Executive Profile: Q&A with Tracy Garmer, Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer
In March, HCP observes Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day by recognizing the contributions women have made to help make our world a better place. We recently asked Tracy Garmer, Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer of Health Center Partners (HCP), for her thoughts on women in the workforce as she celebrates 19 years at HCP this month.
Q: Women’s History Month celebrates women’s contributions on history, culture, and society. What does this mean to you?
A: This is an opportunity to highlight the impact women have had and continue to have on our country and around the world. At HCP, we also recognize the fact that women are foundational to the work of community health centers. From the female CEOs and clinicians to the front-line workers, they are all making a difference in the lives of the patients they serve. These women also serve as role models, inspiring girls in their communities to enter the health care profession. Women will continue to play an important role at HCP, in our family of companies, and across the 17-member health centers we support.
Q: How did you get your start in health care, specifically in community health?
A: I landed my dream job at HCP 19 years ago as the Director of Human Resources. This role allowed me to utilize my education, skills and experience from a variety of industries including avionics, building management, and telecommunications, to build an HR program while aligning my passion to serve others. At HCP, I’m not only working with a talented and dedicated team of employees, I’m also supporting my passion for helping those less privileged in our communities by supporting our community health centers. This is where I belong.
Q: With nearly two decades at HCP, what are some of the changes you’ve seen regarding women in the workforce?
A: Women make up over 55% of the overall workforce in the US and over 75 percent of the country's health care workforce. We also represent the majority of students in med school. That wasn’t always the case. I’m excited to see the continued shift towards a more inclusive workforce with more equitable access to opportunities for women, especially in the health care industry. In my time at Health Center Partners, I’ve been given the opportunity to grow professionally, expand my knowledge base and take on the role of Chief Operations Officer. As a woman, I feel very fortunate to be given these opportunities.
The past few years at HCP has been very exciting and rewarding. HCP has experienced tremendous growth. In 2016, we added our newest company, Integrated Health Partners (IHP) to the family of companies. IHP is a clinically integrated network of community health centers that manages nearly 300,000 lives. Our growth has required additional staffing to meet the needs of our family of companies and our members.
Q: Is community health care a sector of the industry that typically attracts women?
A: Again, data shows more women are pursuing careers in health care today than ever before. My hope is this trend will also apply to women in community health care, whether that’s as a frontline worker, a physician, a behavioral health professional, or someone in administration like me.
In general, I think women are exceptional multi-taskers, good listeners, and compassionate - important traits in any industry, but especially important in health care. These traits also help anyone working in health care to understand a patient’s background, cultural characteristics, and socio-economic factors, which help to inform diagnosis and treatment.
Q: What excites you most about community health care as a career?
A: Working in community health care is an opportunity to give back to the community. Born in San Diego and raised in Riverside, I’ve spent my life in southern California. It’s exciting to be part of a growing organization committed to supporting community health centers and to helping to ensure equal access to health care for all.
Q: What advice do you have for the next generation of women in the workforce and, specifically for those who are considering a career in health care?
A: This question is very personal for me. My daughter is about to embark on a career in medicine. She says she’s following in my footsteps, inspired by my dedication to community health care. I’m so proud of her and excited to see what the future has in store for her.
My advice is to embrace all opportunities presented to you, no matter what your background is or where you come from. I didn’t grow up privileged. I worked very hard and was resourceful. Don’t let other people define who you are. Believe in yourself, be true to your passion. These powerful words from Maya Angelou sum it up nicely. “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”