Ije-Enu Udeze, 40

Chief of staff, of­fice of the CEO, Kaiser Per­ma­nente, Oak­land, Calif.

Modern Healthcare - - UP & COMERS - —An­dis Robeznieks

When Ije-Enu Udeze says “I want to push

you a bit,” Kaiser Per­ma­nente ex­ec­u­tives in the room start to sweat.

“That’s a pre­cur­sor for say­ing, ‘Get ready, I’m go­ing to say some­thing that might make you un­com­fort­able,’ ” said Bernard Tyson, CEO of the $55 bil­lion in­te­grated health­care sys­tem Kaiser Per­ma­nente.

When Udeze “pushes a bit,” it’s to ask, “Does this re­ally meet your ob­jec­tives?” Or, “Is this what you want to be re­mem­bered for?”

Tyson nom­i­nated Udeze, his chief of staff, for Mod­ern Health­care’s Up & Comer recog­ni­tion and de­scribed her as a pas­sion­ate in­di­vid­ual try­ing to make a dif­fer­ence.

“That’s how she rolls,” Tyson said. “In con­ver­sa­tions with Ije (pro­nounced ‘E.J.’), she de­scribes things from a mem­ber’s per­spec­tive. She’s very good at bring­ing the hu­man voice into the room.”

Udeze said she knows that per­spec­tive be­cause she grew up in the sys­tem and her mother worked for Kaiser for more than 20 years.

“I have tons of friends and fam­ily who get their care from Kaiser Per­ma­nente, so I hear sto­ries,” she said. “I hear the good, the bad and the ugly. So I be­gan to think about what are the root causes for some of th­ese things.”

A first-gen­er­a­tion Amer­i­can whose par­ents em­i­grated from Nige­ria and met at the Univer­sity of Min­nesota, Udeze stud­ied eco­nomics at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley, earned an MBA from Pep­per­dine Univer­sity and grad­u­ated from Har­vard Business School’s ex­ec­u­tive lead­er­ship pro­gram. She orig­i­nally didn’t see her­self in health­care.

“I don’t do blood,” Udeze said. “But health­care al­ways turned out to be the fo­cus of all our con­ver­sa­tions—ev­ery­thing came back to health and well­ness.”

Out­side of Kaiser, Udeze serves on the board and chairs the men­tal health com­mit­tee for Girls Inc. of Alameda County, a not-for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion aimed at in­spir­ing girls “to be strong, smart and bold.” She has also started Utuh USA, an or­ga­ni­za­tion build­ing in­fra­struc­ture, fos­ter­ing ed­u­ca­tion and de­vel­op­ing sus­tain­able health­care for a vil­lage in east­ern Nige­ria.

Tyson pre­dicted Udeze’s pas­sion, em­pa­thy and peo­ple skills will take her far.

“I think she can con­tinue to progress wher­ever she wants to go,” he said. “She’s re­spected be­cause she re­spects.”

YOUNG EN­TRE­PRE­NEUR: Started own business at age 8. She grew, cleaned and sold an African veg­etable known as onugbu, or “bit­ter leaf,” to the Nige­rian com­mu­nity in L.A.

FIRST JOB: At age 11, pro­cessed mag­a­zine sub­scrip­tions. She was happy to have a pay­ing job be­fore her older sis­ter did.

ON THE RUN: Has run five half-marathons. Con­sid­ers run­ning a self­in­vest­ment, and uses the time for med­i­tat­ing and strate­giz­ing.

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