DEI Is the Solution to Better Healthcare: Kevonne Holloway, Managing Director for Global Content Partners at Elsevier


“The role we play in healthcare is so much bigger than I could have imagined, and it's just exciting to be a part of it,” says Kevonne Holloway, Managing Director for Global Content Partners at Elsevier, when reflecting on the work of her large team. GCP is responsible for 2,500 publications and other content that health educators around the world rely on to provide the foundation for medical education across multiple professional roles, and that clinicians and researchers reference in their everyday work. “In the end, we're not only meeting the needs of our customers, but we're meeting the needs of society. It seems like such a grandiose mission, but when you boil it down it's really about community and taking care of each other in the best way possible.” Part of that best way includes making sure diversity, equity and inclusion are a part of the mainstream of Elsevier’s products. “DEI is not a fad. It's not a trend. It is the solution to better healthcare,” she tells host Shiv Gaglani. Tune in to learn how Holloway’s servant leader approach to management facilitates trust and engagement, about Elsevier’s role in combating the “infodemic” of healthcare misinformation, and much more.




Shiv Gaglani: Hi, I'm Shiv Gaglani and today on Raise the Line, I'm really happy to welcome my Elsevier colleague, Kevonne Holloway, who is the Managing Director for the company's Global Content Partners business. In that role, she leads the team responsible for publishing content that health educators rely on to provide the foundation for nursing and medical student education, and that clinicians and researchers reference in their everyday work. She has decades of experience in the healthcare space, including many leadership roles, and has a special interest in servant leadership and in diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Before we get started, I'd like to give a shout-out because Kevonne and her team are really why Osmosis joined Elsevier. For two reasons: they produce the best most reliable content. Many of you have heard of Grey's Anatomy and Netters -- that's all under her team. Secondly, when I first met Elsevier colleagues -- people like Madeline Hyde, Jim Merritt, and Eliza Grady -- they were all part of her team as well. So, the people I had met eight years ago when I first started working on Osmosis are still at Elsevier and are still doing great work. It's a true privilege to be able to be teammates with her and her colleagues and to welcome Kevonne on the podcast. Thanks for joining us. 

Kevonne Holloway: Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here today. 

Shiv: So, we always like to start with our guests by learning more about their work. You spent your career handling various business and content functions for companies in the healthcare space. Can you tell us a bit more about how it all started and what drew you to healthcare?

Kevonne: So, what drew me to healthcare is I wanted to work in an industry that was bigger than myself, in a community that allowed me to actually help other people, either in a small way but in a way that had an impact. And so, healthcare is near and dear to my heart. I think we can all say that we've had someone in our lives personally who's been touched by the healthcare system. I know I'm no different, and so I'm really connected to the mission of the healthcare industry overall for taking care of people and providing better outcomes, and in Elsevier's mission for the benefit of society, improving healthcare outcomes and helping researchers with breakthroughs.

Shiv: Yeah, and I know we're coming up on just a couple of months into this new Elsevier Health brand where it's kind of unifying all the different things Elsevier's doing for the benefit of every patient and researcher. So, there are a lot of ways to contribute to the healthcare system, both as an independent contributor and also as a leader on a management track. Can you talk to us about that transition you made, because that's core to who you are and the work you do...

Kevonne: When I first started in the healthcare industry, I was working at Pharmacia which became a part of Pfizer. From there, I transitioned to Johnson & Johnson. I worked primarily in different finance functions. Then I went to Synovate Healthcare, which is a market research company that specialized in product forecasting for pharmaceutical companies who were looking to launch the next big blockbuster drug. My specialty was actually in oncology forecasting. That was probably one of the most rewarding roles I had in my career prior to stepping into Elsevier, because I got the opportunity to help shape and predict which oncology drugs would be impactful in the market and make a difference for patients. 

So, transitioning to Elsevier...I came in through the finance lens and then had an opportunity to transition to the business side of the organization into content. The great thing about content is that it provides knowledge, and knowledge is power. That power to shape, train, inform and guide people to decision-making that enables patient outcomes and researchers to make breakthroughs -- which then impact patients downstream -- is really gratifying. It gives me a sense of purpose in my work, as well as a sense of purpose for accomplishment. 

Shiv: Yeah, and at an immense scale. That's a nice thing, too, in a role. Maybe you can give us a sense of how big Global Content Partners is and how many things you guys are responsible for because it isn't just reaching medical students, like how Osmosis started. You're reaching practicing providers, many of whom are oncologists -- we know there's a big oncology part of Elsevier -- as well as researchers and even patients, to some extent. So, do you mind stepping back and giving us an overview of GCP and some of the things you're most excited about? 

Kevonne: Absolutely. Thanks for asking. So, Global Content Partners, also known as GCP, has employees in about ten different countries. We provide and support content in English, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. We publish about 2,500 titles a year. We also create digital content to support digital products and solutions at Elsevier, like CK Student, CK Now, and Sherpath. We also are responsible for managing and creating relationships as an organization with high-level key opinion leaders, networks, societies, and renowned authors who actually help create and craft the content. 

The customers that we are serving through Global Content Partners are across a broad spectrum. So, as you mentioned, it's not just medical students. We also provide content for allied health, nursing, and health professions students such as Veterinary Medicine, Dentistry, Speech, Physical Therapy, and Occupational Therapy. We also provide content for faculty, practicing physicians, clinicians and then, finally, researchers. 

So, it's a very broad spectrum of people that consume the content that comes from Global Content Partners. We support and partner with four different business units within Elsevier: the Research Reference Content team; the Global Medical Education team; the Global Clinical Solutions team; and Nursing and Health Education. So, it's really interesting to be able to partner with all these different groups and see the different types of content that we're creating that's bespoke for each different team and customer base.

Shiv: It's really impressive, both how many languages you all are responsible for and the types of content -- not just images and text, but questions and a whole host of other content.  We're five months into Osmosis being part of Elsevier, and every week I feel like there's a nice small world surprise. One example is Laura Skarnulis, a good colleague of ours who was chief operating officer at the American Board of Medical Specialties when Osmosis created content for and with ABMS. She's now moved on to be CEO of the Dental Assisting National Board. She emailed me and I connected her to you and your colleagues because the leading textbook for dental assistants is published by your team at Elsevier Global Content Partners. So, it's again, very validating of Osmosis' decision to be part of Elsevier because there are so many people we would like to reach with our style of video content. Being part of Elsevier will give us the opportunity to do that over the years and reach more and more people who are trying to be better healthcare professionals, or take care of their own bodies. 

Kevonne: It's absolutely amazing, those small-world connections as you mentioned. We have a lot of authors that are faculty members or practicing physicians and clinicians that help open the doors for the use of our content at their institutions or in their practices or facilities. It's very rewarding to see how much they are invested in the content, just as we are. 

Shiv: Absolutely. I've taken a peek at your net promoter scores among those authors. It's really impressive, over 60, because you treat those content experts and subject matter experts as teammates.

Kevonne: Absolutely.

Shiv: So, moving into your leadership style, you're a huge proponent of servant leadership. Can you tell us a bit more about your leadership style and approach and any lessons you'd like to share with people listening who are leaders in different capacities -- whether they are student government leaders at a nursing school or president of a health system? We have both types of listeners.

Kevonne: Great. So, I will start with my personal definition of servant leadership. To me, servant leadership is really about encouraging diversity of thought. It's about creating this overarching culture of trust by having a very unselfish mindset. It’s not about me as a leader but it's about the people that I'm working with, and then fostering leadership within others. 

You might ask what does that look like? A servant leader views leadership as an opportunity to really serve, to really work with people, versus viewing it as a rank to obtain. Servant leaders share power and control to drive engagement. What that looks like is crowdsourcing, active listening, really engaging others in not only decision making, but also the process. 

A lot of times we can't engage on every decision, but the ability to have transparency and be authentic when you're leading and having to make decisions, makes a very big difference from traditional leadership styles. Servant leaders, while they focus on measuring the success through output, they also measure success through the personal growth and development of the people that are around them and that they're working with. Finally, again, it's that unselfish mindset...understanding that it's not about me as a leader. It's about the people that I'm serving, the people that I'm working with, the people that I'm engaging with, and building a sense of trust and community through that authentic type of leadership.

Shiv: That's a comprehensive and great definition with all the attributes you listed there. And I want to remind our audience that even though we're talking about leadership in a large, multinational health education company like Elsevier, that everyone is a leader. Even if you become an independent contributor such as a surgeon, you still have a care team around you. The way you treat your team and the way you help grow and develop them will directly impact not just the patient's outcome but also your outcomes as a surgeon. So, these lessons Kevonne just shared are valuable to take to heart and replay what she just said as you become a leader either as an independent contributor or in management roles. 

So, switching gears from servant leadership to the other part of the bio when I introduced you -- the interest in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion -- you were on a panel speaking about DEI in nursing education. Can you tell us a bit more about the current state of DEI and what improvements are needed?

Kevonne: There's a lot to unpack there. The panel was actually about undergraduate nursing learning materials and ancillaries to help prepare future nurses. We talked about the need for diversity, equity and inclusion in those materials. It's so interesting. That entire panel started with a conversation with a customer who essentially submitted a note through a sales rep and I followed up with the customer. The customer got on the phone and she said to me, "We have a problem." And I said, "Okay, how can I help?" What she was articulating is that the only time she saw people of color in her nursing text was actually in the STD section or in the acute wound section for gunshots and stabbings. And I told her, "That's got to change." So, that's what really kicked it off and was the impetus for that panel discussion. 

It was great. We had some faculty members on the panel along with four students who are currently in nursing school. They were talking about the impact of not having inclusive and diverse materials and how it not only impacted their lens of patient care, but also their ability to identify with different diseases and modalities in healthcare because they weren't being taught that information, which also impacts patient healthcare, right? 

At Elsevier, we are striving to be a leader in inclusion and diversity with our content and products to help ensure that every patient, no matter who you are -- your race, your ethnicity, your gender, your sexual orientation, your ability, your age -- that you can be cared for comprehensively. As you can tell, I'm really passionate about this. We are making strides in all of our content and product efforts to make sure these topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion are a part of the mainstream of the products. It's not a fad. It's not a trend. It is the solution to better healthcare. 

Shiv: Absolutely. One thing I knew about when we were joining Elsevier, but now it is even more clear five months in, is that Elsevier is truly walking the walk. I was just on a town hall meeting for Global Medical Education this week where Irene from the 3D4Medical Complete Anatomy side was sharing how much thought they put into not just the female model, but the upcoming diverse models based on skin color, age, and other phenotypes. It's something you guys do a very thoughtful and deliberate job of. It's not just the content we then present, but it's also ensuring there's enough representation on editorial boards and author lists that create this content. So, it's truly validating our decision to be part of your organization.

Kevonne: DE&I is definitely a journey, right? We can always do better and be better. As an organization, that's exactly what we are tasked to do and that's exactly what we plan to do. It's about waking up every day and bringing your best to the table to really advance inclusion and diversity. But it's not a destination. When you recognize that, you realize just how far we've come, but how much farther we have to go.

Shiv: I couldn't agree more. As you know, we're both teaching companies and we love to fill knowledge gaps. I couldn't think of a better guest to ask this question of than you because you run this massive team that creates content to fill these knowledge gaps. What topics would you like Osmosis to educate people on that you think everyone should know?

Kevonne: Not to belabor DE&I, but I think having people understand the true impact of inclusion, diversity, and equity, not only in learning materials but also in the breadth of content -- even content for research --- because we all bring a certain bias to the table. That's natural. We're human. But to be able to isolate that and then uplift inclusion, diversity, and equity is really important and it’s a gap that exists for a lot of companies and a lot of people. Until that gap has been filled, we need to continue to surface it as a gap. 

Shiv: Totally. There are so many studies showing that outcomes are different just based on zip codes, based on gender, and based on race in the healthcare system. So, if we truly want to be equitable and "raise the line" and improve our healthcare system, we've got to start day one not just of medical school, but I think day one of elementary school, in terms of education around these aspects. 

We launched this podcast just over two years ago because of the COVID pandemic. What impact do you think COVID has had on medical education, and specifically, how has it impacted your work at Elsevier?

Kevonne: So, with the infodemic of misinformation which has been raging beyond belief about COVID and other aspects of healthcare, I think it's really important to understand and have a single source of truth for content needs and for decision-making to enable patient care. I think COVID has blurred the lines quite a bit around the content that people are using to make decisions, unfortunately. But you have companies such as Elsevier and Osmosis who are sharing the trusted content to help prepare not only medical students, but physicians and clinicians and nursing students who go on to become nurses to equip them with the ability to make the right decisions for patient care. 

I think the other impact that COVID has had on the work here at Elsevier is, unfortunately, it's impacted a number of colleagues and authors that we work with. It's been hard to keep people uplifted and encouraged, but we've come together as a community and that's something that I'm proud to be a part of at Elsevier...that spirit of community, that spirit of taking care of each other and checking in on each other. We've done that not only with colleagues but with authors as well. It's been really good to see us come together in such a horrible time of a pandemic. 

Shiv: Yeah, totally. I think this is one reason so many colleagues I have met at Elsevier have been there five, ten, fifteen, twenty years. It's both that culture of taking care of each other, but also the mission. The mission's become even more important. And with the launch of Elsevier Health earlier this year -- I've spoken to Jan Herzhoff and Allyson Powell about this a lot -- one of the five core pillars is battling the infodemic. In terms of your initial remarks about how important trusted content is these days...there probably hasn't been a more important time for people to follow trusted and authoritative content that they can rely on. So, it's good the work that GCP is doing to that end. 

I have two last questions for you. The first is, we have many students and early career healthcare professionals in our audience. What's your advice to them about meeting the challenges of this moment and approaching their careers in healthcare?

Kevonne: My advice is to stay the course and focus on what really matters, which is taking care of the patient and improving those outcomes because the challenges that you face today and the challenges that you will face tomorrow are part of the journey. Really that destination is the patient and the patient care that you're going to be delivering. If you keep focused on that, that will help you get through the ebbs and flows of the journey. 

Shiv: That's great advice both for early-stage healthcare professionals, but also for anyone to have a “north star” for why they're doing what they're doing. Is there anything else you'd like to share with our audience that we haven't asked you about yourself about GCP, Elsevier, or any other topic?

Kevonne: I think the only thing I would add is that Global Content Partners, Elsevier, and Osmosis are all aligned and working together to ensure that we're not only meeting the needs of our customers, but that we're meeting the needs of society. It seems like such a grandiose mission, but when you boil it down to the bottom line, it's really about community and taking care of each other in the best way possible. I am so thrilled to work at an organization that allows me to show up every day to work as an authentic leader and as myself to really give back and pay it forward in a much bigger pond and pool than just a siloed narrow portion. So, the role we play in healthcare is so much bigger than I could have imagined, and it's just exciting to be a part of it.

Shiv: Absolutely. Couldn't agree more. Well, Kevonne, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today and, more importantly, for the work that you and the GCP team do to make the work we do even better and to reach so many patients, providers, and general members of the public. 

Kevonne: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. It's been fun.

Shiv: With that, I'm Shiv Gaglani. Thank you to our audience for checking out today's show, and remember to do your part to flatten the curve and raise the line. We're all in this together. Take care.