Lisa Wright ’11 has never been afraid to make a bold move. Over the years, this approach has led to exciting opportunities, unexpected turns and, ultimately, a fulfilling leadership role in healthcare where she is making a real difference for members of the community who need help the most.
In front of the camera
Growing up in Kentucky, Wright dreamed of a career in journalism. During her undergraduate program, she studied journalism and sociology and landed a coveted position at an ABC affiliate in Lexington.
“Starting out, this is what I wanted to be. I wanted to tell these amazing stories,” she recalls.
For many years she did just that, working as a producer, a writer and a reporter in front of the camera for both ABC and NBC affiliates. As time passed and she gained more experience, she grew weary of the rough schedule and realized that the work wasn’t quite how she had imagined it.
“When you work in TV, it is a lot more headline-based,” she explains.
She reached a tipping point when her station sent her out in the middle of a tornado warning to cover the story.
“I remember being outside thinking this is not what I thought it would be,” she says.
Finding greater meaning
That moment made her realize she was looking for greater fulfillment in her work. Inspired, she decided to leave TV and dive into a new career in the non-profit world. She accepted a position with Big Brothers Big Sisters where she worked on public relations, marketing, fundraising and building the organization’s brand so it could make an even bigger difference in the local community.
“It was the most rewarding experience seeing kids matched with mentors and how it impacted their lives,” Wright says. “I met a lot of wonderful people.”
One of those contacts led to her next role at The National Marrow Donor Program in California. Although the work was similar, here she was helping parents of sick children find a life-saving bone marrow match. When the organization was able to find a donor match, it was a thrill. It was just as heart-rending when, despite their best efforts, they couldn’t. Through the ups and downs, Wright found a way to stay inspired.
“It’s one of those things where you see the goodness in people come out,” she recalls, remembering how thousands of people showed up to get tested to see if they were a bone-marrow match for a sick four-year-old.
The building blocks of a career
Wright accepted a leadership role with The National Bone Marrow Donor Program in Richmond, where she worked closely with the insurance industry. This led her to the next iteration of her career, and she went to work for health insurer Anthem before accepting a position with United Health Group in Maryland.
Her prior experience prepared her well for this new industry, and she thrived at United. Her writing and speaking skills from her journalism days were an asset, and so was the knowledge of healthcare that she gleaned from her years of non-profit work. Her colleagues took notice, and during her 11 years at United, she won the prestigious Living the Mission award twice.
“This changed the trajectory of my career to leadership, and I wanted to go back to school,” she says.
She was initially concerned that she wouldn’t be able to fit an MBA degree program into her busy schedule, but then she met someone who attended UMGC, and the pieces fell into place.
“I still keep in touch with my cohort, this group of working professionals with amazing day jobs,” she says. “We had this level of camaraderie and friendship, and for me this was life-changing.”
Just weeks after earning her MBA, she was selected for a highly competitive leadership immersion program at United, one she wouldn’t have qualified for without a master’s degree. At the end of the program, she moved to Pennsylvania to become president of the Medicare division in that state. After several years in that role, she and her family moved to Texas. This move led her to her current position of president and CEO of Community Health Choice (CHC).
The right place at the right time
In May 2020, she took her place at the helm of this managed care organization with 700 employees as the pandemic was taking a stronghold around the world. Daunting as it was to establish herself in her new leadership role just as employees went home to work remotely, Wright did not shy away from the challenge. Although she was dealing with a proverbial perfect storm of events, she embraced the positives.
“This job is a definite joy. I have the opportunity to lead an organization that focuses on the indigent, safety-net population,” she says.
CHC’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of underserved Texans by opening doors to healthcare and health-related social services. They accomplish this by offering a wide range of affordable and no-cost health insurance plans bolstered by one of the largest provider networks in the area, in addition to helping clients with education, employment, housing, food and other necessities.
“It’s so great to be part of an organization that does so much more than prevention and wellness. We are literally taking care of the whole person and family,” she reflects. “It’s very rewarding, and we do a lot of good work.”
Wright may not have found herself doing such gratifying work if she hadn’t made some bold choices throughout her career and taken a chance on herself.
"You can’t be afraid to try something new,” she insists. “I’m a firm believer that the worst thing you can do is not try. Sometimes we have to learn what to do, and sometimes we have to learn what not to do. The only thing that helps us with that is experience.”
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