For Chelsea Graves, Director of Medicaid Network Performance, Women’s History Month is an opportunity to reflect on her own personal journey, the roots of which are deeply embedded in the journeys of the women who came before her.
A grandmother who was a passionate advocate for civil rights in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, during the dark days of the Jim Crow era; a devoted mother who worked tirelessly to provide her daughter with every opportunity; a community of women who stood as shining examples of confidence and perseverance - this is the village that shaped Chelsea’s personal narrative as a professional woman.
“These women taught me that my reality is only what I shape it to be,” she says. “Because of them, I do not live with a ceiling; because of them, I know that what I do today impacts those who come behind me tomorrow. I owe these women everything; they stood out because of what they stood for, and I aspire to do for those who come after me, what they have done for me.”
That desire to help others live to their fullest potential is what led Chelsea to her current role, in which she helps to ensure that primary care organizations have the appropriate tools and resources necessary to meet savings and performance goals in Aledade’s physician-led Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). In so doing, she positions those organizations to deliver quality, cost-effective care to Medicaid recipients, a patient population that is too often fraught with care gaps and health equity issues.
“My favorite part of my role is being able to leverage my experience to benefit the independent physicians and community health centers that provide primary care services for underserved populations,” says Chelsea, pictured here with schoolgirls in Chapsinja Village during a 2017 mission trip to support Hope Missions Ministries in Lilongwe, Malawi.
“I have a deep passion for population health and community philanthropy, and I am excited to see their intersection as I lead our portfolio of national Medicaid payer relationships. It helps to drive the performance strategy for our primary care providers by meeting patients where they are, in a meaningful way.”
Chelsea’s passion for population health began 18 years ago when she was studying for her undergraduate degree in speech pathology, a field she chose after struggling as a small child with a speech impediment of her own.
“My grandmother left no stone unturned in finding the clinical support I needed,” she recalls. “That experience was instrumental to me. Sacrifices were made to secure those resources for me, and I was able to overcome it by grade school. It gave me confidence, and it sparked my interest in the field of health care and helping others.”
After completing an undergraduate degree in speech pathology and a master’s in public administration, her path took her to a role in a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) where she helped to address the unique challenges of post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. She later transitioned to a role with one of Louisiana’s largest Managed Care Organizations (MCOs), where she helped to build programs that brought together community-based organizations and payer services to address the social determinants of health for Medicaid members.
“I continued to journey. It was not that I charted the path, but that’s where the path led me,” Chelsea says. “And that path has now led me to Aledade.”
It is at Aledade, notes Chelsea, that she has found an environment that shares her personal passion for making health care better, more accessible, more equitable, for all.
“Aledade is very committed to a ‘people first’ approach, both in healthcare and in workplace culture. I have never worked in an environment where I’ve seen such inclusion, such an appreciation for putting people first, and I feel incredibly honored to work with and learn from some of the most brilliant women leaders in their fields - women who seek out opportunities to help others grow and succeed.”
That is a quality that speaks volumes to Chelsea, a woman who credits her own successes to those who blazed the path before her.
“As women, we must remember that every step we make, we have the opportunity to pull someone else up behind us,” she explains. “We must remember that it’s not just about us; it’s also about making a path for others. We must tell those who come behind us to stay the course, work hard, be intentional, and take chances. We all bloom at different times, and we can - and should - help others bloom, too.”