but a lot of times you just don’t realize the ecosystem that is out there and how to tap into it. For me, I didn’t go into this looking for the business connections. For me, it was about making some connections in Nashville. It was really just about getting to meet people and seeing what else was out there.”