07 Dec 2022

Q+A with New HBS Health Care Initiative (HCI) Director Casey Otis

Photo courtesy Evgenia Eliseeva.

We caught up with Harvard Business School’s new director for the Health Care Initiative (HCI) to learn more about her background, career highlights, and new role.

What’s your professional background?
I have spent my career working in the non profit, government, and higher education sectors. I’ve followed a path in and out of various roles in support of education for all ages, from early education to adult learners. Along the way, I have discovered that I have a passion for building programs that maximize the impact of the Harvard community.

How did you choose your line of work?
My parents have modeled the importance of civic engagement and collective impact for as long as I can remember—even before I was born. Their honeymoon was spent as Peace Corps volunteers in Sierra Leone; they started a community gardening project in my hometown of Plymouth, NH, which was profiled on WGBH’s The Victory Garden, despite already having an acre of vegetables growing at home; they both worked as teachers and counselors and remain very active in their church.

Their passion for service and neighborly generosity took root in me. I was a member of my student council, a summer camp counselor, an organizer of blood drives, and very active in persuading New Hampshire legislators to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a state holiday.

The importance of playing an active role in the success of my community was modeled for me throughout my childhood, and has played a strong role in my sense of duty as an adult.

How did you end up at HBS?
I have been at Harvard for more than 15 years. First as a student at the Graduate School of Education, then leading student-facing social change programs for the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), and finally at HBS.

I moved to HBS to work in Executive Education, where I had the chance to collaborate extensively with faculty and staff to design custom programs that connect the School’s research with the adult learning needs of non-profit and corporate clients. This role required me to develop a well-informed point of view of how the resources that I control might benefit the needs of my clients and students. In doing so, I was able to study the research and teaching of many of HBS’s leading experts and incorporate that knowledge into my educational programs.

What’s a highlight from your career here at HBS?
Over the last seven years, I had the tremendous opportunity to witness the impact that HBS’s intellectual capital can have on leaders in a variety of sectors, including health care. As a portfolio director for the Custom Programs Executive Education team I had a front-row seat to the challenges and opportunities faced by clients working in health care delivery, life sciences, and medical device technology. As a connecter of clients and faculty, I was able to observe the transformative learning power that connections with the HBS community can have on the problems that health care leaders are trying to solve.

One memorable highlight of my time in Executive Education was working with Newton-Wellesley Hospital to run a small pilot program to reopen campus in June of 2021 with a small group of physicians, nurses, and administrators from the hospital, which was profiled by the School.

How are you feeling about taking on this role?
My time at Harvard has continued to show me just how much impact our community can have on the lives and livelihoods of so many leaders, and on the organizations that they serve. Repeatedly, I have seen our matriculated students and life-long learners leave us with new inspiration to innovate and do more within their fields. It is a gift to think that I have played even a small role in helping them build the connections to do so. I am excited to do more of this work at HCI.

How will you get started? What are some of your initial goals as director?
I am taking the advice of many wise advisors and doing a lot of listening. I am eager to learn as much as I can from my team, our advisors, and internal partners. There is a wealth of staff and faculty wisdom here, which will guide how I prioritize my work.

What do you see as the role of the Health Care Initiative? Why is its work important?
Ultimately, the HCI exists to foster and promote faculty research, support the development of a high-impact portfolio of education programs, and to create an interconnected HBS health care-focused community. Our amazing team of staff and faculty is hard at work delivering engaging courses, programming, and content for students, alumni, executives, and recruiters.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love power yoga, listening to podcasts (After Hours, Smartless, HBR’s Women at Work), running, and adventuring with my family.

What is your favorite book and movie?
Impossible to pick one of each, because I am always working on at least three books at a time. Recently, I have enjoyed reading Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile and Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles. As for movies, I am on a music documentary kick right now and recently enjoyed Summer of Soul, Amy, and Oasis Knebworth 1996.

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