On May 18, 2021 the Maryland Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors confirmed new Chairman and Western Regional Chair Gracelyn McDermott, vice president, marketing, sales & business development at Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States. Read the full press release here. We sat down with Gracelyn to learn more about her career, her priorities for the Chamber and what drives her to succeed as a leader.
Tell us about your role as vice president at Kaiser Permanente.
Kaiser Permanente is the region’s largest integrated health system – employing over 1,600 physicians and 9,000 healthcare professionals who deliver high-quality care to more than 780,000 members. As vice president of marketing sales and business development, I have accountability for the development and execution of membership growth and market presence strategies for all lines of business, including Medicaid and Medicare.
What makes Kaiser Permanente a great place to work?
Kaiser Permanente is an amazing place to work. Our teams are committed to doing the very best work. I’m really proud to be a part of what we’re about and what we do every day.
In our medical centers and across our organization, we work to make people healthy. Our teams strive to provide our members with the very best in quality and service and we don’t just aim high, we deliver results. In addition to being the #1 health plan in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., and among the best in the nation, according to the National Council on Quality Assurance (NCQA), we are also ranked as Maryland’s “Top HMO,” according to the Maryland Health Care Commission. In addition, at Kaiser Permanente, we are passionate about achieving equitable health outcomes for our members and our communities, and that starts with addressing disparities among racial and ethnic minority groups. Here in the Mid-Atlantic, our teams have eliminated racial/ethnic disparities in colon cancer survival rates among our patients through screening practices and care. We’ve introduced workshops, trainings, and tools to help our employees and physicians practice inclusive behaviors, and to create a culture of equity, inclusion and diversity where all employees feel heard, supported and represented.
And, Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States has earned 5 stars from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the highest possible overall Medicare star quality rating. And, it received the highest numerical score among commercial health plans in the Mid-Atlantic region in the J.D. Power member satisfaction survey for the 8th year in a row.
You’ve been in the project management, sales and marketing world for 20+ years. What is one of the great lessons you’ve learned during your career?
I think the greatest lesson is that one can never stop learning. While my career has been primarily in the healthcare arena, the specific areas are broad – I started in entertainment consulting and telecommunication project management then moved on to clinical research, laboratory management, accreditation, quality management and finally to health insurance. A wide range of experiences can offer important perspective. And, curiosity is key. Curiosity is one of the most important qualities I look for when assessing a new hire. Simply put – it is the will to learn and know more. It has been said that people who are curious tend to make better choices. This helps to improve their company’s performance and, more importantly, helps their company adapt to uncertain market conditions and external pressures – like what we have seen over the past year.
How long have you been involved with the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, and why is it an important organization to you?
I’ve been involved with the Maryland Chamber of Commerce for almost five years. I was honored when former chair, Nate Beil, asked me to join the executive team as treasurer and then as vice chair. I’ve lived in Maryland all but three years of my life and am very much interested in ensuring that this is a place that anyone can make their lifetime home. To do that, Marylanders need to have access to great schools, great careers, great homes, and great support services. The Maryland Chamber advocates for all of these.
As the only statewide business advocacy organization and the leading voice for business in the state – each year in coordination with our membership, the Chamber identifies critical issues and establishes a legislative agenda to guide our strategy and advocacy efforts at the Maryland General Assembly. Advocacy supports policies and legislation that will grow jobs, build a robust workforce, and make Maryland more competitive.
As the newly elected Board Chair, what are your priorities for the Chamber during the next two years?
Several years ago, the Chamber board met to develop a strategic plan geared at building a stronger Maryland. The strategic priorities are in the areas of leadership, advocacy, membership, partnerships, marketing & communications, and impactful events to support our membership and the community. I intend to continue supporting these efforts as well as continuing to leverage the excellent work the Chamber Foundation has done for education. Of course, with the recent announcement of Christine Ross’ departure, my first order of priority will be to work with the executive committee to backfill the CEO role.
What is one quote that inspires you as a leader?
One of my employees actually engraved this Maya Angelou quote on a plaque for me as a gift since she had heard me say it many times: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” I’ve never been a fan of people who raise complaints for the sake of complaining. I’m about getting things done.
What do you enjoy doing for fun?
Hanging out with friends and family. There’s always laughter involved when I’m with my family and there is nothing more fun than that. I highly recommend hanging out with people that make you laugh. Laughter decreases stress hormones and triggers the release of endorphins, which also creates a feel-good effect.
Questions for Gracelyn? Contact her here.