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Hometown: Chicago, IL

To Steven, a move to MSP meant a chance to fulfill his purpose of providing inclusive care. For him and his family, it meant an opportunity to grow in a community where they all can thrive.

Steven Jackson, M.D.

Program Director, Spinal Cord Injury Medicine and Medical Director, Patient Experience

Steven Jackson first moved to Minnesota from the Chicago area in 2006, knowing little more about life in the state other than the Mall of America and its reputation for cold weather. His first few years were spent in Rochester at the Mayo Clinic where he trained with world-class surgeons preparing to serve patients with spinal cord injuries and their families. After his initial training, he and his family moved to Virginia for completion of his specialty training, but they always knew they wanted to find their way back – it was a matter of the right time, the right location, and the right opportunity.

Today, Steven leads HealthPartners’ Spinal Cord Injury Medicine program at Region’s Hospital in Saint Paul with a strong vision for the future of patient care, as well as a deep appreciation for the spirit of the medical community here in MSP.

Q: When you moved to Rochester to train at the Mayo Clinic, what were your first impressions of the state?

Coming from a large metro like Chicago, the feel of the Rochester community is what stood out most. We could tell that it was a great place to raise a family and that people here are genuinely nice. When we eventually moved to Virginia after I finished 4 years in Rochester, we had a strong desire to someday move back. And here we are, now living and working in MSP.

Q: Glad to have you back! You officially moved here in 2014, but we hear you had an interesting journey before starting your position with HealthPartners. Can you tell us more?

I was actually still in my third year of a residency in Virginia when I was first contacted by a recruiter at HealthPartners. A little serendipitous considering we had been hoping to return to the area, but I hadn’t started any serious job search yet. After the first interview, it was a done deal. I had a strong feeling from the start and could see how I could contribute immediately. That was in February of 2013, and it was more than a year and a half later in October 2014 when I had my first day on the job. This patience says a lot about how much HealthPartners values cultivating their teams.

Q: What else about HealthPartners has stood out in your nearly five years with the organization?

The collaborative and supportive nature of leadership across the organization. When I recognized an opportunity to build on our values to improve patient care, our very own CEO gave me the go-ahead to take charge. Now I’m the Medical Director of Patient Experience and get to work to continually demonstrate HealthPartners’ commitment to inclusive, patient-based care. That kind of top-down support empowers staff by saying “we trust you”, and that’s powerful.

Q: When you talk about inclusive care, what do you mean?

Plain and simple, inclusive care means treating people as you want to be treated. Now, take that and scale it across the 5,500 staff and providers within the organization. Practicing principles of equity and diversity means doing so across all aspects of the patient experience—from the moment they walk through the door, to the types of languages they hear from staff and through resources, to the customized care they receive. We all play a part—surgeons, facility staff, security officers, all of us.

Q: How have you seen that reflected in the culture of the medical industry here in MSP as a whole?

The medical community here in MSP is truly unique in that the “niceties” of Midwest culture translate in the care offered here; particularly in my experience at Region’s Hospital, but that holds true across many care systems. There’s a palpable momentum here.

Genuinely caring for patients is the standard, but MSP’s medical community has stepped up to recognize we are all stronger if we work together. The truth is not every ground is as fertile for new ideas, so seeing such a rich and collaborative environment here in MSP is encouraging.

I’d also say that there’s a consensus amongst medical professionals that we don’t live in the hospital, we live in our communities. That’s why so many professionals of the industry are also highly active members of their communities.

Q: And how have you personally found ways to take part in that collaborative culture within the local medical community?

As a spinal cord injury professional, I am focused on improving the quality of life and finding cures for those affected. The majority of this takes place directly with patients, but not all. By extending my participation to education, advocacy, grant review, and research efforts, I’m able to serve as an outspoken voice for patients and their families beyond the hospital.

Q: Speaking of beyond the hospital walls, you’re also a husband, father, and jazz artist. What is life in MSP like outside of your career?

MSP is a great place to grow your career and your family. We’ve found a great church and neighborhood community, as well as a business community that has been incredibly supportive of my wife’s entrepreneurship. Not to mention a home with space for our kids to run around outside. There’s a good mixture of city and jazz festivals year-round, camping and hunting nearby, museums and history, as well as a strong music, art, and theatre community. There really is something for everyone.

Q: How did you go about connecting with people in your community? How about at work?

I’m an extrovert, so I genuinely enjoy talking to people. Whether it’s just saying hello in the hallway, exchanging ideas with a neighbor, or joining a jazz band with one of Region’s physician assistant’s father [true story], there’s always power in making connections and learning something about someone you may never have known otherwise.

Q: What advice would you give other medical professionals like yourself thinking about a move to MSP?

Be open to connection. It’s easy to be protective, but when you step out of your comfort zone that’s where you are able to learn from one another and enrich each other’s lives. For professionals who are maybe already en route, I’d say to be sure to branch out and seize opportunities for new experiences here in MSP. When it’s time to retire, be sure you leave feeling like you’ve truly contributed.