Joan DaVanzo: Leading in Health Economics Consulting

Top 10 Most Inspiring Women of Influence in 2021

“Being successful” has a different meaning for people at different stages of their lives. Joan DaVanzo, CEO of Dobson DaVanzo & Associates, LLC is one such leader for whom “being successful” has changed as she progressed and evolved in life. Completing her Ph.D., or running a marathon, or being able to perform in a sport used to be  success as mastery in achieving one’s goals and being the best is what meant . Later in life, she now considers herself to be successful if “I succeed in creating an environmentin which myemployees grow and achieve excellence.  When a new client chooses our firm over competitors, we are all being successful as a team.”

Treading the Path of Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship was not new for Joan. She had already founded a “two dollar” brokerage firm on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). She became one of the  first women members by having a seat on the Exchange. Over the years, seats ranged from $4,000 in the mid-1800s to $3.575 million at the end. She says, “I knew that the role of floor brokers (which was what a “two-dollar” broker was) had a limited shelf life because communication technology would eventually advance and orders to buy or sell stock would be transmitted electronically to the post. There would not be a need for so many brokers to physically walk out to the posts and execute the orders.” Not long after, regional exchanges started happening, and the NYSE was no longer the center of everything.  The NYSE eventually became a for-profit public firm.

After this, she walked a long path to get to where she is today. She adds, “I had earned a MSW in clinical social work, and I got my license (meaning I was a psychotherapist). I worked for the New York Office of Mental Health as a day treatment social worker with seriously mentally ill patients. I also maintained a private practice doing individual and group therapy with adults. When I moved to California to get a Ph.D. in public health at UCLA, I became licensed in California and set up a private practice out there. I loved all my patients.”

Impediments on the road to becoming Successful

From becoming a floor broker in a male-dominant field to earning a Ph.D. in health policy while treating patients as a psychotherapist, Joan had to face many challenges along the way. She faced all of them with sheer hard work and commitment and never gave up. She further adds, “When we started Dobson | DaVanzo, I was an “old hand” as an entrepreneur. We started the firm with three people at the kitchen table. Over the next fourteen years, we were given opportunities to do really interesting work for the clients. And here we are today, having our best year ever, despite COVID and all the challenges attendant to that.”

Core Services and Vision of Dobson DaVanzo & Associates

Located in Washington DC, Dobson | DaVanzo is a health economics and policy consulting firm that works with clients to help solve problems, using data analysis to understand the exact nature of the problem and impart solutions. With a specialization in Medicare and Medicaid payment policy, Dobson | DaVanzo analysts utilize medical claims data to model specific government policies and determine the financial impact of the policy for each client.

Below are Dobson | DaVanzo’s main services:

  1. Perform regulatory analysis and work with clients to submit their public comments to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rulemaking
  2. Support attorneys through litigation support and damage estimation and by serving as expert witnesses
  3. Conduct health services research to study access to health services for different groups of patients
  4. Produce data products for clients to provide market intelligence and help them participate in advanced payment models like Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and the CMS Bundled Payment for Care Initiative Advanced (BPCI-A)

Maintaining Core Values and Integrity

Beginning with the same data as the government had access to, the firm often constructs longitudinal cohort studies to showcase the value proposition of the client’s product or service. She adds, “A client could choose not to release a study that had adverse results, but if results were going to be released, they would follow our stipulations. This requirement has served us well over the years because the data do not lie. It has enabled us to serve as honest brokers and work for different types of provider groups who all compete with each other in the marketplace.”

She considers hiring for integrity to be extremely crucial. . Dobson | DaVanzo is a continuinal “learning environment” and offers professional development for its employees.

Managing CEO and home roles with Equal Ease

Being a CEO, she has to wear all the hats at different times. She says, “As CEO, I probably get involved in most things that go on in the firm. My partner (who is also my husband) and I have a hand in most of the technical work. I oversee the government work, some commercial projects, as well as accounting and invoicing. We both oversee HR.”

She is usually the “last eyes” for all reports and proposals before they go out. Her typical workday starts with reviewing the previous day’s emails and then web calls throughout the day with clients and prospective clients. COVID has really increased her touch base calls with the managers as now they have weekly staff meetings, monthly town halls, monthly “cocktail hour,” and play Bingo in free-time.  She feels she is “blessed” and has angels watching over the firm as there are many “coincidences” where things work out the way they are supposed to without any problem.

Her Sundays and Wednesday afternoons are spent at the barn with the 3 horses that she dearly loves. She loves to garden and has a vibrant jungle of flowers every year. Being a travel-friendly person, normally she takes several trips each year and embraces being around flora and fauna. She enjoys sailing as well. Having an accomplished staff means she doesn’t have to worry about work while on a trip. Thus, while balancing her professional and personal life is not easy, it does happen from time to time!

Personally, she wishes to support her people such that they can do great things and always be at the “top of their game”. Professionally, she wants to make Dobson | DaVanzo be seen as the “go to” analytic firm in the DC area . Further, she says, “My other goal for us is to develop a suite of data products and subscriptions that provide our clients with critical information at critical times.”

Contribution as a Business Leader in this field

She shares, “I think our practice of integrating different types of disparate data in our analyses (such as quantitative and qualitative) helps to provide context, color, and depth to our studies. For example, in evaluation studies, the subjective findings from a set of key informant interviews with patients or providers can add a lot toward understanding the meaning behind objective findings from statistical analyses of claims data.” Augmenting data-driven engagements with information from survey data helps to bring readers along on an interesting journey. Dobson | DaVanzo  often publishes public policy studies in peer-reviewed journals.

For her, all the studies and analyses are the company’s pride and joy, especially when others appreciate their complexity and nuance. She concludes by saying, “I want us to always be involved in cutting edge and meaningful analytic work that make a difference for people..”

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