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March 30, 2021 . Sandy Cummings

We are Ursa Health: meet Jerry Buchanan

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What’s your role at Ursa Health, and what do you do?

I’m senior vice president of business development, so think of me as our head of sales. My responsibility is to position Ursa Health where we can add the most value to healthcare organizations.

Can you share a little about your background?

I grew up in Nashville. I went to military school in New York, then spent five and a half years in the Army as an infantry officer. That’s a total of nine and half of my most formative years spent in the military, so it’s really the foundation of who I am. The military instilled a lot of values in me that I carry to this day, such as working hard, being physically fit, and taking care of the people around me.

I was banker for a little while when I got out of the Army, but it wasn’t a job that I loved—I felt that I was taking advantage of people more than helping them. I thought back to my undergrad days and realized I’d always enjoyed computer science, and that launched me on a two-year effort to break into the IT community. I was fortunate to finally land a position as a business analyst for the State of Tennessee. After about a year and a half, a local company called me up searching for a business analyst. I’m not sure I would have joined if I’d realized just how small the company was: fewer than ten employees in the United States. It ended up being a great experience working there, which I did for twelve years as we grew to over 1,500 employees across the globe.

Along the way, I found out that I was the rare IT person who could talk to people, so I ended up in account management, then in a hybrid role that combined account management and sales. Thankfully, that company was in the healthcare IT space, leading me to where I am today at Ursa Health.

Your military background is unique here. What do you think it’s enabled you to bring to the company?

I hate the word because it sounds so Army, but I do tend to have a disciplined approach to the way I look at, measure, and think about things. To me, being a salesperson isn’t just about trying to close a deal, but about creating a repeatable process that’s supported by the right people, and keeping it moving. I’ve always had a systems-thinking approach to things, which means I’m thinking about not only the performance today but the way to sustain and grow that over time.

I’ve had a lot of success with this approach over the years, and it’s actually helped me not get burned out. If you’re a commander in the military, you might have that job for three years, but especially as a young officer, every job you have is for a year or less. You’re in a constant state of getting a job, learning it, trying to perfect it, and then making it so you can easily hand it off to somebody else. So rather than thinking about how I can keep myself involved and be the central part of whatever’s going on, I’m focused on how I’m going to empower another person to own something so I can move on and do other, hopefully better things.

Why did you decide to work for Ursa Health?

First, I like working in healthcare. It is a way that the work I do can have a positive impact on society. I’ve been in healthcare for a while now, but with Ursa I’m closer to the patient, closer to the member, doing something that has a more direct impact on the organizations I work with.

I also really wanted to get back to the early-stage growth company feel. I loved the feeling at my previous company, where everybody was at the table for almost any decision. I was just a business analyst, but I was involved in project management discussions, sales discussions, everything. I learned so much in those first few years, so I was excited to be able to come here, where I can experience that again at a level where my influence will continue to shape our future for years to come.

What do you find to be the best part about working with Ursa Health?

I do think it’s the people, the co-workers who I get to collaborate with every day and bounce ideas off of as we strive to make the company better together. Sure, everybody here is nice. But it’s not just that. If everyone here were incompetent, the nice part wouldn’t matter so much. But combine capability, smarts, and niceness—everything together—and working here is really a pleasure.

It’s the product as well. In my first interview, Robin [Clarke, Ursa’s CEO] made some frankly quite fantastical claims about what Ursa Studio could do—claims I needed verified before I committed the next several years of my life to a company! One friend—the strongest data person I know—had taken an in-depth look at the tool. Once he told me it can do everything they told me and probably more, I was hooked.

So I came in believing very strongly in the product, and then as I met the people I started to appreciate how good our team is and how enjoyable it would be to work here.

What is the one thing your colleagues would be surprised to know about you?

My go-to is I’m actually pretty introverted. Most people have a hard time believing that because professionally I’m definitely not. I’m always the one starting conversations, keeping them going, introducing people to each other, and networking. It’s a lot of effort, however, for me to me to do those things. Left to my own devices, I’d probably be the person sitting in the corner at the party talking to the one person I’d met and not the one out mingling.

Or we can go with the fact that I’ve been in two high-speed chases with the police and escaped both times. People who know me, though, are actually less surprised by that!

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