Admittedly, things have been really tough at work lately, for a variety of reasons. Last Friday, I received the following letter via email, and it was enough to remind me why I chose to do this all in the first place.


A Letter from the CEO

Dear KP colleague,

What are the issues that children face in school these days?

We all know some of the more challenging issues that show up on the macro list for children – peer pressure, bullying, drugs, being new, adolescence, food choices, sexually transmitted diseases, prejudice, intergroup conflicts, personal episodes of anger, remorse or grief, being victimized, being sad. It’s a long list.

So what does that list of challenges and issues for elementary, middle school and high school students have to do with Kaiser Permanente – and what exactly am I celebrating this week?

I am celebrating the fact that we have members of our Kaiser Permanente staff who, in every one of our Regions, go from school to school putting on plays, skits, training sessions, and musical events that deal directly with that set of issues.

This is not a small effort.

Our Kaiser Permanente theatre team performed for over 589,000 students last year alone. The number will be even higher this year.

We don’t just put on plays; we meet first with each school principal to discuss the issues to be presented to the students at each school. We then meet with the teachers. We have handbooks, posters, follow-up materials and we even arrange for follow-up contact resources for individual students.

We target each issue, tee-up the agenda, and then our teams of actors go to each school and entertain the heck out of the students. We did that in more than 1,800 schools last year alone.

The energy level of our teams of actors is a delight. Skilled, personable, talented, entertaining well trained and well prepared actors act out the stories of peer group rejection, anger control techniques, wise food choices, emerging sexuality, venereal disease prevention, and other extremely relevant topics in ways that help students better cope with and handle their own lives.

Over half a million students see those one-hour presentations every year. Every Region has its own teams of presenters. I’ve seen several of the teams. You would be proud to see them perform in the name of Kaiser Permanente. They are really good. And they love doing what they do.

The plays have names like Zip’s Great Day, Play HEALS, The Best Me, PEACE signs, Give Peas a Chance, Mumferds Safety Tales, Uncle Ghergins Magical Show, Swashbuckling Adventures of Jamie in the World of Red, The Reading Pirate, The “R” Files, IF, X-Change, Secrets, Fragments (Impressions of Grief), and Voices. Several of the plays have been used for years.

Secrets has actually been on stage continuously since 1989 in one Region or another. Secrets was developed initially in response to a rapid increase in HIV/AIDS/STD’s in the communities we serve. Secrets deals with resistance to peer pressure, the risks of being sexually active, and the actual consequences of behaviors. The actors make the medically solid point that abstinence is the only 100% effective way of preventing the transmission of HIV. Those are not easy topics to deal with. Secrets does it really well.

Audiences – both students and teachers – give the plays very high satisfaction ratings.

Schools in states we don’t even serve have also used “Secrets” to help educate their children. It is a powerful story, told in terms of well-acted scenes that students can relate to very directly.

Even though every Region has at least one acting team that presents these messages and even though we have been doing Educational Theater for a very long time, a lot of us inside Kaiser Permanente do not know that these programs exist – or that they do so much good.

So I thought I would celebrate the Kaiser Permanente Educational Theater Program this week.

I’ve had a couple of people from other health organizations ask me why we have such an extensive theater program. They want to know what is the basic “business” purpose of the program? They want to know why we invest millions of dollars in entertaining and educating grade school children and high school students – most of whom are not our members.

“Business” is not the point.

We don’t do Educational Theater because it increases sales. We also don’t do it to get a “Return On Investment.” I don’t know how we could ever calculate an ROI from helping school children deal with bullies or create inter-cultural friendships. It’s not about ROI. It’s about “RTTD”.

We do this program because Educational Theater gets a high “RTTD” score. “RTTD” means “Right Thing To Do.”

Helping a half million children each year deal more effectively with their lives is very much a RTTD.

So let me thank all of the wonderful and dedicated actors and writers and support staff and health educators and counselors and logistical folks who make our Educational Theatre program a success.

Well done. You make us proud.

Be well.


iGen // do you hear what i'm saying?

I just completed a two-day offsite training for work, which introduced our company to two important topics: generational diversity and assertive communication. I went in with an open mind and came out bursting with knowledge and the desire to change my own world. Part of be finds it a little bit crazy that a seminar could have so much power on me. But I guess that's how motivational speaking works.

Anyway, I wanted to record my thoughts here, for preservation and to remind myself of a time when I felt incredibly empowered. A feeling as deep as this can move hearts and mountains.



At this moment in time, four separate and distinct generations can be found within the workplace. There are the Traditionalists: those who experienced both World Wars firsthand; those who stood in endless breadlines during the Great Depression; those who knew a world before television and specialized radio. Next, and largest, are the Baby Boomers: the ones who wept for the death of John F. Kennedy; the ones who fought for our Civil Rights; the ones who protested the war in Vietnam. Then comes Generation X: they feared nuclear war; they became latchkey kids because of the rise in divorce across the nation; they were our country's first techies. And here's where I come in:

I'm a Millennial.

Generation Y. Echo Boomers. iGen. No one really knows what to make of me. From what the other generations can tell, I'm a lazy college graduate with the attention span equal to the width of a teaspoon who has no idea what I want to do with my life because I spend my days glued to the couch watching reality TV while listening to my music collection playing on random on my iPod. Truthfully, many fellow Millennials generally fit this description. On the other hand, appearances can be painfully deceiving.

Since the Industrial Revolution, our country, and our world, has been propelled forward by technology in ways we would have never imagined. In just four generations, we have advanced to being paperless, wireless, timeless... Maybe, some could even argue, a bit mindless. And a lot of that is reflected in the youngest generation, which includes me. We are inundated with so much external simulation, we've forgotten how to use our imaginations. The media strips our heroes of their credibility and idolizes the celebrities that habitually exhibit the kind of behaviors that may, admittedly, be morally corrupt, but hey, it gets them their fifteen minutes of fame and sells millions of copies of trashy magazines. In turn, we don't know who to trust and we've lost our social graces. With so many choices for electronic devices intended to assist us, it's a miracle we still know how to eat, sleep, and pee for ourselves. We've developed carpal tunnel from all the texting we do. We are fickle, we can't decide, we have three hundred and seventy two flavors of the week. The thing is: we are the future of this country.

But think about this. We have always known a world in which technology is the norm. Where information can be gathered effortlessly and instantaneously. So we have been expected to know it all, read about it all, understand it all, by the time we are ten. Children as young as seven and eight are taught to turn on a computer, start Microsoft PowerPoint, and develop a full-fledged presentation, complete with animations and sound. Teachers expect that, employers search for that. What happened to playing four-square and learning how to share? Our environment has turned us into human robots. Processors of information. Quick processors of information. We move at the speed of light because everything around us does. As intimidating as that may sound, think of all the possibilities.

As a generation, Millennials are the smartest and most educated generation in the history of man. We have been exposed to an incredible and endless amount of information, which we can, and will, use to our advantage. We have become accustomed to multi-tasking, and thus, we work smart and effectively. We understand the true value of life balance because it is hard to achieve. When there is so much to choose from, we elect to take the time to find out what we are truly meant for. We are open, accepting, and idealistic. We grew up with divorced parents and broken families, and as a result, many of us will wait to get married and start our families because we want to do it right. Because the media brings people up only to bring them down, we lacked the role models we needed as children. So we turned to our parents, who became our heroes, and we look to each other to inspire our communities to action. It has been said that Millennials have the strongest relationships with their parents and are the most civic-minded people in society today. We have seen our environment deteriorate before our eyes, and we know what we can do to save it. We fight to end world hunger, we walk for cancer, we search for the cure for AIDS. We have seen the effect of selfishness among older generations, and we want to be leaders, proponents of social justice, because we need to fix the world we all live in.

I feel like I'm holding the world in my hands. And I feel confident that I have everything I need to take care of it.


do you hear what i'm saying?

The funny thing about our culture is that we've been taught that it's nicer to be rude than to be truthful. Remember, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all?" Well, that's okay, for the most part. Until it comes back to bite you in the ass.

The trouble is, everything we're expected to do as adults conflicts with all those lessons we were taught during childhood. We were told not to speak unless we were spoken to, but people are always looking for someone else to make the first move. We bite our tongues when we go against the majority or the authority. We would rather lie than spare someone else, or our own selves, any amount of embarrassment.

And that's where conflict arises. With all these mixed messages, how are we supposed to be able to communicate clearly and honestly, all the while maintaining the strength of all our relationships?

It isn't an easy task.

Through a variety of communication exercises, I learned that my style of communication is very self-deprecating and at times, apologetic. This struck me as odd, initially, because I like to think of myself as a strong person. But when I reevaluated myself, I realized a lot of things. I have been simultaneously taught to fear authority and believe that what I say is valuable enough to be heard. I am supposed to make clear what I want, but I should also be considerate of others. The outcome of that is a weak and passive style of communication.

I had assumed this was an issue that manifested itself only in the workplace. But a mere two days later, I had someone comment on my nervous disposition, which was extremely disconcerting because I had thought I was acting poised, confident, and self-assured. Clearly, this was not the case.

Thankfully, I have been exposed to new ways of communication, ways that are assertive without being offensive. I now understand that what I want is valid simply because it is what I want, and there is no need to apologize for how I am feeling about any situation. I am open to others' opinions, and I must remember that that notion will be reciprocated.

My hope is that I can utilize these skills to enhance those I already have. And sometime soon, someone will really hear what I'm saying.


our greatest moments

Alameda Civic Light Opera presents
Broadways Greatest Moments III
Saturday, November 3, 2007
8 pm @ Kofman Auditorium, Alameda


It's our reunion

We spent the whole summer together... and then some


Cinderella pals

Feels just like summer... and we're sad it has to end

Chillin' at LP

We're happy we're here