Wait, You’re a Nurse? James Calderwood Nu’12 W’12 WG’18 RN MBA
High school family vacations to South America on medical missions coupled with two summers helping to open a surgical center in a remote area of Kenya introduced James Calderwood to an early love of patient care. And as a DC native, he witnessed local hospitals closing due to poor financial planning which ultimately led to his early interest in health care management. This interest has only grown. James, a graduate not only of the Nursing/Wharton dual degree undergraduate program but also a Wharton MBA, currently works in clinical innovation and is fighting to help move the US from sick care to health care.
On How Being a Boy Scout Shaped Him:
Boy Scouts gave me a love for the outdoors while reinforcing key leadership and other skills. Merit Badges enabled me to visit a jail for Crime Prevention, learn basic health care in First Aid, and even work on tractors in Farm Mechanics. I ended up earning all the Merit Badges in Boy Scouts and, amongst other things, was Person of the Week on World News Tonight with Charles Gibson. The most important thing Scouts taught me was the importance of teamwork. A group can accomplish far more than any single person and we need to frame success as a team, not as an individual.
On His Nursing Experience:
While I have never worked as a bedside nurse, I maintain licensure in Pennsylvania and Maryland and use my nursing knowledge every day. Whether reviewing health care policy in the Senate [read on for details] or creating value-based care strategies for hospitals, I would not be competent professionally without being a nurse. I do volunteer clinically every chance I get. For example, after Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, I worked with the US Navy’s Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) as a civilian member of Project Hope, where we saw over a thousand patients a day at a clinic operated by a group of Marines. I am also a Disaster Health Nurse with the Red Cross and have spent time in the mountains of Nepal where I helped to diagnose and treat a variety of patients including one with leprosy. As a child, my parents and I visited the last leprosy colony [a hospital] in the US (my mother knew the director)— I never imagined I would see a leprosy patient in clinical practice!
Dr. Matt McHugh at Penn Nursing and Dr. Christopher Maxwell at Wharton were both influential in helping introduce me to options after college. Dr. McHugh’s class taught us how government, hospitals, insurers, and providers all interact.
It was a wonderful capstone to my joint degree education. Dr. Maxwell led the Wharton Leadership Venture program and I was lucky enough to join him for trips to Patagonia, Wyoming, and Mexico. He started his career cleaning ORs, then became a respiratory therapist, and was a leadership professor before retiring. He is a model on the importance of continually pursuing one’s interests and the value of clinical skills in all professional facets.
On His Time in the Senate:
A few days after graduation I started in Senator Tom Udall’s office as a Kaiser Family Foundation Health Policy Fellow. I knew the government drove health care in the US and I wanted some first-hand experience concerning how those decisions were made. I was lucky enough to work on diverse issues from polio vaccination to clean water for Native Americans to organ donation. The highlight, though, was being on the stairs of the Supreme Court as the ACA ruling was released. While I truly enjoyed working in Congress, I knew I wanted to learn more about how private industry adapted to legislation. The medical device trade association (AdvaMed) was a perfect next step. There I worked with our 300-member companies from J&J and Medtronic to two-person startups to create effective strategies for CMS, FDA, clinicians, investors, and even the Indian government.
On His Current Career and Aspirations:
The more I worked on hospital reimbursement issues, the more I wanted to learn how hospitals operate and getting my MBA in Healthcare Management was a perfect transition to my internship in strategy at the Cleveland Clinic and my current role in clinical innovation. I work with providers, hospitals, and other organizations to develop trial programs for value-based care models and plan to spend my career helping to ensure access to the appropriate care at the appropriate time. This access becomes a careful balance of clinical medicine, appropriate management, and financial understanding. I love the provider side and expect to stay in it for a while, but I ultimately hope to improve health care where ever the needs are greatest. I’m excited to see where my Penn education takes me next!