Thomas Leon, Senior Vice-President of Marketing and Strategy at Equality Health, recently shared his success story with University of Phoenix podcaster Dan Benjamin. Leon talked about growing up in a tough neighborhood in Tucson, Arizona, earning his MBA degree from University of Phoenix and his goals at Equality Health for achieving diversity, inclusion and equity healthcare for everyone.
Thomas Leon: His Early Life
Leon grew up with eight people living in an 800 square foot home on the west side of Tucson. His parents, who were elementary school educated, encouraged him to learn. His mother was his role model and served her community as a nutrition educator.
He always knew that, like his mother, he wanted to help people make their lives better. He overcame the stigma of growing up in a tough neighborhood surrounded by gangs and drugs and becoming a father when he was only 17. With the encouragement of his family, he became the first generation to go to college and earn a graduate degree.
Leon always aspired to be a leader and began full-time work after obtaining his bachelor’s degree. He had senior executive positions that he refers to as “building-block jobs.” He learned basic skills and gained knowledge he still relies on. He knew though, that he wanted to move on to the next level of leadership. To do that, he needed to earn a graduate degree.
Thomas Leon Earns an MBA
Leon determined that an MBA was the best graduate degree for him. He planned on obtaining an executive or CEO position. The sooner he earned his degree, the better.
Leon discovered that standard education programs did not align with his need to continue working in his full-time job while going to school. He discovered that University of Phoenix offered him exactly the program he was looking for.
The academic advisors at University of Phoenix supported and assisted Leon in achieving his goal. The experience was sometimes scary as Leon lived paycheck to paycheck supporting his family and had no savings to fall back on. But he was still able to complete his MBA degree.
The advisors took the time to understand his challenges, assess his needs and help him choose the right classes. The importance of dialog with advisors became more apparent when, halfway through the MBA program, Leon landed a job that required travel. His University of Phoenix advisors helped him find solutions so he could still complete his classes and earn his degree.
He strongly feels that anyone can achieve the same professional success that he has. It takes dedication, hard work, mentors and academic advisors. With this help, Leon earned his MBA. He has been a business leader for years and has held titles of CEO and president. He believes he is an example of the American Story.
Leon’s Goals for Equity in Healthcare
In his position at Equity Health, Leon is concerned about diversity and equity in the healthcare system. He is working to establish a model that will provide access to healthcare for all, no matter a person’s age, cultural, ethnic or racial background. Everyone needs the same high quality of healthcare.
He notes the faces of America are changing in all industries. Americans are becoming more diverse, not less. As a Hispanic person, he knows firsthand how it feels to be passed over for a job or promotion because of his color. This treatment motivates him to work on diversity in the workforce at Equity Health and to overcome the barriers created by institutional racism.
Leon promotes having difficult conversations with members of Equity Health as well as the workforce so he can understand their experiences. He says, “It’s a time for change. But you really have to listen to understand the experiences of your workforce, the experiences of community members, in order for you to understand what needs to be changed and how to change it.”
He feels that those working in the healthcare sector should be the leaders in diversity, inclusion and equity. He says, “We are in the people business, and when in the people business, you need to be sure you are delivering personalized and competent care to people.”
His goal is to deliver the best high-quality healthcare for the whole person: the physical, behavioral and social determinants that impact people’s lives. This is only done by focusing on equity in healthcare and the use of new innovative technologies such as those that allow for treating patients via telehealth visits.
Leon’s advice to those who are just beginning their career, starting their education or returning to school is to “find support of University of Phoenix, mentors, family members and others who have taken the same path. Don’t get stuck in a temporary life experience or situation. You can change with a positive outlook, determination and drive. I hope my story resonates. If I can do it, you can too.”
About University of Phoenix
University of Phoenix was founded in 1976 to provide educational opportunities to adults with family commitments and who are also working full-time jobs. Adult learners need a different curriculum than traditional college students.
University of Phoenix provides students with ongoing support and a range of resources. Students develop skills they can immediately apply to their own work and life experiences. Classes are online or on campus at convenient locations. It is possible for students to study at their own pace and on their own schedule.
According to University of Phoenix, all students have access to the University’s “innovative learning platform, career services and a wealth of educational resources such as an online library, writing and math labs and a University-wide academic social network.”
The University offers associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. A variety of certificate programs are also available.