SCU Administration Spotlight: Melissa Nagare, DC, L.Ac, CCSP
In celebration of Women’s History Month, we recently interviewed Melissa Nagare, DC, L.Ac, CCSP®, SCU Vice President for SCU Health System and Chief Clinical Officer. After receiving her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College, Dr. Nagare enrolled in Southern California University of Health Science’s (SCU) Los Angeles College of Chiropractic and College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine programs where she graduated with honors in 2007. Following her graduation, she worked as a chiropractor and acupuncturist at Diagnostic and Interventional Spinal/Sports Care (DISC) in Marina Del Rey, California and also as a faculty member at SCU where she taught courses including Clinical Reasoning, Neuromusculoskeletal Examination, and Introduction to Herbology. Dr. Nagare became a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician in 2009. In 2012, Dr. Nagare was appointed SCU’s Chief Clinical Officer and Director of the University Health Center and is presently serving in that capacity.
How do you define women’s empowerment?
For me, women’s empowerment means having the autonomy and power to control our own individual destinies, as far as is humanly possible. In some cases, lack of women’s empowerment is extremely blatant such as in countries where women are not able to own land or property, are limited in educational opportunities, or must be under the authority of a male figure such as a father, husband, or brother. In places like the U.S., limits or constraints on female empowerment can be much more subtle and manifest as issues such as lower pay for the same work, or even less flagrant, but still impactful things such as societal pressures to marry. An empowered woman should feel like, and be able to function as, a wholly complete human being who is ready and able to step out and pursue her passions – whether via education, a career, volunteer work, care-giving, home-making – to make the world a better place.
What challenges have you faced as you pursued your career? How did you handle them?
There are two main challenges I’ve faced in pursing my career: deciding what it was I wanted to do; and juggling my career and family life. Luckily, these were tandem challenges that I faced one after the other, so I didn’t have to address them both at the same time.
Tell us what led you to your career path?
I’ve had a lifelong interest in healthcare, but have always enjoyed a variety of subjects and hobbies. When I attended Dartmouth, a small liberal arts college, I was amazed at all the areas of study that were available to me: art history, gay and lesbian studies, Native American studies, computer science . . . the list went on and on. I quickly shied away from the standard subjects I had studied up to that point and decided to major in religion with a focus on women’s issues in religion, philosophy of religion, and Islamic studies. At Dartmouth, there was a precedent for religion majors to go on to medical school, as long as all science pre-requisites were met; however I didn’t end up finishing all of my prerequisites. I wasn’t convinced that medical school was for me. Instead, upon graduation, I toyed with the experience of going for my Masters in Divinity from a secular program such as Harvard and becoming a career academic, but since I wasn’t totally sure about that either, I decided to throw my hat into the corporate recruiting ring and see what opportunities were out there.
PricewaterhouseCoopers ended up offering me a really interesting position in their consulting practice. They recruited heavily from my school and other liberal arts institutions for people with an aptitude for computer programming who had the attitude they were looking for to interact with clients. We were all brought on for a 15-week crash course in computer programming and some consulting soft skills along with all of their entry-level new-hires from around the world. Those of us from the liberal arts schools were to take the course, then join the teaching team for a year before going onto client work. Working at the training center was an amazing experience for many reasons, getting to learn computer programming, working with hundreds of 22-25 year old new professionals, being part of a large and respected company, but my favorite thing was meeting people from all over the world and forming deep friendships over the course of the training programs.
After my time as a trainer, I went into the client world and was placed in the consumer packaged goods industry with pharmaceutical clients such as Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and, to my surprise, Altria, the parent company of cigarette manufacturer Phillip Morris as well as Kraft Foods. I enjoyed the work I was doing, but it was not as rewarding as working directly with learners, and I did not have the impression that I was helping the general public. Working for Altria, I might have actually been hurting it. I once again started to think seriously about what I should do with my career. Medical school still wasn’t that appealing to me because primary care physicians seemed so rushed and unable to really establish meaningful connections with patients like they had in the past; orthopedic surgery/sports medicine was interesting to me because I had a background in sports, but there was the same issue, maybe more so with the patient relationship, and I was worried at that point about whether I would be able to complete such a long training process if I also wanted to have children (early precursor to challenge #2). When I wasn’t sure what to do, I did what I always tend to do which is research, research, research. I came across information about chiropractic and acupuncture and quickly learned about the publications pertaining to patient satisfaction with these specialties. Plus they were both relevant to sports while at the same time had great appreciation for a whole-person approach. I was sold. I came to SCU as a student in 2004 and, 14 years later, I am still here. Challenge #1 solved.
What do you like about working at SCU?
My roles at SCU have evolved over time. Originally I was teaching part time at SCU while in private practice, and now I am the Vice President for SCU Health System and the Chief Clinical Officer, but regardless of the role, my main purpose has been to improve healthcare and healthcare education. In fact, we are here to drastically change both healthcare and healthcare education for the better. SCU is an extremely special place. As the chairperson of the Association of Chiropractic College’s working group for Chief Clinical Administrators, I work with all of the ACC member colleges, and can say that SCU is very different than the rest. SCU is also different than other acupuncture colleges, medical schools, or other health sciences universities. One of the main differences is that SCU is the only integrative healthcare university that has mainstream as well as “complementary/alternative” healthcare students learning together in so many classes. Other universities may have some shared education between professions such as medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy, but SCU is the only once that has bridged the chasm between mainstream and “complementary/alternative” with such deep inter-professional education. SCU is also unique because it has developed a system for value-based integrative healthcare whereas the majority of healthcare leaders are doing one or the other only, and healthcare followers are doing neither at all. SCU has also embraced a culture initiative where it has essentially operationalized its values so that they are far more than words on a document posted on the wall. We live our values by discussing them, holding each other accountable to behaviors that embody them, and by hiring for fit as well as skill.
All of these positive aspects of SCU have helped me address my second major career challenge which is, and I think will continue to be, juggling career and family. This is something that seems to be universal for working mothers. Every one of my working mother friends and colleagues experiences this. It goes something like, “I feel guilty when I am at work because I should be spending time or doing something for my kids; then, when I am with my kids, I feel guilty because I have so much I should be doing at work.” It is a really hard challenge, but as I said, SCU has been the ideal place to help me through it. First of all, there are many working moms here who have gone through this all before me and they are my support network. They have amazing advice and reassurance, and they understand what mothers of younger children like me are going through. Male SCU colleagues are also very supportive and understanding, and there are males who are or have been instrumental in raising children who face the same challenges as the working moms. SCU is a family-friendly place.
SCU has also helped me harmonize work and life because of the integrative approach we take. Mindfulness is an evidence-based practice that helps people learn to be present in the moment and decrease negative stress effects. This greatly helps me be 100% on work at work and 100% on home stuff at home, guilt-free (well, almost guilt-free).
What advice do you have for young women as they move along their career paths?
Find your passion and follow it. Look to strong female role models for support and guidance. They have pioneered and helped pave the way for those coming up after them and are a wealth of knowledge and support. Other women are our friends and supporters, not our competition. If we band together, anything is possible.
What is integrative healthcare?
The practice of healthcare that:
- reaffirms the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient
- focuses on the whole person
- is informed by evidence
- makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals, and disciplines in an integrated manner
to achieve optimal health and healing.
What is value-based healthcare?
Value-based healthcare is about minimizing costs while maximizing clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction. It is necessitated by the fact that in the U.S., we spend far more on healthcare than other countries, yet our clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction are inferior.
In celebration of Women’s History Month 2018, we are honoring some of the phenomenal women faculty members at SCU.