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Having Honest Conversations About Representation in Health Care

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“That was a very powerful experience,” Guadalupe Hayes-Mota, SB ’08, LGO ’16, founder and CEO of Healr Solutions, says of a keynote address he gave during the close of the MIT Introduction to Technology, Engineering, and Science (MITES) Saturday program in May.

Guadalupe Hayes-Mota, SB ’08, LGO ’16, Founder and CEO of Healr Solutions

Born in Mexico, Hayes-Mota, a member of the MIT Alumni Association Board of Directors, was especially moved by the opportunity to speak at MITES, which provides a foundation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) for students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds.

“Because of their backgrounds, they don’t often see themselves as scientists or engineers,” says Hayes-Mota. “It was an honor to talk about my journey and amazing to see their reactions when they realized, ‘Whoa! There’s someone here who looks like me.’”

We still have a long way to go before diversity is made a priority for all, adds Hayes-Mota, but it is worth the effort because representation matters. Hence why the health care entrepreneur is committed to using his learnings from the MIT Leaders for Global Operations (LGO) program to pave the way for the next generation of talent in STEM and beyond.

Honest conversations

One of the ways through which Hayes-Mota accomplishes this is by having honest conversations with others about what is needed and why. By being upfront with others from the beginning, he finds it much easier to work through difficult and complex problems.

At a young age, Hayes-Mota learned to be forthright with others on account of his hemophilia, a rare blood disorder that causes excessive bleeding and delays clotting. Whenever he accidentally cuts or bruises himself, his life can be turned upside down for weeks at a time. One of the most helpful methods for addressing his condition is speaking to family, friends, and colleagues about it, and—most significantly—seeking their help.

“I’m always trying to catch up,” he says, recalling past episodes during his MIT undergraduate days and a more recent incident while at the Harvard Kennedy School. “I’ll end up in the hospital for a week or two, then pick up the pieces. With time I’ve learned to do it faster.”

The support Hayes-Mota receives thanks to these conversations is “quite vital,” he says, as it enables him to catch up on time and tasks missed. It also helps him to advance his studies, entrepreneurial efforts, and extensive volunteer work for health care and other organizations.

Hayes-Mota engages in honest conversations with MITES Saturday program participants, LGO students, and others he wants to help. It is all a part of what he sees as a systems approach to addressing systems problems, which he learned as an undergraduate and graduate student.

A systems point of view

After double majoring in chemistry and Spanish literature, Hayes-Mota worked in various roles across the health care industry, an experience through which he came to understand just how complicated and traditional the medical field in the United States can be.

“If you see a problem through only one piece, you cannot find a systemic solution—especially in health care, which is a very complicated industry,” he says. “Medicine is traditional. It’s hard to introduce new things, which is understandable because it affects physical and mental health. It’s a little slower than in other industries.”

Hayes-Mota decided to return to school and applied to the MIT LGO program, through which admitted students simultaneously work toward master’s degrees in engineering and business administration. He wanted to better understand the health care industry from a systems point of view, and LGO provided him with the systems thinking tools to do just that.

“The LGO program really did teach me how to think about these problems more like how we solve systemic issues, or how all the pieces are interconnected,” says Hayes-Mota.

From working at Healr Solutions to serving on the board of Fenway Health—which centers the experience of LGBTQIA+ people, BIPOC individuals, and other underserved communities—Hayes-Mota has adapted his LGO learnings and his own lived experiences to tackle problems of injustice and inequity in American health care.

It is all, he says, for the complimentary purposes of providing systemic solutions to complex problems and ensuring that all people—especially those from underrepresented communities—are benefiting from medical advances.

“I see the disparities that affect people who need help, whether in health care or management,” says Hayes-Mota, who endeavors to ensure that the latest in medical technology is available to all who require it, adding that “asking for help is not a bad thing.”

“I try to show that in my work and in what I push for,” he says.

Guadalupe Hayes-Mota (center) poses with LGO students.

Credit: Joshua Jacobs

 

Learning goes both ways

Every year, members of the incoming LGO class form a committee to identify, reach out to, and schedule a variety of speakers for a student-led seminar series. Invited guests often hail from industries of significance to the students, and many are either Institute or MIT Sloan alumni—including recent graduates of the LGO program.

“Getting that kind of experience and knowledge directly from our fellow LGOs is really valuable,” says Ian Kleinemolen, a member of the LGO Class of 2024, “as they can connect really deeply and directly with what it is that we’re doing right now.”

With a background in medical devices and diagnostics, Kleinemolen and other health care-focused LGOs were particularly interested in what Hayes-Mota had to say. In May, the LGO alumnus spoke about the need for justice and equity in the American health care industry.

“As leaders in our respective fields, we have a responsibility to ensure that everyone has access to high-quality health care, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status,” Hayes-Mota said of his talk at the time. “By working together and leveraging the power of technology and innovation, we can find solutions that promote justice and equity in health care for all.”

Reflecting on the seminar, Hayes-Mota says the students are not the only ones who are learning.

“It’s a very symbiotic relationship,” he explains. “We learn from and grow with each other. Especially in the LGO program, which is very dear to my heart. We speak the same language.”

For more info Andrew Husband Senior Writer & Editor, OER (617) 715-5933