Meet the Collective: Hi, Theresa.

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Meet the Collective is our series highlighting the great people who make up Collective Health. Today, we’re sitting down with Theresa McCluskey, Controller.

Where are you from?
I was born in New York City, but was raised in Spring Hill, FL. However, since then I have lived all over for work including Nashville, Miami, DC and Denver.

What happened in your career that led you to Collective Health?
I started my career at a health benefits company. It was my first job out of college. I think how lucky I was to land my first job out of college in the type of industry I have always loved. I have worked in a few other industries since then but it feels good to be back to an industry I am most passionate about. Healthcare is something that impacts everyone and it’s also an important part of the economy.

What excites you most about where Collective Health is going?
I think what excites me the most is what a difficult path we are on. Generally speaking, it’s an extremely stagnant industry but there are a few pockets of innovation like in biotech and pharma. But for the most part, benefits have seemed to innovate and move at a much slower pace. I’d argue that a good benefits experience has the potential to deliver the most impact to an individual compared to any other type of health company. I’ve noticed that change happens slowest in the segments of healthcare that are the largest and oldest because there’s no incentive to change how they’ve been operating for the last 50+ years. That’s why I find what Collective Health does extremely exciting – because I know just how hard it is to deliver meaningful change in this type of environment.

What’s an example from your career that really showed to you that we needed to think about and approach healthcare differently?
As someone with a chronic condition, I have personally spent plenty of time navigating the healthcare system. I have a very severe case of migraines, and it impacts my whole life, not just how I feel but being able to enjoy certain activities or progress in my career etc. It’s a condition I have been dealing with over the past 15 years and it’s given me quite the world tour of the healthcare system – everything from the ER, to specialists, getting referrals, imaging (and all the required approvals), prescription drugs (and those approvals too), and so much more. It’s a complicated process regardless of your condition. Now imagine trying to navigate all of that while you’re in pain, and trying to manage and carry on with your day to day life – it’s virtually impossible. That’s why I am so passionate about what we do from a business perspective, because I know the huge impact it can have at the patient level. For some people, it can be the difference between being fully disabled and having an incredibly successful career.

What’s one of the most important lessons you’ve learned in your career?
A long time ago, I had a partner tell me that 99% of the feedback you receive has nothing to do with you. It’s more a reflection of the individual delivering it, their own pain points, their personal lives etc. But in any piece of constructive feedback there’s always that 1% that you should focus on, an area where you can really improve. Knowing that has really helped me focus on how I manage feedback and work to improve myself as a professional.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not at work?
I am a huge reader. And when I say huge, I mean I typically finish three books a week. I’m not picky about the topic, I read about everything under the sun. For example, I’m reading “Against the Grain” right now; it’s an anthropological book that most people would probably find boring but I find it fascinating.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? How does that inform what you do today?
I wanted to be a congresswoman. I took a trip to DC when I was 7 or 8, and we got to meet our representative and she took us on a tour around the capital. While we were with her, we had the opportunity to ask her anything we wanted and, as a kid, that seemed mind boggling and so powerful. So, I asked her about this street I lived on that was a dirt road but it used to be paved. I asked her about it because it was hard for me to learn how to ride my bike on an unpaved road, and I told her that’s what I really wanted – pave my street so I can learn to ride my bike properly. Two years later, it actually happened! I’m not sure if it was because I asked but that moment really struck me – that one person could have the power to do something like that, be a changemaker, and I wanted to do that.

Hidden talents or lack of talents?
I used to be a semi-professional ballerina. I studied ballet in college and all throughout growing up. I actually did an apprenticeship at the Miami City Ballet before starting my professional career.

Fun fact about me:
My great great uncle wrote the Irish national anthem.

Favorite Movie: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Preferred Pronouns: she/her
Hometown: Spring Hill, FL
Favorite Quote: “Comparison of the thief of joy” – Theodore Roosevelt.

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