As more professionals unexpectedly become caregivers for aging parents, the healthcare system's complexity can feel totally overwhelming. In this eye-opening interview with leading health tech platform CareYaya, Carol Kim pulls back the curtain on vital lessons from her own journey supporting a father with stage 4 lung cancer.
Carol explains why discernment matters when flooded with advice and why self-compassion helps you cope with caregiving's emotional rollercoaster. She also shares how her immigrant parents still drive her advocacy despite success as a health exec pioneering access, equity and social impact across sectors.
Finally, Carol points overwhelmed caregivers to two little-known resources for support – health plan care coordinators and affordable tech platforms. Her blend of empathy and insider expertise provides families with a trustworthy guide through caregiving’s turbulence towards peace.
- Caregiving journeys often begin unexpectedly, and it is important to navigate the healthcare system while caring for loved ones.
- One of the most unexpected aspects of caregiving is how people show up, both positively and negatively, in times of need.
- Discernment and self-compassion are key for new caregivers, as they navigate unsolicited advice and emotional roller coasters.
- Carol Kim's career journey has spanned the public and private sectors, where she has developed leadership skills and worked with multiple stakeholders.
- Carol's work at Health Net involved building a new team and scaling business planning and operations for a $170 million portfolio of community and infrastructure investments.
- At Shasta Advisory, Carol collaborates with leaders to solve complex problems in healthcare, fintech, and social impact.
- Carol's parents have been a source of inspiration throughout her career, as they pursued a bigger vision and left their home country for a better future.
- Resources for caregivers include care coordinators or caseworkers provided by health insurance plans, as well as tech-enabled platforms that address caregiving needs.
Full Episode YouTube Video:
Full Episode Transcript:
Today, I am so excited to be speaking with Carol Kim. Carol's public affairs career has spanned across corporate, government, and social impact sectors. She is a trusted advisor to policymakers and CEOs as she skillfully influences, builds alliances, and drives consensus towards plan execution. Carol is now founder and principal of Shasta Advisory.
collaborating with CEOs and startup founders on their go-to market strategy, policy, and political navigation. Carol, thank you so much for speaking with us today.
Carol Kim (00:34.378)
Oh, thank you for having me, Leah. I'm really looking forward to the conversation.
Now your professional experience is incredibly interesting. And I have so many questions about your career, how you have gotten here, what you are doing now. But to start us off, I know you have a bit of personal experience in the realms of navigating this healthcare space. So do you mind starting by just telling us a bit about your personal caregiving journey?
Carol Kim (01:00.322)
Yeah, I'm happy to. So I would say that my first caregiving journey started unexpectedly. I think for many caregivers, they find themselves being a caregiver unexpectedly. At the time, I was just two months into my new role as a health policy advisor to then-LA County Supervisor Xavier Oslowski.
providing some strategic direction of LA County's $4 billion health care delivery system across health, mental health, and public health. And about two months into that job of mine, professionally, my father was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. He was a lifelong smoker. And so I suddenly found myself having
learn how to navigate the whole healthcare delivery system and care for my father, along with finding myself doing some shared caregiving duties with my mother. So it was very much an eye-opening experience both personally and professionally with a lot of lessons learned that still remain with me today.
Wow, this experience is valuable, I'm sure, in shaping your career as someone who has a wealth of professional experience and navigating the healthcare space. I'm sure you also experienced confusion as you're navigating it personally, as so many people do. So with that in mind, what was one of the most unexpected things about caregiving and serious illness that people don't really know about until they're thrust into that world?
Carol Kim (02:49.662)
Yeah, there are so many unexpected things that you learn and pick up along the way. But I would probably say one of the most unexpected things about caregiving and going through that with my father is that people surprise you, right? They surprise you in both good ways and, quite honestly, in not so good ways. You come across people who will show up for you.
and your family in your time of need, right? People who you didn't necessarily think about in that way. And then there are those who you sort of expect or think that they will show up for you, but they don't, right? And so I would say that that's been one of the unexpected learnings about how people show up for you in your time of need. And I will also say that,
Once you come outside on the other end of the whole caregiving journey and confronting issues around illness and health, when you get onto the other side of it, your level of empathy and compassion gets activated differently on a go-forward basis because there's something to be said once you've gone through it yourself. Empathy and compassion shows up very differently.
Certainly, yeah, going through these experiences on a personal level, I'm sure, enables you to have that empathy quickly for people going through similar situations. And so from your own experiences, if you had to give a piece of advice to someone who is newly starting a caregiving journey, what would that be?
Carol Kim (04:41.002)
Wow. You know, there are so many lessons I learned, right, with the time in my father's illness and his subsequent passing. But if there are two pieces of advice I can give to anyone who is going through that caregiving journey right now, I would say first of all, it's discernment. And what do I mean by that?
there might be people in your life who will be giving you unsolicited advice, or they will come to you with all kinds of stories. I don't know for anyone who might be going through this right now, but I know for myself, when we were going through this with my father, it was amazing to me how countless people came to us with stories of healing and miracles. And it's not to say I didn't believe in them, it was just,
And when you're in the thick of dealing with care issues, a lot of times it's not very helpful, right? And so I think there is a need for any caregiver to discern and to remain focused on doing what is best for your loved ones and for you. I would also say my second piece of advice is for a caregiver right now is give yourself
permission to feel all the feelings, right? The stress, the pressures, and at moments of that feeling of isolation when you're a caregiver and going through this journey, you will be on an emotional roller coaster ride, right? And there will be times where you may not show up, you know, your best self.
Right? But I think it's really important to remember that you're human and you're doing the best that you can with the tools that you have been given. And so I think it's important to give yourself permission to be kind to yourself and more importantly, to ask help when you need it.
Wow, that is really excellent advice that discernment, the empowering yourself with grace is certainly important. And I also think that advice is important for those supporting friends, families going through caregiving type situations, respecting that, you know, not all unsolicited advice is helpful. So that is certainly important to keep in mind.
I feel like I understand a little bit now your personal journey as to how you are the empathetic, impassioned leader that you are now. And so I'm curious and diving a little bit into your career journey. How did you get to where you are now?
Carol Kim (07:42.098)
Yeah, it's quite a story and not the one that, you know, I would have foreseen, quite frankly. Yeah, but just really quickly, you know, I actually started out as an English major in college thinking I'd go into broadcast journalism, right? But during my college years, you know, I was actively involved with student organizations. I was taking
Carol Kim (08:09.154)
you know, all these like ethnic studies courses. And I also did a summer internship in Washington, DC. And when I was a junior in college in DC doing my college internship, I had two. I had one with a local ABC TV news affiliate, because of course, you know, I was on this grand plan to go into broadcast journalism.
And then I also picked up a second internship on Capitol Hill with a congressional member. And it was that summer, you know, and coming out of that summer internship that I realized for myself, I didn't wanna go into broadcast journalism that I actually wanted to go into public service. And it was the first time where I came to learn about, you know, there is an actual educational
professional pathway, you know, to go work for government, to go work in public service. And it's, you know, it's a path called public policy, right? It's called public policy, you know, public affairs, public administration, you know, there are, there are a lot of these masters program, right? With titles like that. And so, you know, lo and behold, I,
pursued my master's in public policy from the University of Michigan, Joe Lauer Ford School of Public Policy in Ann Arbor. And that really jump started my career at first, working in government, working in Washington DC at the federal level, and then eventually kind of like wound its way, right, into local county government, and then ultimately having made a career transition.
into the private sector and continuing my work in that government relations, public affairs arena.
Wow, that is a really exciting career trajectory. And I'm glad that you have, not a straight path, but you have definitely figured out how to utilize your unique talents and abilities to make an impact. And so I'm curious, since you have held such important leadership positions in both the public and private sectors, how have you noticed the impact you've been able to make? How has that differed between those two fields?
Carol Kim (10:10.666)
Not a straight cut. Ha ha ha.
Carol Kim (10:33.622)
You know, I actually will say that, you know, in many ways, working in the private sector or the public sector, it's been really similar, you know, and I say that because I know how to navigate highly matrix, large complex, complex organizations, whether it's working for government or working for a publicly traded Fortune 100 company, right?
These are huge organizations, multi-layered, departments and teams and stakeholders. And so, I've really been able to learn very quickly how to work with multiple stakeholders, right? How you build relationships internally and externally to help, you know,
move towards like plan execution. And so I would say, you know, many of the leadership skills and experiences, you know, they transcend across sectors, right? Whether it's in the public sector or the private.
Yeah, certainly there are lots of different ways to make an impact. And while the exact pathway to making that impact might differ slightly or largely, there are certainly lots of ways you can go about doing that. And I know one of your roles was as the VP for Health Net. And in this role, you were able to discover market opportunities and community needs. And I'm really curious in that role, in that space,
What's an accomplishment there that you are particularly proud of?
Carol Kim (12:22.518)
Wow. So, you know, I would say one of the many accomplishments that stands out, you know, in my corporate tenure was really being entrusted by the then CEO and senior executives to build a new team and scale business planning and operations for
$170 million portfolio of community and infrastructure investments. It was a time when I went from a team of zero to four, right? Having to, you know, rapidly start up a brand new business function and help the company meet target goals that were expected of us by our state regulators. You know,
Additionally, that time, I established the structure and governance of two separate advisory boards that were made up of our state regulators, investment fund managers, and other health care industry experts. And I look back on it, and from the time that it felt very lonely being like me,
Carol Kim (13:47.654)
operational processes and the structure and the function of this portfolio, I take pride in knowing I went from a team of zero to team of four and three years later, you know, successfully got the company to deploy capital of over $40 million in California to, you know, improve
health care access, to expand health care coverage, to invest in workforce development, as well as invest in the expansion of federally qualified health centers and community clinics. And so I would say, you know, looking back in my long tenure at my last company, among the many accomplishments, that's the one that stands out the most for me, the ability to have built.
a brand new team and a function from the ground up. And it was a moment of innovation and creativity and impactful work.
Those are numbers that sound so surreal to me. I cannot even imagine the level of responsibility. But it sounds like you handled it all with grace. And I mean, the impact is incredible that you had with Health Net. And now you are working with Shasta Advisory, which you are the founder of. What is your favorite part of your work now?
Carol Kim (14:52.944)
Carol Kim (15:16.758)
Oh yeah, you know, I will say like the reason I love doing what I do through Shasta Advisory is because I get to work at the intersection of business, you know, a bit of government policy and social impact work, right, towards quite frankly like solving for hard human problems, right? You know, I really enjoy.
Carol Kim (15:46.478)
collaborating with leaders and helping them go from ideation to execution, right? Who are, these are leaders who are solving, you know, for problems in healthcare, problems in fintech, right, around equity issues, problems in, you know, in the social impact space because I get to work on these various issues that keep it interesting, quite frankly, but...
They all also require strategic planning. It requires stakeholder mapping and identifying areas of partnership development, as well as helping the leaders and the teams get to operational excellence, right? And so that's why I love what I do right now.
Yeah, getting to help people reach their goals is such an incredible job to have. That is really awesome. So I'm sure that you have many people who have guided you throughout your professional journey. Is there one particular person who has been inspirational in your work life and why?
Carol Kim (16:42.166)
Carol Kim (16:59.85)
Yeah, you know, I... Oh man, it's like, where do I even begin? You know, I have been very, very fortunate in my career to have had many, many people who have guided me, who I have learned from, who have quite frankly given me opportunities and promotional advancements. But I would say that still at the end of the day,
who inspires me the most even now are quite frankly my parents, right? And I say that because, you know, I'm the child of first generation immigrant parents, right? They came to this country, they left their social capital, their human capital and the comforts of, you know, their home life, you know, from where they grew up, pursuing something bigger, right? Pursuing a bigger vision, a bigger dream and leaving it all behind and coming here.
And so, you know, I have a lot of lived experiences, you know, being, you know, a child of first-generation immigrants, you know, a lot of lived experiences that come with it, being a woman, being a woman of color, right? And so all of that really informs the way in which I have chosen a career path that I've chosen in public policy, public affairs.
And to me, it really has not mattered what role I've taken on, whether it's been the role of being a policy advisor to an elected official, or whether it's been a corporate executive. Every role I have taken on, I'm always reminded about, you know, this fact of trying to be a champion for communities, causes and change. And, you know, and how, how do I best show up in a way that I can be an ardent advocate for those who have been historically underrepresented.
like the voices of my parents.
Your parents sound really incredible. Thank you so much for sharing that. And I'm glad that you brought it back to your parents, to this personal level, because it's really exciting to talk about these big picture, large human problems, as you've mentioned. And a lot of the listeners to this podcast and a lot of the people out there are just people who are undergoing experiences, caregiving experiences, and to hear someone like yourself share their personal journey is really...
Carol Kim (19:04.052)
is really important and impactful for them as well on that micro level. So to round us out with all of your experiences, professional, personal, if you were to tell someone who is newly beginning their caregiving journey about two resources that they should turn to things that have either been helpful for you or you have heard of recently, where would you direct people?
Carol Kim (19:55.594)
Yeah, I will say it is not, and before I say this, I also wanna be very clear. I am by no means trying to minimize the enormity and the gravity of being a caregiver and the caregiving responsibility. Having said that though, I think in many ways, being a caregiver now and being in a caregiving situation, I think...
is better in some ways than when I found myself being a caregiver over two decades ago. And so what do I mean by that? Because since the time that my father was ill and the whole navigating of the health care system, there's been a lot of policy changes in the health care delivery space. There's still a lot more changes needed, absolutely.
But there's been a lot of changes in healthcare policy and healthcare delivery for the better, I think. And I think a lot of that has also been advanced through innovation and tech. So, you know, what I would say for someone who is finding themselves in this caregiving journey, first and foremost, there are a lot more opportunities and awareness now about care coordinators.
or caseworkers, and oftentimes, you know, your health insurance plan or your provider will have a care coordinator or a caseworker, right, whom you can seek out and can help you along the navigation journey, right? It is not to say that that, you know, is perfect because you still have...
so many moments where in the healthcare system where it's like the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. So it is by no means is it perfect, but I think there is more awareness and more availability now with respect to like working with a care coordinator case worker who can help you and your family on this journey. I would say too, what's really exciting, you know, and which, which gets me really personally excited as you know,
Carol Kim (22:20.334)
tech-enabled platforms now available to address caregiving needs. And you know, like Careyaya, I'm doing a plug, right? But there are so many tech-enabled platforms, right? That, that quite frankly, maybe in your service area that, you know, that might be reasonably priced, you know, with out of pocket expenses or...
Some of these tech enabled caregiving platforms are now partnering with a lot of health insurance companies. So it might even be part of your plan coverage, right? It takes a bit of investigation, but I think there's so many opportunities now that better supports caregivers and the whole caregiving role.
Certainly, and we have not yet perfected the role of the caregiver, of the family caregiver, but you are absolutely right that I think there have been so many technological advancements, policy changes that are working to improve this experience as they should be. So thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us today, Carol. I really appreciate it.
Carol Kim (23:32.954)
Oh, thank you, Leah. Thank you. It was an honor. And I'm so delighted to have been on this podcast with you.