Healthcare Leadership: Strategies for Direct Care Practices 

Dive into our interview with Beth DeWitt, COO at Ark Family Health, and discover actionable insights on building a strong culture, developing your team, and empowering your practice.

In the dynamic world of healthcare, leadership is more than just a title - it's a journey of continuous learning, adaptation, and impact. Mastering leadership is crucial to providing exceptional patient care and fostering a thriving practice.

Mastering Healthcare Leadership: Interview with Beth DeWitt from Ark Family Health

Beth DeWitt is currently the Chief Operating Officer of Ark Family Health. She leads diverse areas in the practice, including Operations, Finance, Marketing, and Human Resources.

Beth's journey is a compelling blend of personal experiences, entrepreneurial spirit, and a deep-seated passion for transforming healthcare. From her roots on a dairy farm to her role in Direct Primary Care, Beth's story is one of resilience, continuous learning, and a steadfast commitment to patient-centered care.

In this interview, Beth shares insights into her leadership principles and the critical role of teamwork in driving the success of Ark Family Health.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I definitely align with the principles of Servant Leadership developed by Robert K. Greenleaf. The number one thing to remember as a leader is that it's not about me. It's about the mission and the health of the organization, which means the health of the team. The focus is on the team and understanding what motivates them individually, both intrinsically and externally, while aligning their strengths within the organization.

As a leader, my role is to help empower them to grow and see that their contribution is vitally important to the mission. This creates ownership which encourages them to show up to work as their best self - not just because they're told to, but because they know how much they are valued and needed for our overall success. In our organization, everyone is respectful of our differences, strengths, and weaknesses, while all marching towards the same goal and vision. 

How has your leadership style evolved since you started your career and began your journey at Ark Family Health?

I believe there are parallels between leadership and parenting. I think my leadership ideology started when I became a mom. I believe every human has intrinsic unique value. Creating opportunities to be loved and to grow into our individuality is foundational for all of us.  

I think some leadership skills are inherent, but the primary focus is more on how we react to our circumstances and develop over time. I grew up on a dairy farm and worked seven days a week. Some of my earliest memories are about addressing problems and finding solutions.

Mostly though, my life experiences have shaped my understanding of leadership through the process of being self-aware of my values while also acknowledging my biases, strengths, and weaknesses while always being open to continuous learning.

My husband and I started a business when we were young. We learned almost everything the hard way but eventually ran a successful company for over 22 years. When my husband became seriously ill, we had to find solutions and navigate challenging times. Through our experiences over a 10 year journey, I developed a determination and passion to impact change in healthcare.

I went back to college, graduated with a Bachelors in Healthcare Administration and completed my Masters in the Science of Leadership. When my husband recovered, we decided to scale back our business and move to Arizona. I was fortunate to find a leadership position in corporate healthcare and learned so much over the course of seven years. However, as time progressed, it became clear that true structural change from within was not a realistic outcome.

I truly mean it when I say, Dr. Kendrick Johnson and Ark Family Health rescued me. Direct Primary Care quickly became the space where I believe my hard work can have a real systemic and lasting impact, for both patients and clinicians. I am so grateful to be on this team of incredibly talented and genuine humans!

What are the current values of Ark Family Health, and how do they guide your decisions?

Every decision is analyzed through the lens of our four core values: Love, Grit, Light, and Honest Humility. These so resonate with me and authentically align with my leadership ideology and personal values.

The core value of love means we have love for ourselves, our families, our team, and our patients. It is the seed that we are growing at Ark Family Health.

Our second core value is grit. We are dedicated to nurturing that seed of love with sustained, focused, constant effort over time and deliberate practice.

Our third core value is light. This is the life-giving energy that empowers growth and change, giving us joy and hope for a better future.

Our fourth core value is honest humility. It takes honesty about our weaknesses and our strengths to lead ourselves and others in the right direction. 

Which kind of strategy do you use to reinforce those values within the team?

Communication with consistency. To quote Steven Covey, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”. This is so true and such a hard thing to implement sometimes, most of the time if I’m being honest with myself. The important components underlying this are humility, honesty and not being afraid of healthy conflict. The ultimate goal is to understand the other person and be sure the transfer of information is understood.

Conflict is a universal theme in all relationships, personal and professional. People fear conflict instead of understanding that it is an opportunity to develop authentic and deep relationships that can produce a rock solid foundation of trust. A culture of transparent and respectful healthy conflict is a must for me. It’s actually freeing and can produce an unbelievably resilient and aligned team.

What could you share with us about your vision for Ark Family Health?

Our core purpose and vision is to empower health and happiness. We strive to deliver high-value healthcare by optimizing resources and the benefits from those resources. 

We genuinely want to put the CARE back into healthcare through Compassionate Authentic Relationships of Empowerment. Our big 10-year vision and goal is to empower health and happiness in the lives of 100,000 people. This doesn't necessarily mean 100,000 patients in memberships. It means impacting 100,000 lives through a transformative mindset and helping people understand they have the power to choose and navigate their health.

How do you plan to achieve this goal?

Growth is essential while staying firm on our foundation of core values and focus. We aim to have a total of five clinics to better serve the vast Phoenix Valley. We are currently focused on ensuring our core processes and infrastructure is solid, allowing us to scale and grow quickly if necessary. We are strengthening our foundation to support a larger structure. Additionally, we are developing several marketing strategies and leveraging new technology with SigmaMD!

How do you support and develop your team to ensure they are motivated, skilled, and aligned with your practice mission?

You have to authentically care. I believe our greatest strengths are also our greatest weaknesses. It requires vulnerability and self-awareness to determine when the scale tips and something becomes a liability. Encouraging every individual to be true to their own self, their beliefs and/or faith is so important. Meeting them where they are at, helping them understand their own motivations and providing both accountability and support is essential. For me, leadership is ultimately helping someone embrace the courage to liberate their own energy and find their call to positive action. 

Our core values are discussed at the very beginning of our screening and interview process. They are established guardrails with every job offer regardless of position and provide a solid reference point for expectations and accountability of behaviors. 

You mentioned encouraging honest communication, which sometimes leads to positive conflict. How do you manage giving and receiving feedback?

This is the hardest relationship issue, both personally and professionally. People closest to us can hurt us the most, which I think is one of the roots that grows this fear of conflict. Those who know me well will laugh cause they often hear me say, "you matter way too much to me to not have this conversation." It's about valuing the person and needing to better understand them. Respectfully and directly addressing an uncomfortable conversation is essential. Honestly, I believe this is love in action so it actually aligns incredibly well with our core values of love, grit, light, and honest humility. Healthy conflict helps us understand ourselves and each other better, making us more powerful in accomplishing our mission together.

What’s your final message about leadership that you would give to other professionals running Direct Care practices?

Embrace the ongoing internal work of being your authentic self and simultaneously get out of the way to make space for your team’s success. Direct Primary Care has the opportunity to make impactful and sustainable change in our healthcare system across this country.

Regardless of your practice size, be grateful for the opportunity and align your team and resources to reflect your purpose and values. Prioritize self-care routines and know your courage and hard work matter as they are changing lives for the better! “Without courage, wisdom bears no fruit” Baltasar Gracian

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