Hey folks! Welcome back to the Leader Show with Lou Carter. Our guest today is Dr. Christopher Chen, the CEO of ChenMed, America’s leading primary healthcare provider. In this episode, Chris shares the importance of providing underserved communities with love and value-based care and what makes ChenMed a Most Loved Workplace®.
Now, with that said, let’s jump right in!
Lou starts the conversation by asking Chris how ChenMed integrates love into its workplace culture. In reply, the ChenMed CEO highlights three factors that have helped the company become a Most Loved Workplace ®: a focused mission, a sense of purpose and community, and living and reinforcing its values of love, accountability, and passion.
He describes how his personal experience as a doctor and a patient drove him to create a company that would transform and improve healthcare, particularly for the most underserved communities.
Chris emphasizes the importance of love as the foundation for building employee relationships, caring for each other, and ultimately serving patients. He cites examples of the company’s initiatives, such as the ChenMed Cares Foundation, that support employees in times of crisis and hardship.
Chris also highlights the company’s efforts to address racial and economic inequity issues through employee resource groups. He mentions that 53% of their employees are women of color and are recognized on the Change The World list.
According to him, building relationships with each other and fostering a culture of love is necessary for caregivers to achieve their mission and make a difference in communities.
Lou is amazed by the statistic that 53% of women employed by ChenMed are of color and asks how ChenMed creates a culture of love and inclusivity. In response, Chris reiterates that love is a core value at ChenMed, and he was initially met with some resistance from his team who found love to be “un-corporate”.
While some people think that associating love with the workplace is “kooky,” Dr. Chen strongly believes that love is necessary. Employees spend a significant portion of their lives at work, therefore it is imperative that they should receive and give love in that environment.
Chris believes that the values of empathy, selflessness, grace, kindness, dignity, respect, and valuing each other’s perspectives are all fundamental to fostering a culture of love at ChenMed. For Lou, childhood experiences of feeling disrespected and undervalued inspired him to create the Most Loved Workplace® certification process.
Chris talks about the challenges of serving underserved populations and the importance of overcoming fear through love. He gives examples of practical ways in which they demonstrate love and care for their patients and team members, such as making “love calls” during the pandemic and investing in leadership training programs for their staff.
Next, Chris mentions the practical benefits of creating an environment of love and support in healthcare. Statistics show that having love as a key guiding value can lead to a 50% reduction in hospitalization rates, over 30% reduction in ER visits, potentially double the six-month survival from cancer, and substantial reductions in heart failure admissions.
He notes that many caregivers are experiencing burnout and argues that this is not due to too much work but rather a lack of love and support. According to him, people can do remarkable things when they feel loved and supported and when they have a clear purpose and mission.
Moving on, Chris and Louis discuss the role of love in improving various aspects of society, including healthcare and reducing disparities between different neighborhoods. Chris believes that love is not just a kooky concept but it is the energy that flows into us and allows us to flow it into others.
He emphasizes that if we can allow love to flow freely, we can achieve things beyond our expectations. Chris shares how ChenMed became the highest-ranked healthcare company on the Most Loved Workplace® list and how they celebrated it by having team members sign a heart and talk about what they loved and why they love.
Louis responds by expressing his admiration for Chris’s work and how it aligns with his own research on creating the Most Loved Workplace® platform.
Lastly, Chris highlights ChenMed’s mission-driven culture and how they are looking for dedicated and compassionate people to join their team. The perks of working at ChenMed include competitive compensation, great benefits, leadership programs, mentoring, and wellness programs.
Overall, he emphasizes the importance of love and mission-driven work in healthcare and the opportunities available at ChenMed and encourages listeners to join their team.
Chris and Louis discuss a lot more on this episode of The Leader Show. Share your thoughts with us at [email protected]
Thank you for listening!
Louis Carter : It's great to have Christopher Chen on today, CEO of ChenMed. Christopher, welcome. It's awesome to have you here.
Christopher Chen : Well, I'm so excited to be here.
LC : [Laugh], what I love about you is your true understanding and implementation of love in your workplace, as well as your practical, clinical and physics understanding of how love plays out, not just in the workplace, but also in the examination room. I wanna hear more about you and how you've brought love into your workplace.
CC : Well, you know there are three things that helped us and propelled us to become, you know, a most loved workplace. First, our mission of transforming healthcare to the neediest population. It is a focused mission. Secondly, we give people a tremendous sense of purpose and community. Two things that are missing in a lot of workplaces. And last, which is actually most importantly, most important, our values.
Many people put those values on their wall, but not us. We live it, we reinforce it, we talk about it all the time. And those values are love, accountability, and passion. You know, you have to ask yourself like, how did we start here? Why are we doing what we're doing? And we're the reason why we're doing what we are doing is because we've actually experienced what happens when healthcare doesn't work. My dad had cancer.
He was a doctor, a smart guy, right? He was a number one ranked student in the country of Taiwan, has a master's degree in chemistry from Washington University, a PhD in biochemistry, a medical degree, and, and so a lot of degrees. And he developed cancer. And we became a family full of doctors that really experienced what it was to be a patient. And we noticed that there were so many things that were missing in that process.
We noticed that we didn't feel that people cared. We noticed that the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing. It was outrageously complicated. We noticed that it was very expensive. We noticed that it was very inefficient. It's very easy to get lost. So, we decided to create a company that would solve and transform that care model. That's number one. Number two, we noticed that people with means, we had means were experiencing this type of healthcare that really didn't work.
And my dad said, well, we're a family full of doctors. What all about people in the most underserved, overlooked communities? What have they experienced? And so therefore, we immediately said, okay, then our vision is to be America's leading primary care provider, transforming care of the neediest populations, transforming care, and we're gonna go into neediest populations.
Now, a lot of people think that's really hard, right? [Laugh], you're gonna try to transform care, and then you're gonna go into the most difficult environments to do that. And I tell people, well, in order to transform care, care, healthcare in America is one fifth of the United States’ GDP economy. It used to be twice the size of Russia. So I would say, Hey, if you're trying to transform care, get ready or disrupt care, you're gonna take on two Russias. Now, because of the current circumstances, Russia's economy has gone down.
So now it's four Russias. You're gonna take on four Russias every day. And if you are going to transform, caring, and, and take on this huge goal, and then do it in the communities that we're talking about, you cannot do this alone. Your success rate will be 0% if you try to do this alone. And so that created this concept that the most important thing that we do with each other is actually embody that first value of love. We must achieve, build great relationships on a foundation of love, and we must deliver great results for our patients. And that's where the accountability comes in. But let me focus in on love. So let me give you some example. At ChenMed, while we tell people is it's important to love our patients, but first, learn to love each other, bond together, build relationships with each other.
We must take care of each other first because only people who are loved can love other people. So, let's take care of each other. So we then together can go and transform care in the neediest population. So we started this thing, for example, called ChenMed Cares Foundation. In 2021, we donated over $200,000 to more than 150 team members that were in crisis. When people are in crisis, love is even more important. We had this thing as an example called ChenMed Cares Christmas Wish, where employees can nominate people who are in tremendous need. We can't figure out what's going on everywhere. So we said, help us identify people who are going through crises and hardship. And last year, we, during Christmas, we, you know, distributed over $130,000 to dozens and dozens of team members that were really struggling during those holidays where, you know, the times are sometimes the hardest there.
We had examples in New Orleans when Hurricane Ida came over and the home office got in and, and trucks and started bringing generators and drove them from South Florida all the way to New Orleans. And were even able to distribute and serve 750 hot meals and yet provide essentials first to our people. And then ultimately to, to our broader group of patients.
We started this, you know, employee resource groups to look at two things, to look at achieving racial and equity and equality. It's called the Where To. And, we also developed the Women Inspired Network. And you're like, well, a lot of people have resource groups. Well, I love this one or these two. Why? It's about racial equity and equality. And it's about women. 53% of ChenMed employees are women of color. Let me say this again, we are on the Change The World list.
We are one of the, if not the leader in value-based care. And 53% of our employees, of our team members are women of color. So we have numerous other examples, but this is an example of how we have this tremendous mission and this tremendous goal. The only way for us to achieve it is first we need to build relationships with each other, gain the steam necessary and the power necessary of building that relationship with each other and loving each other so we can go out and love on these communities and make a difference.
LC : This is incredible. Chris, you, you had mentioned the statistic of racial equality, that 53% are women of color. That's extraordinary. So how did you get there? And what is that like now at ChenMed where you are fostering and sustaining this incredible culture of racial equality?
CC : You know, in today's world, love is not a commonplace workplace value. However, at ChenMed, it is absolutely core, right? It is the core, it is the first of our values, and we live our values. And so we practice love. I, this brings me back to a really interesting story. I remember when we were creating, you know, what would our values be and our behaviors, and we were trying to codify it. And I was in my car and I had two executives on my team, right? My team members, and they called me, and I guess they all drew straws or a group of people drew straws and said who's gonna tell Chris and give him this message now. And then you- this is really dear to my heart, and so they called me and said, Hey Chris, we love the value systems and we love what we're trying to do here.
We love the mission and how we're trying to transform care and, and do it in the neediest populations, but this value of love, it just sounds so kooky and it's really not corporate, and we're growing so fast and we want a be a big, we're gonna be a big corporation really soon. Can we consider something besides love? And I paused for a second and I thought this through and I said, guys, first of all, thanks for your courage and just to be vulnerable, I was on the fence.
Why was I on the fence? I, you know, I had a, you know, a mentor tell me the same thing, [laugh]. So, but I said, you know what, when I was listening to you and you said, love is kooky and it's not corporate, I immediately thought to myself, I said, well, why do we exist?
Why do humans exist? Why are we all here, in my faith? And my belief is that every person on this earth was created to receive and to give love. That is the number one purpose of why we are all here, is to receiving, to give love. And folks go to work for eight plus hours a day, and they aren't receiving or expected to give love. And that's very difficult. And it's now become such a normal thing that when you talk about love, it's “kooky” and not corporate. I said, you know what? That's a problem.
So, let's fix the problem. Let's bring love into the workplace. And so we made that strong decision to bring love into the workplace. And what that means is that we focus on serving others with empathy and selflessness. We give grace. We place equal value in both results and relationships. We treat our patients and employees with kindness and dignity and the respect they deserve. And we value each other. And our common purpose, we value their perspectives.
And then what you do is you add on accountability and passion, and actually everything falls in place.
LC : Chris, I love that because when I first started this research 10 years ago, the very first thing I thought about when I did this research was, how do I not have the same experiences that I've had prior to those 10 years past? And I thought back to my childhood times, you know, in school when there wasn't respect for people in class. Times I didn't feel respected by others, times I didn't feel respected by even family, right? And then going into later on in life, when I started my first job, what was that like? And how I always felt like I was the one who jumped in to help those who were in need, who needed help to equalize when they had bullies, when there was people who were even teachers who were trying to harm them and not help them rise up.
Always felt like something that I've had inside of me, which started me to create this very Most Loved Workplace and everything I do. I remember I was with this one boy, Mark Osborne, who I helped all the time in second grade because the teacher was scared of him. [Laugh] constantly scared of him because he was very, very excited all the time, and he always went to the principal. So, she assigned me to him, and he acted like a gorilla more, more than one day actually pounding his fists, getting upset, kicking tables.
And she said, Louis, go into the bathroom and take care of him. So I did, and he jumped up in the table and I jumped up with him. I said, mark, we're gorillas. He says, yes we are. And I said, but gorillas can't be right now who we are inside of Mrs. Bonna Vida's classroom, because she's gonna get really, really mad at us [laugh].
So come on, we'll be gorillas later on in the classroom. So we had to realize that there's times to be emotionally regulated, times to be business-like, times to be professional, and times to play and be ourselves. So that's what love and respect is about. If Ms. Bonavita understood that she could love him for his playful self, love him for when he wants to pretend he's a gorilla, or when he wants to be professional, it's okay. It's okay. And that happens in the examination room as well as the boardroom where you are. That's creation. Creation is when she loves herself. What I love myself, I can help Mark be who he wants to be, and then help him become even more regulated when he is in the classroom.
CC : You know, in our neighborhoods, these neighborhoods are really struggling. You know, we take care of the old, the poor, the sick, and most of which are minorities, right? Close to 70% of our patients are people of color. And they are, on average, 72 years old. The average life expectancy in our neighborhoods is 72 to 74. So we're getting, you know, people pretty elderly and pretty sick and underserved and overlooked seniors. And so, if we're going into these neighborhoods, and many of them are health deserts, they are not care providers in our neighborhoods that we go into, that's why we go into them.
And we wanna make a difference. The only way you can do that is you have to do that together. And you have to actually, there's all these actions. You have to, you have to overcome your fear.
And one of the strongest ways to overcome fear in my mind is the only way to overcome fear is through love. Love covers fear. When you have fear, it's very hard to act. When you have fear, you cannot innovate. When you have fear, it's very hard to invest. When you have fear, you don't have the freedom to have fun.
So what you, you gotta do is you gotta cover that fear with love. So that's what bonding is. That's why building relationships, that's why loving each other is so important. And then you can go out and make a difference. So lemme give you an example. What does that love look like in a practical sense? Well, during Covid, we made 1.2 million love calls during the pandemic. You're like, Chris, you guys are doctors. No, we had a lot of scared people. We called patients, we wanted them to know, these are love calls.
We love you. What can we do to help? And that yielded a, a whole host of things. We were buying toilet paper, running around, and picking up supplies for our seniors, right? Today, 93.3% of our patients feel that they are genuinely cared for when we surveyed our patients. That that number is way above everybody else. What about our team members? We talked about first providing love for our team members first, and we openly invest in our team members to help them grow and develop.
So, we have one of the most robust and large physician training programs. It's a nine month trading course called ChenMedU that we provide for our doctors. In addition to that, for our leaders, our business leaders, we have physician leaders and business leaders from top to bottom. We also invest in them very deeply with a six month leadership training course about really how to get the best out of people through love and then accountability and passion.
We have a number of employee resource GOs that we've talked about besides the ones that I've already talked about. And the other thing is we've also moved upstream. What we realize is the way that healthcare is practiced in America is healthcare is about crisis care. You wait for people until they're very, very sick. Maybe they're about to die, they go to the hospital and you try to rescue them.
You know what, if we really can love on our patients, you need to provide that love way earlier. So we have to teach our doctors how to practice preventative care and build relationships with patients to prevent bad things from happening. And a lot of that could be changing their lifestyles. I had a patient of mine who ate a bucket of fried chicken every night, every night, 400 pounds had heart failure. Now, I could just walk in like a typical doctor and say, you gotta stop doing that.
She's not gonna listen. Or, I can love on that patient and say, let me get to know you better. Let me figure out what's really going on. Let me see you every week if I need to. Here, here, here, let, let me, lemme take a look at your, tell me about your children. Tell me about your grandchildren. Let me show you my children on my phone, right? And we started the bond and we started to have a loving relationship. And I said, Hey, we all exist to give and receive love.
You'd like to give and receive love, right? If you eat a bucket of fried chicken every night, that's gonna get in the way of that. And let me show you what that looks like. But if you can stop eating a bucket of chicken every night, look me, show you what that looks like. And I, and she trusted me. Why did she trust me? Because I showed love to her. I gave her time. I was empathetic. I got to know her. So, you know, she loses 150 pounds after not eating a bucket of fried chicken every night. Her heart failure almost entirely disappears. We've probably added 20 years to her life. So that's a perfect example of how love translates in our organization into the examination room that yields superior health results.
LC : That emotional connection you're discussing right now with patients is so essential. And the way in which you did it is really beautiful. The way you asked her about her life. You shared your own values and your life with her. You became one with her, and then it was easier to make a co-created decision. And isn't that true with physicians too, right? Having those relationships with physicians, the trust levels go up when you're helping to develop them and grow and realize that they have lives too. They have families too. They have financial needs too. And so do your patients. It's so, it's this constant discussion and connectedness that I, it's more than apparent you're doing this 1.1 million calls. Wow, love calls. That is so cool. I'm gonna, I definitely going to, to remember that the incredible ways that you connect with patients in difficult situations in palliative care situations, amazing. And preventative, as you just said, for somebody eating a bucket of fried chicken at night, these are exceptional. The things you're doing is exceptional and so connected to what we do, we couldn't be more aligned.
CC : You know, people think love is kooky. It's not, it's highly practical. So let's just talk about some statistics of what having love is sort of your, one of your guiding, key guiding values and really breathing that into your organization. We reduce hospitalization rates by close to 50%. We reduce er visits by over 30%. We can potentially double your six month survival from cancer for our patients. I mean, that's just tremendous, right? We substantially reduce heart failure admissions, you know, we're, we're studying now amputation rates. So these are really practical outputs of creating an atmosphere in a culture of love. You know, unfortunately I trained at some really prestigious places and, and what I'm discovering is that the way that we train caregivers is sometimes in an atmosphere of fear. And so right now, physician burnout and actually caregiver burnout. So it's not just the physician physicians and the people that support those physicians.
There's a lot of burnout. And most people think that the reason why they're burning out is because there's too much of something. It's too much. I would venture to say that it's not because it's too much of something, it's because it's not enough of something. And what are they missing? People can do remarkable things when they feel love and supported. People can do remarkable things when there's purpose and there's a mission, think about it.
What you can overcome and, and the spirit of how you're working. I remember being in Nicaragua. Our company goes to Nicaragua and there's a lot of mission work there. And prior to Covid right now, it's a lot more challenged. And I remember, we saw 600 patients, I think it was like in a day at one point, [laugh] just, it's crazy. And at the end of the day, I was thinking, I actually feel I'm tired, but I feel refreshed. It's very interesting.
And that's what I realized. And, of course we bonded at the end of the night. We talked about it, I realized that if we can create environments of feeling love and supported and give people a genuinely beautiful vision and a mission and attach them to that purpose, you know, that's what we exist for, right? Then you're flowing, you're doing what you were made to do, and you don't grow now. And that's one of our goals.
LC : I love it. You know, I think about what love does in terms of health, the feeling of love with oxytocin, releasing oxytocin in our brains and then increasing T-cells. We're talking about a health effect of love. And it, which is, it is just amazing that you're actively having success in ER visits, actively having success statistically in people's long-term care, their short-term care within physician burnout. I mean, you're actually showing this reduction because of the word and because of the exercise thereof. Love. Amazing. I love how you use flow. I love how you use the all of the various elements. I love everything you're saying. It's so connected and so cool. We have a lot of great stuff that we presented today. We're so aligned in our work. It's incredible that Most Loved Workplaces are kind of meant to be. Scott has been talking about you for I know it's meant to be, Scott's been talking about you forever- Scott Baxt and I been talking about how amazing your company is, and I can see why. You exemplify really Most Loved workplace and all of the, the tenants that I've spent 25 years researching for better or worse.
And it's for best, for best. And we're all good. And really a pleasure to have you, Chris. Really pleasure.
Thank you, Louis. It's really a pleasure to be here. And when we discovered that we were the highest ranked healthcare company on the Most Loved Workplace list, it was really humbling. And, you know, we were really, really excited. I still remember we found it around Thanksgiving and we cut out this huge heart and we had all the team members sign it and talk about what they loved and why they love, and, but I truly believe that if we can, people think of love as kooky, right? They go, oh, that's just, that's, it's not, it's not. It is the fuel. It is what we are.. it is the we, it is the energy in this, in this universe that flows into us and allows us to flow it into other folks. And so if you can allow that energy, that love flows freely, there are things that we can do that are well beyond any of our expectations.
And we can go after some of the biggest problems in this country today. Healthcare. Healthcare is getting more expensive every year. Healthcare is delivering worse results every year. Life expectancies were dropping even before COVID. Love can fix that. It has a huge role in that. What about massive disparities between our neighborhoods within each city in America today, there's a 20 to 30 year life expectancy difference between the poorest neighborhoods and the wealthiest neighborhoods. 20, 30 years, life expectancy difference. Well, disparities, love can solve that, right? And so, and we're showing that in reality that, that there's data and evidence to support that. If you can get a group of people, align them to a mission that is worthwhile for them, and have them create an atmosphere of love first, and then go outwards, the results, they're beautiful and they're important.
LC : Beautifully said Chris. Beautifully said.
CC : At ChenMed, we're looking for people to join us. We are growing so fast. We literally doubled the organization every roughly 22 months. We doubled the size of the organization. So we are hiring people like crazy. And we are looking for people who are dedicated and are compassionate, and who have this eagerness to really get attached to a mission and to build relationships first with each other and then with our patients. And, what we can offer them is, you know, great incentive programs, great benefits, competitive compensation, but also we will invest in you, we'll give you opportunities to train and grow. Leadership programs, mentoring, you name it. We have great wellness programs, but most importantly, you're gonna be surrounded by equally mission focused, love-driven people who are trying to make a big difference in some of the most challenging things in this country today.
So great, great to see Louis. Check out chenmed.com/careers to get more information and would really, really you know, enjoy watching more people join this mission.
LC : I would too. What I love about what you said, and we'll also is that, you know, you have new products and new innovations as well, and ones you're developing and growing and going into ChenMed is like going into the Google of healthcare Yeah. You, you really can, you can create what you want to create, as he said, Chris said that he invests in you.
So people who are extraordinarily talented in software design and architecture, software architecture and programming in these amazing crafts that so many people have in their arrows, in their quiver can join ChenMed and really thrive, really thrive. And what a wonderful thing to provide to so many people who are talented and want to hang their hat on. Not just a passion and mission-driven company, also an innovative company that focuses on helping people have better and longer lives.
CC : Thank you, Louis. Yeah
LC : Thank you, Chris.