Episode 14 – A Warrior Spirit For The Vulnerable

Dr. Jandel Allen-Davis is the CEO and President of Craig Hospital, a superb rehabilitation center for traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries.  Dr. Allen-Davis, an obstetrician and gynecologist, spent 25 years caring for patients and honing her leadership skills in multiple organizational and community roles.  In this episode, she describes “The Disappointment” when she was NOT selected for a CEO role, and she shares how she navigated that pain. Dr. Allen-Davis’s subsequent selection as the Craig Hospital CEO in 2018 was her arrival “home.” The Craig Hospital community welcomed the authentic expression of who Jandel is and what she believes.

So who is Dr. Jandel Allen-Davis? We get some insight here about her values, her warrior spirit, her uncompromising patient advocacy, and how critical it’s been for her to lead an organization where she can bring her whole self to her work. As the first female and the first Black CEO at Craig Hospital, and the first physician CEO there in 40 years, she is a high profile exemplar of what excellent leadership looks like.

We talked about the societal upheaval precipitated by George Floyd’s murder. Jandel emphasizes the need to embrace the hard conversations about racism and white privilege and how counterproductive it is to shame or blame. She describes her own lifelong reckoning with systemic racism, including how the 2020 book “Caste” (Isabel Wilkerson) hit her like a brick to the head. She points to some parallels between people of color and people in wheelchairs who are also marginalized in society.  

Dr. Allen-Davis takes a practical view on why physicians must be the ones to lead and transform healthcare. She ties it directly to physician expertise and the sacred trust they have in serving patients and community. 

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In this episode:

  • [00:05:47] Navigating the disappointment of being passed over for a CEO role
  • [00:09:02] Tapping into Dr. Allen-Davis’s “Warrior for the Vulnerable” spirit
  • [00:12:08] Patients want to be seen and heard—don’t we all?
  • [00:17:34] Gender and race issues in medical school at Dartmouth 
  • [00:27:10] How apologizing for systemic racism increases separateness 
  • [00:32:27] “I never wanted to lead physicians”
  • [00:33:30] A very, very, VERY strong belief: Physicians must turnaround healthcare in this country
  • [00:38:02]  People assume healthcare organizations are led by physicians
  • [00:39:58]  How about getting yourself an MBA?
  • [00:41:32] A leader cannot play all the roles in the organization
  • [00:42:16] Physicians have the expertise and are patient advocates
  • [00:42:54] Physician’s transferable skills from patient care to leadership

Key Takeaways: 

  • People need to see their leadership— and be seen by their leadership
  • Inspiring words heard at Craig Hospital: I do everything I used to do—I just do it differently
  • Training at Dartmouth on the bleeding edge of racial and gender integration
  • Got white privilege? Put that power to some good use
  • Five transferable skills from medicine to leadership

Meet Dr. Jandel Allen-Davis: 

Jandel Allen-Davis, MD, is the President and CEO of Craig Hospital, a neuro-rehabilitation center in Denver, Colorado. The institution is renowned for research and expertise in caring for patients with spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries.  Dr. Allen-Davis is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and practiced for 25 years.  Prior to her current role, Dr. Allen-Davis had a long career with the Colorado Permanente Medical Group including multiple leadership roles, and most recently was the vice-president of Government, External Relations and Research for Kaiser Permanente Colorado.

Dr. Allen-Davis attended Dartmouth for undergrad and for medical school and completed her residency at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. Before joining the Colorado Permanente Medical Group in 1994 she was an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and spent four years in the Indian Health Service in Tuba City, Arizona during which time she also served as member and chair of the American College of Obstetrician Gynecologists’ Committee on Alaska Native and Indian Affairs. (craighospital.org Editors., n.d.)

Dr. Allen-Davis serves on multiple boards and community associations and is the recipient of numerous awards in both medicine and leadership. She is married to her Dartmouth sweetheart, Anthony, and she’s a mom to two inspiring adult children.  But there’s more: she’s a photographer, gardener, birder, a fabulous cook (the writer of this bio knows this from personal experience), and a fiber artist whose work has been displayed in several galleries over the years.

craighospital.org Editors (n.d.).  https://craighospital.org/about/leadership

Resources: 

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson: https://www.isabelwilkerson.com/
Rising Strong by Brené Brown: https://brenebrown.com/
Twitter:  @jc4ja 
LinkedIn:  linkedin.com/in/jandelallendavismd  
Email: JAllen-Davis@craighospital.org 

Video featuring Dr. Allen-Davis’s fiber arts, “Art makes me happy, gives me confidence and it’s a great, great pressure reliever.” – Dr. Jandel Allen-Davis