“Don’t stress out” over your career, Kenya Scott Woodruff tells women who are entering the workforce.
“It really does all work out. Your career path might not be as you predicted, but if you are willing to work hard; you are open; and you say ‘yes’ to things that others don’t, you are going to end up with great opportunities to advance.”
Finding Her Passion in Healthcare
Kenya began her career at a large law firm in Dallas as a commercial litigator, but she discovered the healthcare practice area as a second-year associate and immediately loved the complexity of the space.
She found a mentor who was a client. He managed litigation for a large health system and helped Kenya develop a steady stream of healthcare litigation work. She later went to a firm where she handled government investigations, before transitioning to an in-house position with the Dallas hospital district, Parkland Health and Hospital System, where she handled investigations, litigation, regulatory and transactional work.
After four years, Kenya returned to private practice, focusing on mergers, acquisitions and joint venture strategic partnerships in the healthcare sector and advising administrators and medical providers on compliance and other business issues. In October, she came to the newly-opened Dallas office of Katten as part of a respected trio – Cheryl Camin Murray, Lisa Genecov and Kenya. They were the first three women partners in the new office and were hired to grow the firm’s healthcare practice in the Texas region.
While Kenya is looking forward to what the team will accomplish, one of her top career highlights is a project she took on when she returned to private practice, working with five physicians and a technology investor to help them build a healthcare company. Together, they formed an independent Accountable Care Organization (ACO), Premier Patient Healthcare, and the company has since expanded to more than 400 physicians and created savings for Medicare and private payor programs each year they have existed.
Kenya found it exciting to watch their growth and especially to realize that there are rural, unaffiliated physicians who now have the technology that delivers recent visit and admission data about patients to the physicians’ desktops and enables them to care for their patients with an understanding of their recent medical encounters. “We’ve been through a lot together since 2012, and it’s amazing to see the wonderful work they have done,” she says. “It is awesome to see the role they are playing in advancing efficient care and to be able to play a part in that advancement.”
In fact, in this era of constantly searching for high-quality, cost-effective care, Kenya is finding that collaborative arrangements are emerging as an important answer. “We are working to help healthcare professionals and organizations figure out how they can take care of patients across the continuum of care in an efficient and effective way,” she said.
Career Advice For Creating a Successful Path
The healthcare industry is largely a welcoming place for women. While there are still advances to be made, Kenya says companies are increasingly amenable to women progressing into executive leadership roles. But in the legal industry, she recognizes there is still a real issue with retention of female attorneys at law firms, even though most firms are very close to 50/50 in gender division when hiring.
Kenya believes one of the best ways to combat attrition in the legal profession is to make sure that women have mentors early in their careers. Often times women may be on par with their male counterparts when it comes to the skills needed to succeed, but they are less likely to have mentors who show them how to navigate the politics of the firm, as well as the business of law, specifically how to develop a practice that is sustainable and financially successful.
In addition, she encourages women to fill their toolbox of knowledge and experience and then seek out a niche they enjoy that preferably is not saturated by other experts. “We have to remember that our business, like others, is subject to the financial realities of supply and demand,” she said.
And mentoring shouldn’t stop as women ascend the career ladder. Kenya stresses the importance of continuing to find camaraderie and support from groups, whether internally at a law firm or externally in industry-based organizations.
At Katten, Kenya is active in the Women’s Leadership Forum, which supports the retention and advancement of women attorneys at the firm through mentoring and professional development programs. She finds the forum’s meetings to be helpful because women often share success tips, as well as challenges. “That’s what it takes to help people move forward—honest, straightforward advice,” she said.
Kenya has also been involved with a number of industry groups, such as the Center for Women in Law at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, which she calls a “powerhouse organization with great women, companies and firms.” Along with the advice and other benefits of female networking groups, she says it’s vital for women to share career opportunities with each other and support other women as they climb their respective ladders.
A Healthy Balance in All Aspects of Life
As the mother of two “strong-willed” girls, ages 9 and 11, Kenya increasingly enjoys watching as they come into their own and hearing the interesting conversations their newfound maturity sparks. With her husband, David being a magistrate judge, it’s a challenge to juggle family, church and work obligations, but she and her husband share the load – they are true life partners. “Our church family is a big part of our lives,” Kenya said, adding that “We are there for each other in good times and bad. My church family is fun, supportive and they even help with emergency childcare needs!”
Kenya sits on the board of directors for what was formerly AIDS Arms, an organization focused on the prevention and treatment of HIV. She was a part of the board when the nonprofit group legally changed its name to Prism Health North Texas to better reflect the comprehensive services it provides. “The name change has been well-received, and we continue to enjoy great community support,” she said. “I always encourage people to find some organization where they can get involved and help their community in a significant way.”