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Only good news should be spread on Fridays, to Karenne Levy's way of thinking.
"You can't do anything about bad news until Monday anyway," says the newly hired president and CEO of the MacDonald Training Center. "So my rule is save it for Monday."
The Kingston, Jamaica, native cites her own empirical data, including a biopsy 10 years ago on a Friday afternoon that indicated the possibility of cancer.
"The doctor said to go home, have a glass of wine and we'd find out on Monday," she said.
Now Levy, 48, counts the last day of radiation treatment as her "birthday," when she celebrates "a second chance to use my time wisely."
Running Tampa's training center for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities will give her that opportunity as she succeeds Jim Freyvogel, her former boss at Quest Inc. Levy, who earned a master's degree in mental health counseling from the Miami Institute of Psychology, left there as chief operating officer in 2014 for a position at Moffitt Cancer Center.
Levy found time to speak to Tampa Bay Times reporter Amy Scherzer on Day 2 on the new job.
Are the MacDonald Training Center and Quest very similar?
Both organizations were founded over 50 years ago by parents who couldn't find any services for their children. MacDonald has no residential facilities and a $6 million budget. We help about 500 people a year with job skills such as packaging SunPass transponders and sewing textiles for safety flags and vests. Quest is less well known here but much larger, with 26 locations across Tampa and Orlando serving the most medically and ably-challenged individuals in the state. They have no business enterprise team. Jim (Freyvogel) hired me as assistant regional director, then I became vice president of the Tampa region. When I left, I was COO of a $30 million budget.
We all believe strongly in the motto, "Nothing about me without me" which is a person-centered approach to service. You have to take the time to know the person … every one of us has different hopes, goals and dreams.
Being a cancer survivor not only changed your outlook on life, but led to a career move. How did you go from patient to employee of Moffitt Cancer Center?
Six weeks after my son Sebastien was born in December 2005, I found a lump in my neck and we found out that I had Hodgkins lymphoma. It was 4 p.m. on a Friday and that was the start of my philosophy of no bad news on Friday. As a Moffitt patient, I sat on a family advisory council that met with senior leaders nine times a year. At one of the meetings I was co-chairing, a new director of patient experience position was announced and I decided to apply. One of the things we did was to delineate standards of communication and behaviors that demonstrate caring to patients every day in every way. This was natural for me having learned the art of communicating with word, tone and gestures with people with disabilities.
Independence is the key word at MTC, both for clients learning to live on their own and the center to sustain revenue. Can you share some thoughts on how to achieve these goals?
Working with the business enterprise team to expand partnerships and look for other opportunities to reduce dependence on state reimbursement for services, which is so variable. By continuing to refurbish screens, monitors and laptops, as well as disassemble computers and phones for recycling and resale.
Also, to start earlier intervention for kids on the autism spectrum and to continue the development of an approved curriculum that allows children aging out of the school system to be certified in a variety of fields.
How did you meet your husband and what brought the Levy family to Tampa?
After I graduated from the University of Western Ontario I moved to Miami and Woody (Tampa VA psychiatrist Woodburne Levy) saw me at this quaint restaurant with a girlfriend who was in his medical school class. He tells it better, but he says that he said a prayer to God that if he could meet this girl, he would marry her. I did not give him my phone number that day, but several months later we were dating. We'll be married 20 years in December. After his psychiatry residency and fellowship at Yale, he was recruited to the Haley VA Hospital and we moved to south Tampa in 2000.
That's so romantic. Now tell us some surprising things about yourself.
I love ziplining — I really want to do it in Alaska. I love being in fast cars, dancing and taking pictures of sunsets. And travel, especially spontaneous four-day weekends. I love Fridays for good news. Friday the 13th? Even more so. I am fearless, that's what cancer taught me.
Sunday Conversation is edited for brevity and clarity. Contact Amy Scherzer at [email protected] or (813) 226-3332.
Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.
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