Congratulations to Tara Grabowsky '88 for being honored recently for her work as Chief Medical Officer at HVH Precision Analytics. Last month, Tara was named one of 12 Power Women in Bioscience by the Philadelphia Business Journal, highlighting her application of machine learning and artificial intelligence to healthcare delivery, utilizing her years of experience as a hands-on, practicing physician.
Research has shown that girls as young as six years old are already questioning their place and ability in the STEM fields, clearly showing us the importance of early exposure, not only to these fields, but to women in these fields. Tara was fortunate to have "fiercely" supportive parents who placed a high value on her education and sent her to Stuart. It was both at home and at Stuart, where Tara was exposed to the STEM fields, to working women, and to women in the STEM fields. Tara excelled in STEM throughout her academic career, and Stuart was greatly influential. "Just the mere fact that Stuart is all-girls already fosters STEM enormously over what you would get in a co-ed environment. So, there's no doubt in my mind that that was a huge part of it, because it didn't occur to me that there was one class I could or couldn't do," Tara said. What it boils down to is that one of the major benefits of an all-girls educational environment is that it produces an absence of doubt in your ability to do something that in another place you might not attempt.
She also credits the small-school environment of Stuart, and how the teachers and students know each other very well. Tara remembers how the teachers were "supportive of everyone's individual needs, strengths, talents, and challenges," and encouraged and supported the students to pursue their areas of interest and strength. "What was always so special is that they worked with us... within the realm of who we were." The individualized attention comes down to being small, but it also is about Stuart, about "vision and love," Tara calls it. Leadership opportunities were available to everyone at Stuart, and the emphasis was on finding the girl's individual strengths and encouraging them into a leadership role based on those strengths.
Another major influence of Stuart on Tara's life were the Goals and Criteria of Sacred Heart education, as lived out at Stuart. The main goals that Tara cites as influential are Goal 2, a deep respect for intellectual values, and Goal 3, a social awareness which impels to action. She said, "that was what drove me to medical school, was that I got to do science in a way that I could help people. It sounds so trite, but that's really what I was after: a way to combine science and basically my experience in campus ministry with Mr. Kilker... that was literally what took me to medicine."
When Tara made the transition from practicing internal medicine to technology consulting as a medical expert, it opened her eyes in a new way to her love for leading and building something. While she didn't expect to love it quite so much, she again drew on her knowledge and experience with the building of community (Goal 3), in an effort to build a business and culture that was sustainable and successful. Tara says that excellence and laughter are the two most important components of a work environment, and then profit follows. "And I really believe that. Because if you are focused on excellence and respecting each other and having fun, then you end up in this incredible environment."
In this newer, growing field of healthcare analytics, Tara has found herself as one of very few women and the only woman for a long time on the management team at her company. As such, it would be assumed she's out there mentoring women so they can bridge the gender gap and rise in the field. However, this is only part of the story. Tara explained, "It's not just about mentoring girls... it's also really important as a woman to mentor men, so that men are used to being mentored by women and having bosses who are women." This is something Tara sees as critical, because in reality, her whole team was men. She sees her role as a mentor in this way helping the overall cause of women in science, business, and leadership. Tara is, however, more specifically working with some local and national women's organizations to spearhead efforts around women in science, technology, and artificial intelligence. Further, whenever Tara speaks at a conference, she's open to individual conversations with women who are looking for advice on next steps in their careers. While many in her position wouldn't spend that kind of time with people who may not advance their own personal interests, Tara does. "It goes back to the community part and the leadership and business... there's a variety of personalities and value systems. I want to show people that you can be in that world and still stay true to the core of who you want to be."
After her time at Stuart, Tara graduated from Dartmouth College before attending Stanford Medical School. She moved to Boston and trained in internal medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital before going into practice for many years as an internist within the Partners HealthCare system in the Boston area. During her time in Boston, Tara also developed curriculum and was an instructor at Harvard Medical School. Upon her relocation to the Philadelphia area, instead of her initial plan to continue her work in internal medicine, Tara took the opportunity to explore a different path - a medical consulting job that she heard about through someone else. This led to her passion for and current career on the forefront of the booming field of healthcare analytics. A project that began in the defense and intelligence space, quickly grew into an independent company created as a joint venture between the defense side and a large advertising company with a big healthcare and medical education sector. Utilizing the vast amounts of claims data, profound patterns can be found. This opened up an opportunity in the area of rare diseases - utilizing artificial intelligence to analyze symptom data to make an early diagnosis. Typically it takes 7 - 14 years to diagnose a rare disease; "if you can accelerate that even a little bit, that has a profound impact on a patient's life," Tara said. Earlier diagnosis means earlier treatment and the prevention of premature progression. From the initial focus on rare diseases, Tara's company expanded into hard-to-diagnose diseases (like MS), and then to the entire continuum of what pharmaceutical companies are doing (clinical trials, launching the drug, finding the patients, etc.).
Because of Tara's love for leading and building, she has recently left her position at HVH Precision Analytics to begin a new project, which she will announce in the summer. Congratulations, Tara!