Kathleen Hoffman: A Friend to the Unsung Heroes
Not all leaders make their impact by being out in front. Kathleen Hoffman is a champion for the unsung heroes of healthcare. Perhaps it is not ironic that she too may be an unsung hero. Two years ago, Dr. Hoffman founded a group on LinkedIN focusing on issues in health communications, health literacy and anywhere else health intersected with the social sciences. Health Communication Health Literacy and Social Sciences or HCHLITSS as it is more commonly known is a closed community of academics who focused on the sociological aspects of medicine. As a former academic and research scientist with expertise in health communications, marketing research and messaging, Hoffman sought to foster a collegial environment promoting the free exchange of smart ideas. Today, this closed community boasts an impressive 2,486 members all of whom either requested or were invited to join.
In October of 2011, she and another HCHLITSS group member, RV Rikard a fellow social scientist and academic ventured to expand this exploration of the intersection of healthcare and the social world onto the Twitter platform. Since October of 2011 HCHLITSS has tweeted consistently on Thurdays at the 8:00 pm (Eastern) hour. The HCHLITSS twitter chat is unique because was the first and perhaps one of the few twitter chats to regularly feature a guest sharing their experiences and expertise via a panel-style Q & A format. What inspired Kathleen in this endeavor?
She explains, “I feel like there are a lot of people living their life in a full and useful way but nobody knows about it”. These are the people “I want to support and feature.” Dr. Hoffman seeks out these individuals to give them more visibility. “[Helping] others shine is rewarding,” she continues.
Having featured health luminaries such as Andre Blackman, a leading voice for health and innovation and Katherine Leon, a passionate patient advocate for SCAD (spontaneous coronary artery dissection) early in the history of the chat and relatively early in the career trajectories of these advocates illustrates just how keen Hoffman’s eye is for talent. The chat has also feature entrepreneurs like Victor Wang, inventor of GeriJoy, a therapeutic tool in the form of a virtual dog that talks back to its owners and the founders of Medivizor, the physician-founded medical information platform. With each chat, Hoffman and her team of co-hosts (RV Rikard and yours truly, Alisa Hughley) examine the stories of patients and caregiver or turn topics of data and innovation on their head by exploring their impact on the user. As one might conclude, her preferred leadership styles are democratic and participative. She excels in selecting individuals who posses diverse talents that work together synergistically.
When our discussion turned to the exciting trends in healthcare, Kathleen’s voice quickened when she revealed, “[I’m really] excited by the e-patients, the smart patients having the opportunity to find out what’s going on.” “Empowerment is really important to me.” She elaborates on how these activist patients and caregivers are an equalizing force in a healthcare landscape where medicine has been reduced to a mere commodity. As a result, there are so many people, especially among the catastrophically ill “being squeezed in enormous ways.”
Their insurance doesn’t begin to provide the coverage they require. It is this disparity in the healthcare received by vulnerable populations that Dr. Hoffman’s work both with HCHLITSS and her consulting firm, KDH Health Communications seeks to ameliorate. The job is large and ambitions but Kathleen Hoffman is willing to be that drop that causes ripples in the ocean.
Do you know any amazing female healthcare leaders hidden in plain sight? Is there an unsung hero whose praises you’d like to sing? I’d love to hear about them. Perhaps we might feature them as a guest on the HCHLITSS twitter chat. Let’s keep the conversation going.
This was the second in a pair of posts written in celebration of XX in Health Week, 2013 where I’ve featured women who inspire me. Their tenacity and passion for doing public good are as much a force to reckoned with as their leadership.