Episode 6 with Jared Perkins Transcript


Keith: Welcome to Disability Empowerment Now. I’m your host Keith Murfee-DeConcini. Today I will be talking with Jared Perkins, the CEO of Children’s Clinics in Southern Arizona. 


Keith: Jared, welcome to the show. 


Jared: Hey Keith, thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here with you today. 


Keith: Thank you. So we have a very long history. I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember how we met.


Jared: So, you know, I was thinking about this today too. I think it was in Grad School, right?


Keith: I was talking to Kyle Linger yesterday actually and unless you were in the Masters of Public Administration program with us…


Jared: I was! 


Keith: Oh, okay. So yeah, that’s how we met then, and so you did Arizona LEND before me, I believe you introduced me to Brie Seward who I also had on the podcast. She’s a wonderful advocate in the Autism Society of Southern Arizona. It’s so lucky to have her. As is Intermountain is so lucky to have Kyle. The Children’s Clinic is so lucky to have you.  Before you were the CEO you were the CFO, am I remembering that correctly? 


Keith: Nope. I was the Chief Operating Officer in, let’s see I think it was 2016 maybe 2015 that I came over as the Chief Operating Officer. And then in 2017 I became the Chief Executive Officer.


Keith: So of course, I know the Children’s Clinic history. And when I was in Arizona LEND, I practically begged them to keep sending me to the Children’s Clinic for my rotations through that program. Uh, but for the listeners who don’t know what Children’s Clinic does it’s a very multi-faceted clinic. Why don’t you tell us some of the history and how you first became aware of its beautiful mission. 


Jared: Yeah. So, well, I’ll go back a little bit. So the clinic actually started in the forties as a polio Clinic by a group called Square and Compass. And there was a doctor who was a part of this group and Square and Compass. 

There was a doctor named Ted Walker and he was taking care of kids out of his garage and kind of had a lot of his physician friends helping him do that. But eventually, polio became less of a focus. They still wanted to help take care of our populations, you know, our communities, children.

And so they approached the two hospitals that were in town at the time. The Pediatric Hospitals, Tucson Medical Center and University Medical Center, which is now Banner University Medical Center. And those three organizations started a nonprofit called the Children’s Clinics. And to this day we are a nonprofit that is made up really of those three partners, TMC, Banner UMC, and Square and Compass, Square and Compass built. 

So we leased the land we’re on right now, which is on the campus of Tucson Medical Center. We leased this land for a hundred dollars a year for a hundred years. So TMC has always been a great partner Square and Compass built this building for us for free. And we live here, rent-free because of them and they continue to keep it up.

And they’re an amazing community partner. Most people have never heard of them, but they’re doing tremendous work for our kids. And then Banner has been an absolutely amazing partner as well. So really what we are is what’s called a Multispecialty Interdisciplinary Clinic and we take care of a special population of kids in Arizona. In Arizona, if you’re born with a qualifying diagnosis and there’s over 200 qualifying diagnoses and they’re your very complex conditions, Neuromuscular Disorders, Genetic Disorders, you know, there’s the very complex ones.

So if you’re born with one of those and you qualify for Medicaid you get an insurance plan called CRS, Children’s Rehabilitative Services. And as a part of CRS, you get to receive your care at a Multi-Specialty Interdisciplinary Clinic. And so real quick, I’ll tell you about MSIC.

So we take care of  6,000 kids in Southern Arizona who qualify for CRS. So we have a full Primary Care Program. We have pediatricians and Med-peds, someone who can see both kids and adults. We did that a few years ago because we recognized that a lot of our kiddos, due to their conditions, their life expectancies didn’t always make sense for them to go seek adult providers in the community.

We wanted to continue to take care of them for as long as we could. And so we brought in someone who could take care of them as adults. And then we also found that parents of kids with complex conditions don’t always go seek their own care because they’re really, you know, kind of caught up in taking care of their kiddos.

We will take care of the entire family in our Primary Care, the parents, the siblings, and our CRS members. So we have a full Primary Care. We also have full Behavioral Health programs that we do. Developmental PS, we do Pediatric Psychiatry, we have Counseling. So we have full Behavioral Health.

We have one of the largest pediatric rehab programs in the state. So we have about 35 therapists. That includes speech, OT, PT, Audiology, and Dieticians. So we have a pretty large, robust Rehab Program. And then what kind of makes us unique is we then contract with almost every single specialists and subspecialists pediatric in Tucson, whether they’re Banner doctors or whether they’re TMC doctors, or whether they’re community doctors, they have clinics here on site and there’s about 75 specialists and subspecialists including Dental, who come on and actually have clinics here onsite.

And so they all have Interdisciplinary Clinics, where there’s a doctor and an entire support team. So that could be a physical therapist, a nurse, a social worker, a dietician. And then we have our bigger clinics, which are mostly certified centers of excellence, and those are our multi-specialty clinics.

Those have many doctors and an entire specialty team and they pre-conference before they go in and. Look at a care plan and they say, “who’s coming today. Where should they be at, in their care? How are we going to take care of them?” And when the family comes that entire team rotates in and out of that patient’s room.

So it might take you two years in another setting to see your entire team. Whereas here you see them in an, in a single visit. Then they post-conference “how’s the kiddo doing and where should they be at, in their care and that model of care.” The Multi-Specialty Interdisciplinary Clinic has actually been recognized nationally as one of the top five programs in the entire country.

So most people in Arizona don’t even know that we have such an advanced program here. Arizona might not be on the forefront of everything, but when it comes to taking care of kids with special needs and complex health conditions, we’ve been recognized as one of the top five in the entire country.

It was just something we should be really proud of. So that’s kind of in a nutshell. And then in addition to medical care, we have a whole other array of programming. We recognize our kiddos don’t often get the same childhood experiences their peers get, so we have quarterly events where, whether it’s Halloween or holiday, we give out toys and food and we do all kinds of things to take care of families.

But then we also have an Adaptive Recreation Program where we give out tricycles. We have adaptive sports teams, so we have adaptive soccer, swim, tennis, basketball, and dance teams. Really the goal of that is if you’re going to come to a clinic like ours, you know, several times a week for the majority of your life.

The question is why, why are you working so hard? You might have a sibling who gets to go play soccer and you don’t, and that doesn’t seem fair. And so we try to help our kids see why this is why you’re working so hard because you know, you too can go play soccer or ride a bike or do these things. And so we try to recreate the typical childhood that gives us meaning, right.

That gives kids reasons to thrive. So that’s a long-winded vision of who the clinic is. 


Keith: All of that. It’s very fascinating like you said before because predictably with Arizona LEND, I had a very close relationship with the clinic and really getting to know you, meeting Gemma, who, what intern job title now? 


Jared: She’s our Chief Administrative Officer. So she manages a lot of our kind of operational kind of people stuff. As well as helps us with our fund development and our communications and she’s worn many hats. And she’s a very important role here at the clinic. 


Keith: Yeah. And so meeting her and really exploring the whole clinic, and then when I got back to Tucson, I remember calling you up and you had just begun to launch different aspects of the recreational program. I remember geeking out over the phone to you about how awesome and amazing that was. You’re also the past president of the Autism Society of Southern Arizona. Take us back to that period where you were basically running two different organizations. How did you do it?.


Jared: So I was the President of the Autism Society, but thankfully we had a really great team at the time. And Brie Seward, you met, she was amazing. She was running it.

I just simply was trying to help support her in it. I really got into Autism, kind of became passionate about that. Kind of wrap back in 2010, I think it was. And I just saw how hard it really was for families to navigate the healthcare system, this, that the Autism Healthcare System. And back then it was kind of a disaster.

The state was really struggling taking care of kiddos and providing service and getting them serviced and getting it paid for. And so I kind of took it on as a  mission to you know, help and become a gathered group. That’s where Kyle and I kind of really started working together. Kyle and I actually formed the Autism Coalition together, the Tucson Autism Coalition that ended up merging with the Autism Society and kind of helped it become what it is today.

We have done a lot of advocacy at the state level around Autism. Autism has really seen an improvement in access to care. And I think a lot of that is because of the dedication of some of the kind of grassroots advocacy work that we had been doing. And so eventually I think it was the same year I became CEO of the clinic.

I also became President of the Autism Society. I think that’s right around the time we brought Brie in to be the Executive Director. What was nice is that she is so phenomenal at the work she does and so passionate that I could just really kind of take the foot off the pedal then and let her drive.

Brie, Kyle, and the rest of the group that’s been there have completely transformed that organization. They are probably one of the most dynamic advocacy resource kinds of organizations that the state has. So I’d like to take more credit for it, but really that group there is just so amazing and I was just lucky to be a part of it.


Keith: I just remembered. We were also on CODI together, the Commission on Disability Issues for the City of Tucson. Am I remembering that correctly? 


Jared: Yes you are. And actually, I think that’s where we got to know each other a little bit more. I remember we’ve had in our grad program, but we, I think, got to know each other on CODI.

I think you invited me to come be a part of it. I thought, well if Keith’s involved, it’s probably, uh, a good thing. So I think you were Chair of it, right? Yeah.


Keith: Yeah at the time. So, you live a very impressive and busy life. I’ve gotten to know your family some, not as much as I would like. I see them through pictures on Social Media. Tell me about how your family motivates you.


Jared: Yeah. So, you know I’m lucky to have you know, a really great family. My wife and I have been married for, I think we just celebrated our 27th dating anniversary, but I think we’ve been married for 23 years now. We have four kiddos together. All of who are now getting older, it’s kind of hard to believe. We have one who just graduated college, one who’s still in college right now. And then twin 16 year olds. Really they keep me grounded.

It’s really easy to become a workaholic, I think, to where you don’t ever slow down, you don’t ever stop. And all you do is work, but when you have people who are counting on you at home, who want you to show up with the same energy and the same thoughtfulness and intentionality that you would to work, they want you at home that way, it changes your perspective a little bit.

I was part of a class at the U of A, I helped develop a class called the Politics of Happiness and wrote a text, co-wrote a textbook on it. And when I was talking to the professor, he was looking for students to help him and he saw my resume. I said, you know, what, what made you choose me?

And he said, “Well, it wasn’t really your experience or anything. I looked at it and said, anyone who can have four kids and do the stuff that you’re doing means that they know how to juggle their time.” And so, and that’s kind of what it has been, busy, but they helped me juggle, prioritize.

They helped me really put things in perspective and they give me a chance to go home, turn off. I do my best to recognize other people have families. They don’t need to be emailing at 8, 9, 10 o’clock at night or on the weekends. So I think it’s made me a better leader because I really try to encourage my staff to embrace that you are a human, you have a life outside of here and, to make sure you enjoy that.

So they’re a great support to me. It’s just hard to believe that we’re almost empty nesters, but I look forward to seeing what they do next. I hope that I’ve been a good example and that they do something great with their lives as well. 


Keith: Indeed. I’ve always considered you and your wife relationship goals. Your pictures together are some of the sweetest I have ever seen. That is a personal compliment on a professional podcast. So you took all the CEO-ship of the clinic in 2017 correct?


Jared: Yep yep, that’s correct.


Keith: And the person you took over from, I am blanking on her name. She now runs TMC, correct?  


Jared: Yeah. Mimi Coomler. So she was, she was here. She was the CEO. Well, she was just transitioning as CEO. So technically when I came in, there was a woman named Jill who had been CEO of the clinic for eight years, but she was retiring and had brought Mimi in to transition and take over.

And so I came in for three months while Jill was still here. And then Mimi became CEO and Mimi was a phenomenal leader. Extremely dynamic, extremely thoughtful. And she was here for a year, but then she ended up transitioning back to TMC as the Chief Nursing Officer then became the Chief Operating Officer.

And then earlier this year was named the Chief Executive Officer of TMC. And she’s phenomenal. There’s no doubt, no question in my mind why. I mean, she is an absolute dynamic leader and I think Tucson’s lucky to have her. 


Keith: Yes, yes. I’ve met her a few times and she has a very dynamic personality which I always appreciate. Tell me how it is like, well, you can’t be involved in everything the clinic does. Certainly no CEO can be in the nitty gritty, but you have to have a broad overview of everything the clinic does. And so how do you juggle that? Does your curiosity ever run away with you to where you get overwhelmed?

I don’t know, but I mean everything the clinic does and then you add on the recreational part of the clinic, and it expands even more, and you take care of families for their entire lives. So as CEO how are you able to objectively get a good picture of everything the clinic does and not be overwhelmed by that picture everyday? 


Jared: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a good question. Um, well, you know, I put a lot of thought into what makes an effective CEO and you know, I really do believe that, good CEOs really know how to find really good people and support them into becoming better. So you know, in reality, I think you don’t need to be the best in the world at everything, you just need to surround yourself with people who are the best at what they do.

And so I think one of the tricks is really just finding really good people. So, you know, really for the last seven years, so much of my energy of my day goes into building a team who is phenomenal and is incredible at their jobs and then figuring out how to get out of their way and let them lead.

My role then really becomes supporting them into becoming the leaders that they want to be. You know, as a CEO you cannot run the operations in the weeds on a daily basis and shouldn’t be, and if you are, then you’re missing your calling. Really what a CEO should be doing is taking kind of a big picture look at, are we meeting our mission?

Where are we going in the future? What are the market disruptors coming? And how do I best prepare us so that our legacy can continue. And so in doing that, you have to surround yourself with people who are amazing at what they do. So I have an amazing team, you know, as I mentioned, we talked, Gemma is a great partner here, and I also have a Chief Clinical Officer, Melissa Ritchey, who came from the hospital and kind of runs our Clinical Operations who’s just phenomenal. We have our CFO, Chris Farley, who is amazing at understanding how to make a sustainable way to thrive and where we should use our money. Then we have a Chief Medical Officer, Dr.Sydney Rice, who is one of the most well-respected doctors in Tucson. She’s a Developmental Pediatrician with Banner and so surrounding yourself with people who are better than you and then finding ways to support them is kind of how I manage that. How I know everything is going well is I meet with them on a weekly basis.

I get updates. I hear what their needs are. I ask, what’s working, what’s not working? What changes would you make and how do I better support you? And then on a weekly basis, I can hear what’s stressing them out or what’s what’s working. Then they go do the same with their teams. So really just putting things in place to say, you know I can’t interact with everyone.

I can’t be the one leading all 150 of our employees, so I have to build a team structure that knows what our culture is, knows what our values are, knows what our mission is and trickles and cascades that down. Then really empowering our staff to be the ones making change, making improvement.

So most of my job really is people, engagement, relationships, developing the type of relationships that make things work. It’s a great job. I absolutely love it. The first couple of years was one of the most overwhelming endeavors I’d taken over, but I finally am starting to feel like some of that seed that I sowed is starting to bloom and pay off. I really love the team we have here and I think the clinic is doing great work.


Keith: Yes it is and may it always continue to do so. I have talked in a lot of episodes particularly with service providers, direct service providers who I knew also went through the Arizona LEND program or was associated with it, and I know you, Kyle, and Brie particularly went through it. As a CEO , how did Arizona LEND influence and make you a better leader? Because the L in LEND literally stands for leadership. So talk about that experience and getting to know Dr.Rice better through that experience. 


Jared: So, yeah, so unfortunately I actually didn’t get to attend LEND personally, I’ve spoken. Yeah. So I spoke, I spoke at it, but when it comes to the clinic, leadership and education, they have a rotation here. 

I’ve gotten to be a part of it. I know a couple of the leaders there. So Dr. Rice, as you mentioned, and then Angela Rosenberg, who does the character personality evaluation, development pieces through LEND, she actually was one of my early mentors when I became CEO here. So I kinda, I didn’t go directly through it myself, but I got the benefits of some of the leaders who were a part of it.

Like I said, Dr. Rice is part of my staff as well. She’s been a mentor, but then Angela Rosenberg, who was a part of LENDs, was my kind of coach and CEO mentor for my first couple of years. And, um, she, things that I’ve seen LENDs do that I think are so important are like, and I just actually got off the phone with Angela today.

But we talked earlier, it taught me things like learning the Enneagram, right? Learning what type of leader you are. And if, if your listeners haven’t discovered the Enneagram, I would encourage them to do so right away, taking the Enneagram test and find out which number you are, one through nine.

Things like that, I think, are absolutely essential in leadership because it tells me, what kind of leader I am? What motivates me? How do I hear and perceive things? And then what it also does is forces me to learn that about my team. So my entire Executive Team has done the Enneagram. We all know what each other’s types are and we rely on those in our conversations.

So if we have tough conversations or hard decisions to make we have these kinds of skill sets in our pocket where we can say you know, I know this person hears messages this way, and when they talk, they use language like this. And so I need to learn to be thoughtful about how I communicate a message so that I’m communicating the message I want to communicate.

And when they’re talking, I’m really hearing what they’re saying based on how I know they give messages. LEND I think is excellent at that. It’s the skills that you don’t necessarily learn in business school, right? We learn a lot of how to put together budgets and organizational structures and things, but really what you rely on most as a leader is those relational things.

How do I develop meaningful, authentic, trusting relationships in my workplace because that’s what’s going to help accomplish things. LENDs great at that. It teaches those skill sets when not a lot of things and not a lot of places do that. And then the other thing LEND does.

So when LENDs comes to the clinic, it gives you an opportunity to, I think this is what you were referring to. So the students who come into lens, they get to go into our clinics. They get to watch the work that’s happening. They get to watch the doctors interact with other doctors and other team members, and then interact with families.

It teaches the interdisciplinary approach to healthcare, which I think can be really easily lost. Right. I think we’re moving towards a more holistic approach to health care and LENDs is a big part of teaching that. So if you’re an occupational therapist or a social worker, or if you’re a, you know, whatever you are, you’re surrounded by leaders who are in different fields and you’re having to hear what they’re looking for.

Really the end goal is how to put patients first. How do you put the care of patients first and how do you work with others to do that? So though I was not able to directly go through the whole program, I’ve been able to speak at it. I was on their leadership panel a few times.

Then I’ve been mentored by some of the leaders of it.


Keith: Yeah, I mean, I went through it and as I told Kyle just yesterday, had I taken the research method, because it took several years after I went through LEND, I feel I would have gotten a lot more out of it. The sheer number of acronyms that LEND uses and they don’t mean to use them so much, but sometimes it can’t be helped. I came into that program on a whim, and it was very enriching but I was totally unprepared for the amount of research and the amount of clinical terms, diagnostic codes, ect. It was only years later that I took a research methods course, and everything seemed to click into place more. But I am glad you got to experience some of it. Like I said at the beginning when I was logged with Arizona LEND, I would practically beg them every single time I could to send me to the Children’s Clinic because as you said, when LEND fellows come to the clinic they go behind the scenes so to speak and they get to experience every facet of the clinic and even if you are not studying healthcare social work, like I was, I was just a lonely disability advocate and public administrator, I found it euphoric to become so invested in a very different type of healthcare that I am so glad exists and so glad it is recognized as one of the top 5, I think you said, in the country. I mean that’s fantastic, so I mean if LEND didn’t do anything else for me, which they did, just being so involved with the Children’s Clinic was easily one of the plates of mentions so to speak because of that program. 


Jared: Yeah. Yeah. Thanks Keith, LEND has been an amazing program. I think the Tucson community is lucky to have it. The clinic has been absolutely lucky to have leaders come in who are participating in it. You know, we have a lot of doctors who come here.

Like I said, we contract with most of the specialists in Tucson and they bring their students here. What they say, the reason they like bringing their students here is because you know in a five-hour period at the clinic, you can be exposed to things that it would take years to learn about. Um, you know, different types of kids and different types of conditions and different types of dynamics.

A lot of the doctors that come here and say, there’s things I’ve never even seen before. You’ve only read about in books or you have to go Google because you’ve never even seen conditions like that. And I think what it does is two things. I think it keeps them remembering why they’re doing the work they’re doing.

And what I like to say is, it’s important for our community to know, you know, that our kiddos and our population is here. You know they’re special kiddos and, and special families and they belong in our community and they have every right to take as much advantage of what our community has to offer.

And so I think it’s an important way to kind of expose our community to, to kind of listen, you know, you might not even know some of the families are struggling with some of the things they are and it gets that exposure there, but then it also exposes our families to the community and says, you know, you might not have thought about trying to get your kiddo into soccer or to dance or things like that.

And you deserve that. And so, yeah, I think the clinic has had a special opportunity to be able to do that. And I hope it continues to be a space like that for, for many, many generations. 


Keith: Yes. You also mentioned that you were a guest speaker at an Arizona LEND Lecture. I actually co-taught the lecture on Cerebral Palsy with another one of my cohorts at the time and that was personally and professionally one of the most fulfilling experiences I have had, or ever had. Originally my mentor at the time Elieen McGrath wanted me to do the whole three hour lecture. Anyone who knows me knows that I will run out of things to say particularly when it comes to living with a disability and experiencing stigma, ect. And I would have taken that whole 3 hours had I not known that there was a young woman in the cohort with me who had Cerebral Palsy. I really encouraged both Eileen McGrath and  Dr. Sydeny Rice to split the time of that lecture in half and give half of it to me and half of it to my fellow cohort and her sister who had a different disability but they interacted so well together. Looking back, even though Arizona LEND introduced me to you AUCD, introduced me to the Disability Empowerment Seminars in Washington D.C. , that personal and professional chance to motivate the next level of crenigans and to be able to not only get my side as a young male but also to have a young woman to talk about her experience with the same disability. 

So it was that three-hour experience that really meant the most outside of doing the clinical rotations at the Children’s Clinic and it was recorded, it’s up on my YouTube, and I feel so very blessed to be able to have shared a part of my life story and have it hopefully motivate others to see the person behind the disability. 


Jared: Yeah. Well, I’m happy you got to do that. Who knows? Maybe it’s kind of what led you to doing what you’re doing now, where you’re getting to kind of interview different people and kind of see what’s behind them.

Right. And you know, the different leaders in our community who are doing things and give people the opportunity to learn about them. Kind of sounds like it’s been a part of you from the beginning. So I’ve always appreciated that about you as well Keith.  


Keith: Thank you for that. So you talked a lot about what is very fulfilling about the clinic in being the head of it. Can you talk about some of the hardest things about the clinic? Potentially heart breaking. I mean not every child makes it through the clinic or lives long. And I am sure that is heartbreaking on a number of levels. People would be nuts to think that being the CEO of a Children’s Clinic is a hugely over quoted praise, all sunshine and rainbows because it’s not. So talk about some of the harder parts of being at the clinic. 


Jared: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a good question. You know, well, there’s a couple of things that come to mind, you know, I think I am thoughtful for our staff. I mean, you know, in most healthcare settings, you know, maybe a percentage of the people you’re working with are complex and challenging. You know, a hundred percent 99% of the people you’re working with here are complex and challenging. And so, you know, I’m thoughtful for our staff because it’s emotionally difficult, right? I mean, we get to know these families and we’ve talked before, some of the kiddos are kind of born into our clinic in the sense, not that they, we don’t, we don’t do the deliveries, but you know, they’re born with diagnoses that, that lead them here.

So, you know, from birth they’re here many times a week for their entire lives for some of them. I think for our staff, we get so invested. You can’t, you can’t work that closely with families side by side, you know, trying to help kiddos reach their goals. I think of stories of, you know, kiddos who are trying to go from standers to walkers, right?

So there, you know, our wheelchairs to standers and we’re doing really hard work and, you know, our staff’s right next to them, trying to help them develop that and meet their goals. What are your life goals? And they’re trying to help them do that. And yeah, it’s extremely emotionally taxing.

And I, you know, I know that our staff experiences that, and it’s, you know, part of what we try to do is just make sure we’re taking care of them as well. But then our families, like, we watched most of our parents and I see what they’re going through and just how much energy it takes. A lot of our families take public transportation.

I watched them try to load standers and walkers and car seats on the public transportation. And, you know, they, you know, the total trip of like two hours, three hours to come to a doctor’s appointment and I get it’s really, really hard. And then we, I’m sure more than most health clinics.

We have a certain percentage every year of our kiddos who, um, yeah, who, who, uh, don’t, don’t make it. And that’s, that’s always really hard. COVID has been really hard in that we have, we had a lot of our kiddos, not a huge amount, but we definitely had a larger amount disproportionate amount of pediatric kiddos here who, um, passed away because of COVID, because of their immune systems, their inability to get vaccines and things like that.

So it’s always really difficult on our staff. Our staff has talked about it. Um, we’ve talked about ways to, you know, whether it’s a chaplain or we offer counseling to our staff, so yeah, it weighs a lot. It definitely does. But on the other side, it also gives you meaning, right? It gives your work meaning.

So I get to see the families. I know how much they rely on the work we’re doing for their family. I know the joy and the, you know, the reward when their kiddos meet goals here, I know what it means to those families. And so, uh, we get to help share in that. And so it’s, it’s kind of the two sides of the same coin, really, really hard.

We’re doing hard work. But it’s also really rewarding. You know, I think most of us who are in either the advocacy or healthcare world are just looking for work, that’s meaningful. That’s going to change our community. We want to do something that we feel like is changing, changing our community for the better.

And it doesn’t take long to kind of watch our families to know we’re having that impact. And so, we just feel lucky. We feel lucky to be a part of our family’s lives and that they trust us. 


Keith: So you talk a lot about what the clinic strives to do right by the families you support. Is there room for improvement? Any things you would like to see the clinic do better let’s say in the next five years. Or anything that you don’t currently do that you would like to see. Like when I was at Arizona LEND doing clinical rotations, I don’t even think the recreational program was a crinkle in anyone’s eye, and now it sounds like such a big part that only benefits the more robust activities that the clinic is known for. And so two questions. Any room for improvement in certain areas, and anything more that the clinic does not currently do that you would like or hope to see it one day do? 


Jared: Yeah. You know, that’s a good question. So first of all, yes, there’s always room for improvement. We’re a joint commission, accredited organization. We have a surprise survey every three years that kind of comes and audits every single thing, and kind of pours through us and looks through everything and gives us a kind of a ranking.

We had ours in January and we actually received a perfect score and we were told by our survey. That we were only the fourth organization in three years to get a perfect score. You know, it was a big celebration. Everyone was really excited, but immediately what we did is talked about, okay, so how do we now move that goalpost and become, you know, continue to seek perfection.

So one thing we’re really over the next five years that is important to our team is we’re actually implementing something. Maybe your listeners are familiar with so-called Lean Operations. It was something big in manufacturing with Toyota, but it’s getting into the healthcare world and it’s an operation system that focuses on continual daily improvement.

And so we’re rolling it out. We had a big leadership retreat yesterday, uh, where we were introducing it and the way I introduced it, is I said, you know, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, generations in the future deserve perfect health care from us, perfection. And the only way to do that is to constantly improve what we’re doing today.

And so we strongly believe there are areas we can improve. We are going to we’re in hot pursuit, hot pursuit of that. But as far as you know, what are we not doing? You know, really the way we look at things is where there is a gap in the community and what can we be doing? So, last year we launched, uh, our center of excellence for Autism, that uses a multi-specialty interdisciplinary approach to care for those with Autism.

We just launched an adaptive swim therapy, aquatic therapy, which is one of the first of its kind, here in Southern Arizona. We’re constantly looking for what we could be doing. Really what we tried to see is where’s the gap. Who’s not doing something. And then what can, what, how can we fill it a couple of years ago, we launched.

Uh, Tucson’s first pediatric palliative care program, which is a multi-specialty team that has a chaplain and actually, integrated touch, ITK, is in there and we have a multi-specialty team and it’s around helping, um, families through Palliative Care. That was kind of a first of its kind that we’re always looking for those things, of what comes next.

I think in the next couple of years, we’ll find a couple more. Really what we’re focusing on in the next five years is how do we develop a culture that seeks constant perfection, constant improvement, and how do we make that a culture here at the clinic? And so that’s our big focus right now. I’m really excited about our future with that. 


Keith: So I have known you for very many years. Your work ethic, your moral backbone, your consistent motivation, you don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. So running the Children’s Clinic, if I may be so bold, doesn’t seem like it’s a job to you, it seems more like your life’s calling. And so I am wondering if you see it that way, and would you like to continue in 10 or 15 or dare I say 20 years at the clinic. Because it seems like it was your destiny to do the type of work that you do. I can imagine, or scarcely imagine how hard it is sometimes. But just listening to you talk with such enthusiasm about everything the clinic is doing it seems like it was a match made in heaven. So do you see this as your future? 


Jared: Yeah. You know, that’s hard, you know, I know a lot of people who are kind of in their careers are constantly looking for, well, what’s my next step. And I don’t know that I’ve ever kind of viewed it that way. I think the way I always view what I’m doing is, is what I’m currently doing authentic and true to me. 

Is it, do I feel like I’m living a mission, uh, you know, am I making my community better? Am I making my family better? Am I making my work better? And not getting too caught up in it, you know what’s the next step. So I think the way I’ll answer that is just, I think I constantly am reflecting on, is the work I’m doing right for me.

And am I right for the work I’m doing? Um, and as long as those are aligned with each other, then I know I’ll be content, but the second they’re not, then I’ll have a problem. So, as of right now, I think the clinic is an amazing place. It feels like, I get to live a calling and that’s, you know, what else could you want in life other than that? So I feel lucky.


Keith:  So wrapping up this interview, I always like to pose these questions. Self advocacy particularly in the Disability Community is such an important role. For any self advocates that are beginning their self-advocacy, what are some actions steps that you can think of to pass on to those self advocates to empower them to be as effective in advocating for their rights and the rights of others. 


Jared: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That’s a good question. So, you know, I think self advocacy is extremely important. And I would say if you’re just starting out,  here’s what I would say, learn what your story is, right. What is your story? How has your life and your experience, what has it taught you and how can you then use that story to improve something?

So most times that I’ve taken on some kind of action and I’ve seen others embrace it. And it worked, it is that I really figured out what is the story that I hear, and then I need to go tell that story to someone and I need to do it in a way that’s not accusatory. That’s not blaming, but instead saying, Hey, I don’t know if this is working for everyone, how can I help you make it better?

I have a couple ideas I’d like to share with you and then, offering those in kind of a supportive, hopeful way. And most people I hear respond to that and say, oh, we didn’t realize that was the experience. And, and you’re bringing me solutions. Um, let’s go and make this better together. What I’d say is if you’re just starting out, what is your story?

What is your experience teaching you and what can that teach others? And how do you then share that story in a way that is inviting? And that is, that is saying to people there’s room for us to make this world a better place. I want to help you do that because most people then are far more willing to kind of take that story open handedly and walk with you, open doors for you, and kind of help you accomplish those things.

So that’s what I would say is what is your story? How do you share in a meaningful way? And then how do you be, how do you use that story to come up with solutions that can help? Most people really are interested in hearing that and supporting you in doing that.


Keith: So in case there are listeners who don’t have disabilities yet, the other direction of what I hope is the listenership of this podcast, what do you hope that those listeners have taken away from this episode and everything you have said about multidisciplinary or multi-faceted healthcare and, surely it would mean alot to people with disabilities, but what will you hope it means to people who don’t have a personal connection to disability yet in their lives? 


Jared: Yeah. Well, I mean, that’s kinda my story honestly. Here’s what I would say. Um, so kind of the advice to those who are maybe living with a disability and want to figure out how to get into it is listen to those stories to everyone else.

I’d say, listen to that story. The way I got into it, as I listened to the stories of families and realized that there wasn’t equal opportunity to things IE healthcare. And so I said, well, then I heard your story. Let’s go make this better. And so to everyone else, I would say, you gotta have your ears open.

You have to be vulnerable and humble enough to listen to stories and hear the experiences of others. And then be willing to take those stories to others and say, listen, you might not even know this story. You might not know the experience of others. Um, and you don’t know the gaps, um, that people are experiencing.

So how are we going to close those using whatever influence and capability we have? So, I mean, that was kind of, my entry was hearing the stories of families and having them talk about the difficulty of accessing healthcare and finding good outcomes. And then me saying that there’s something I can do about that.

I can go advocate, I can take this story. I can use my influence to make this better. And so that’s what I’d say is that we all can do that. Every one of us can go do that. And then all of a sudden, you know, I think it’s interesting when I joined the Autism Board, a lot of people who were on it, were on it because they had a personal experience with Autism, whether it was a child or a sibling or you know, they themselves were diagnosed with Autism, whatever.

And they would always say, what’s your connection? And I would say, well, you know, honestly, my connection is I just listened. I listened to people talk about what it was like to experience this and the gaps they were finding. That was enough to motivate me to do something. And so, my personal connection is that I hear the story and I want to do something about it.

And so that would be my advice. 


Keith: So for any listeners that want to know more about the Children’s Clinic and its story and maybe even donate even if that’s not financial or you need supplies, where would they be able to find information about everything  the Children’s Clinic does and its current needs. 


Jared: Yeah. So the best way to find us is probably, um, on, on online and we’re at ChildrensClincis.org, www dot Childrens. Clinics. So S’s at the end of both of those, .org, and, you can go on there, you can see all the services we provide, all the other things we do for our families. You can kind of, meet some of our staff and hear stories, there’s a place to email us on there too. And you can learn all about us online.


Keith: Well Jared, this was a very informative interview, I always enjoy talking to you and this was no exception to that. I hope the listeners have learned as much as I did even with my history with the clinic, I feel a lot better informed about everything the Children Clinic does and why it is so vital and the way you run it with your team and their teams, you guys are making such a difference in people’s lives, and particularly in healthcare you don’t see enough of that. Hopefully that tide is beginning to change, but again it fills me with such hope and gratitude that your model and your mode of operating the way you do is being nationally recognized as one of the most effective, and I hope it continues to be that way for many years to come. As we end, when was the clinic founded and what was its original name. I know we talked about that in the very beginning but I want to come full circle as we end. 


Jared: Yeah. So the clinic was originally founded in the late 1940s, by a physician named Ted Walker. It was in his garage and he actually called it the Playhouse. He took care of kiddos with Polio and it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come since the forties to become what we are today. But I also, I think it shows you one person’s vision and dream, to go advocate and take care of their community, can become who knows what in the future. I just feel lucky to be a part of its legacy. 


Keith: Jared, thank you. Once again, my friend, I hope you will come back in other seasons and give us an update on the exciting developments that the clinic is doing, because the stories you tell through your walk are so vital for changing the landscape of what healthcare is.


Jared: Okay, thank you. It was an absolute honor. I love that you’re doing this and you have always been a huge part of just our community. And I really appreciate your doing this and best of luck. I can’t wait to listen to your other, your other stories. Your other guests.


Keith: Thank you, take care. 


Jared: Thanks Keith, bye. 


Keith: You have been listening to Disability Empowerment Now. I would like to thank my guest today and you, the listener. More information about the podcast can be found on DisabilityEmpowermentNow.com. The podcast is available wherever you listen to podcasts or on the official website. This episode of Disability Empowerment Now is copyrighted 2022.