Meet Ladybadass Archelle Georgiou - Spontaneous and Intense

Meet Ladybadass Archelle Georgiou - Spontaneous and Intense

It’s not often I run into people who use math to make highly personal career decisions. I love using numbers to help make nuanced decisions especially when emotions are getting in the way. It allows you to put quantifiable measurement against the subjective topic of you.  So when I learned that today’s Ladybadass Archelle Georgiou used math AND graphed out her formula to help her make decisions on her career, I was, of course, intrigued. And no surprise, Archelle’s formula for impact wasn’t the only thing that intrigued us here at team Ladybadass. I thought you might find her interesting too. Enjoy.

Intense and Spontaneous

Dr. Archelle Georgiou truly is an American Dream story writ large. She is the youngest of three children born to her Greek immigrant parents who came to the United States in the early 1950s. She describes growing up in a blue-collar underprivileged neighborhood. Her father – the classic “Little Greek man” – owned a dry cleaning business and her mother was a stay-at-home mom. Her parents while having no formal education beyond elementary school, encouraged all three children to focus on education.

“My parents wanted us to have a defined profession so that we could have a better life. Our strengths were all in the sciences, so we went along that path. My siblings went on to be pharmacists and I was just going to do what my brother and sister did. There wasn't a lot of dreaming about  becoming a physician, or the thought, ‘Oh I always wanted to be a doctor.’ There were two paths – medicine or law – and I just shot for the highest achieving spot on that path that I could.”

That mindset, of always choosing the highest achieving or most challenging path, have been the hallmark characteristic of Dr. Georgiou’s broad and influential career. Her impressive achievements belie a self-effacing and humble demeanor as she explains that there was a point when she decided what her  passion was and what she wanted her impact to be;

“It's not that in 1995 I said, ‘I’m going to become a Corporate Executive at the highest level, write a book and be on television.’ I just focused on advancing to the next most logical, impactful, adjacent opportunity where I could make a difference. And, I was willing to take some risks.”

And, here she is.

First and foremost Dr. Georgiou describes herself as intense yet spontaneous; she will lock into a project, topic, or question and, “Will dig-in, ask 150 questions about it, work on it for as long as it takes, get to the root. I'm extremely intense, focused and detailed, and I don't give up.”

As a physician, she has focused her career on teaching people how to advocate for their health and how to have a voice in their medical decisions, “Everything I do is centered around empowering people in their own healthcare.”

Indeed, her recently published book Healthcare Choices: 5 Steps to Getting the Medical Care You Want and Need clearly illustrates her ethos. Her book gives people the tools to advocate for themselves, to have a voice in their own medical decisions. While it  may seem obvious that you have to advocate for yourself, she explains,

“Frankly, while human beings make 35,000 decisions a day, we make very few regarding our own healthcare. The more serious the condition, the fewer decisions we make.  When it comes to our own health, we become scared, intimidated and paralyzed, and we look to the doctor and ask, ‘what would you do?’”

Whether you are addressing a life-threatening illness, self-managing a minor ailment, selecting a doctor, or buying insurance, Georgiou’s 5 step CARES model lays out a roadmap of how to be an active participant in your own healthcare.

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Knowing When to Leave

As senior executive and Chief Medical Officer of UnitedHealthcare, Archelle spent her time clearing red-tape and administrative barriers impeding doctors and patients. It is not surprising therefore that Archelle took this same level of intensity and analysis to her personal decision to leave corporate America.  And knowing when to leave is not just a feeling with Archelle. Like everything else she tackles it head-on with carefully thought out data analysis, or as she calls it:

The Mathematics of Career Decisions

Dr. Georgiou explains that in addition to the “high salary = success” metric, she also uses a “high impact = success” metric. She graphs both, superimposes one on top of the other, and this helps her clearly see when income and impact are misaligned in a particular role. “When I was at my peak income, my impact was at its lowest point. Being able to see mathematical misalignment on a graph helped explain why my penultimate executive job wasn’t fun anymore.”

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Impact, she explains, is personal and unique. One just has to decide how to measure it. For her, impact equals the number of people that she would personally touch with respect to their health care in any given year. Of course, this number isn’t exact, but she offers a few personal situations to make the determination, for example:

  • Number of patient visits in the early part of her career when she was a practicing physician.

  • Number of patients that she had responsibility for as a Medical Director/ Chief Medical Officer and CEO.

  • Number of people that the Nielsen ratings said she reached on her ABC television programme.

“For me, I picked a metric that was important to me that I could track over time. Is it perfect? No of course not, but it is directionally correct.”

And she believes it is absolutely necessary to select a metric when planning your life and career. Impact she explains, is different for everyone. For someone else, it could be the number of books they read in a year or the number of hours spent with family. However, it should be some quantification that is consistent over time, one that really matters.

“I think it's a cop-out when people say, ‘I don't know. I just want to be a good person’ or ‘I just want to be happy.’ I think you have to quantify it because you can’t accomplish something important if you don’t measure it.”

Her mathematical approach and subsequent impact and reach are impressive. Currently, her national news appearances include Fox Business News, CNN, Good Morning America, and Katie’s Take with Katie Couric. Archelle is an advisor to a diverse group of healthcare companies and is also adjunct faculty and Executive in Residence at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management.

Impact: This is the measure of you. What an original, authentic and liberating way of evaluating your career and your life.

What's next?

Archelle is planning on adding to her research from a decade ago, where she was a medical correspondent for the Blue Zones international expedition to Ikaria, Greece with friend and colleague Dan Buettner. During that trip, she helped explore the secrets of longevity, plus saved the life of the videographer documenting their research who fell off a cliff and suffered a traumatic head injury. As she designs the next phase of her career, Archelle is diving deeper into what inspires people to advocate for their health and why others simply resort to, “Doctor, what would you do?”

Watch Archelle’s Mayo Transform Talk on changing the culture of healthcare.

We at Ladybadass are inspired and awed by the impact she has had on so many lives.

Physician - Author - Healthcare Industry Executive - Consultant - Television Health Expert - Professor  - Ladybadass

Archelle Georgiou, MD



Over on our Ladybadass sister-site, we highlight many of the fearless, courageous, and inspiring ladies in business and in life around the world. We’re taking this idea a step further and finding out what it is that motivates and inspires these phenomenal women.

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