, Nashville Academy of Medicine
An educator by training and trade, Kasey Dread said, "Getting into healthcare was entirely by chance. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined I'd be in healthcare, and certainly not a 'Woman to Watch' on the healthcare circuit," she marveled.
Dread has both an undergraduate and master's degree in education. However, after nine years as a member of the executive team at Harding Academy, she was ready for new challenges. "Unsure what my next step would be, I was approached by several physicians I knew well who encouraged me to consider the position at the Nashville Academy of Medicine."
Although she knew little about the healthcare industry, Dread was skilled in organizational leadership and relationship building, which have served her well while working on behalf of the city's physicians and overseeing the administration of Bridges to Care Plus. "The members of the NAM board that hired me were generous in their trust that I could learn the healthcare piece of the job," she said. Besides, she added with a laugh, "The organization was founded in 1821. It's not going down on my watch!"
It was her mentor and friend, Don Schwartz, former headmaster of Harding Academy, who encouraged her to take up this new challenge. "Until he passed away in 2006, I had a standing weekly meeting with him where I would bounce decisions off of him. He gave me the confidence to know that trusting my gut was usually the right way to go."
Now eight years into the position, Dread said she is still "in awe of the physicians with whom I work. The power to heal is amazing. The fact that over 750 of them volunteer for Bridges to Care Plus is proof of their compassion for our community." She added that despite numerous barriers to care, the doctors "never give up … never give in. Patients always come first."
Dread shares that patient-centered focus in her quest to improve access. "The gaps in our system are significant. Spearheading a program to provide access to specialty care to Nashville's uninsured has been overwhelmingly meaningful to me." That care, she was quick to say, couldn't be delivered without collaborative community partnerships — from volunteer physicians to Saint Thomas Health Services and Tri-Star Health System to Kroger Pharmacy to the clinics of the Safety Net Consortium of Middle Tennessee.
While Dread can become frustrated with the feeling that systemic changes can't be made by one individual, she said Bridges to Care Plus puts things back in perspective. "Making a difference, one patient at a time, quickly becomes a force of change." Since the program's inception nearly five years ago, thousands of indigent, uninsured patients have received specialty care. "Last year alone, we saw a 38 percent reduction in ED use among our patients." Still, said Dread, it is the individual stories that drive her … the 40-year-old father who lost his insurance coverage a month before being diagnosed with testicular cancer but now has the chance of a healthy future with his two young children.
She channels that same energy into enjoying life with her own two children, Lizzie and Kick, ages 13 and eight. Married to lawyer Adam Dread, she recognizes the difficulty in balancing career and family. Dread is grateful for the flexibility in her job that allows her to attend her children's events at school but often finds herself away from them at night. "Ultimately, I hope they see that I believe in what I do and decide to pursue their own passions in the world. But more importantly, I hope they know for sure that they were my priority."