As Senior Vice President of the Blaze Advisors team, Marya Upchurch brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and skill to every project she touches. Her analytics mindset and passion for the industry makes her a leader in developing high performance networks and streamlined operations through leveraging data, efficient processes and key performance indicators. We sat down with Marya to dive a little deeper into where her career began, her favorite moments and what inspires her to work harder each and every day.
Question: How'd you get into the industry?
Marya: My dad was a doctor so when I was younger I worked in his office in many different capacities – I helped with filing, made charts, searched for charts for incoming patients . . . I even mowed the lawn. When I got older, I would fill in as a patient chaperone and registration staff when he had folks out on maternity leave or holiday. I also would go with him when he did his rounds around the hospital. I knew I didn’t want to be a doctor; I just wanted to be around healthcare.
Question: What has been your favorite project to work on?
Marya: Since I started with Blaze, I have learned so much as the team greatly complements each other’s skill sets. In a current project, I am learning a lot about the behavioral health and substance abuse system and excited to apply my skills as a data and technology strategist to create a system that helps one of our most vulnerable populations. Additionally, we are working to leverage community organizations to address many of the underlying social factors that exacerbate both medical and mental health conditions. There is a lot buzz these days about social determinants in risk modeling, but this work takes it so much farther in that it is creating an infrastructure to actually address vulnerabilities and help the whole person.
Question: Let’s talk about your area of expertise, analytics and technology.
Marya: My first career was finance and accounting and it was all about data relationships and operational levers. I missed healthcare, so I went back and got my masters in healthcare administration, and still used my analytics mindset to problem solve. Data usually tells a story and I like to see what’s achievable and then figure out how to take steps to improve whether that’s reducing variation, standardizing processes, putting additional support in place or sometimes taking a step back and looking at a problem in a totally different way.
With technology, people will buy the technology or look at the technology without defining what they are trying to do. When you implement, you need to start small, maybe with a pilot before you go big bang. I have a knack for finding an early success, then you build. While you need to envision your end goal and define your business problem you are trying to solve, you cannot discount what you will learn along the way and that priorities always shift. Building in flexibility, creativity while getting wins along the way is key.
Question: What do you like to do outside of work?
Marya: I’m a big fan of getting outside and being active. I like to hike, do yoga, and bike. I also like to volunteer when I can. When I lived in Charlotte, I worked with a family transitioning from homelessness to housing and in Raleigh, I volunteer at Urban Ministries as a crisis support interviewer and front desk greeter. UM provides many valuable services for the community such as food pantry, medication assistance, women’s shelter, and the Open Door Clinic. It’s awesome to be part of the community.
Question: How do you want to make an impact on the healthcare industry?
Marya: We have to change healthcare to have a greater impact on health status and get out of the reactive mode. I want to make things easier for those providing healthcare and I want to have a part in improving the health status of as many people as I can. It’s a very exciting time to be in healthcare as we are starting to look outside the industry for innovation and ideas. I hope that my experience, analytical mindset and creativity will allow me to help build and develop sustainable systems that elevate the health and well-being of the populations we serve.