‘Just Say Yes’ Mantra Guides HVI Leader

By Steve Coates

Wheatley Wentzell was named one of the Hartford Business Journal’s Top 25 Women in Business for 2022.

Wheatley Wentzell, senior vice president of operations for the Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute, was named one of the Hartford Business Journal’s Top 25 Women In Business for 2022. The awards are an annual opportunity to recognize women in the forefront of their fields. Nominated by readers, 25 women are chosen by a panel of independent judges each year.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career and why?

Karen Goyette (Hartford HealthCare executive vice president and strategy and transformation officer). Karen recruited me for her team almost seven years ago and from the moment I met her, I noticed not only her tremendous skill as a leader and strategist but also her ability to build meaningful relationships with her colleagues, her team, and anyone she interacts with. She is the type of leader that inspires you and makes you want to perform at your best — one you do not want to disappoint. I strive to do the same thing in my work and am very lucky to consider her a mentor and friend.

The other honorable mention goes to my husband, Brett. When I started grad school for my MBA, a field outside of my historically more clinically focused comfort zone, he said, “You’ll get some great education at grad school but you really need to leverage your time there to build relationships and seek additional opportunities to learn.” I took that advice to heart and ended up getting a job opportunity by doing exactly that.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I am not sure if this is attributed to anyone or if I just adopted it, but it’s what I share — “Just say yes.” Say “yes” to those projects that intimidate you. I’ve grown the most from those types of projects — the ones that scared me a little bit to take on. You don’t have to be the expert in everything you take on. Leaving your comfort zone promotes personal and professional growth.

Your advice for young leaders?

Just say yes! Develop relationships with your colleagues and network. Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance and create informal mentor relationships. It is always good to get different perspectives and input.

What’s the last TV series you binge-watched?

Not really a binge but I enjoyed “The Staircase.”

What are the top five songs on your playlist?

I’m an Apple playlist music fan. My current favorite is “Beach Vacation,” a mix of new songs, older ones, and classics. I have a pretty varied taste in music and am notorious for getting all of the lyrics wrong.

Favorite vacation spot?

Anywhere that has a lot of outdoor activities in nature, new cultures, and experiences.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love to keep active — in particular with any activity outdoors (gardening, running, hiking, golfing, biking) and my five dogs. I just started pottery this past year and am totally hooked.

‘I’m Here to Transform The Way We Deliver Care’

By Hilary Waldman

Joel Vengco shifted career gears in medical school to focus on using data to help patients.

Joel Vengco was heading into his third year of medical school at Boston University and starting a concurrent PhD program in biostatistics when a professor made an off-hand comment that changed the course of his career.

The right data in the right hands, the professor said, could help 1,000 patients in the same time a physician might treat or cure only one. “I realized,” Vengco said, “that the creativity required to harness data was key in transforming healthcare.”

He quit medical school, earned master’s degrees in biology and medical informatics at Harvard, and started his career developing data and digital strategies at BayState Medical Center. His work there earned him recognition as one of Becker’s Hospital Review’s “Top 100 CIOs to Know” for the past 10 years.

Earlier this year, Vengco, 48, brought his vision for a more Amazon- or Disney-like healthcare experience to become Hartford HealthCare’s senior vice president and chief information and digital officer. He spent the first six months on a listening tour across the system, meeting people and assessing technology.

He said he discovered that our culture — the reason he chose Hartford HealthCare — is strong, and credited that culture and CEO Jeff Flaks’ vision for enhancing access over the past decade.

“That’s why I chose to come here,’’ Vengco said. “Those are the ingredients for success.”

He also found that while our tech basics are sufficient, we need to focus on harnessing data to create a “frictionless” experience for clinicians and a “delightful” experience for patients and consumers.

“We want to be like Netflix or Amazon,’’ he said. If a heart failure patient were to have a Netflix experience, for example, a Hartford HealthCare provider would see them in either the hospital or an outpatient setting.

When the patient went home, they might receive a text or a message in MyChartPlus that says, “Patients like you also have benefited from visiting a nutritionist. Would you like to make an appointment now?” Then, with one click, that follow-up visit could be scheduled.

“I’m not here just about technology,” Vengco said. “I’m here to transform the way we deliver care.” He estimated that HHC is about two years away from delivering a digital patient experience comparable to what we expect now from Netflix, Target and even luxury cars.

Vengco’s ambitious vision is firmly grounded in his immigrant roots. Trained as accountants, his parents’ degrees were not worth much in Sacramento, where they settled and struggled to provide opportunities for their children. A photo of Vengco’s father on an airport tarmac, leaving his family behind in the Philippines while he went ahead to find work, hangs in the dining room of Vengco’s East Longmeadow, Mass., home.

“It’s my reminder,’’ he said, noting he approaches every decision with an equity lens, asking himself and his team, “Who did we leave out?”

Vengco and his wife, Leigh, are raising three daughters, Lily, 18, Grace, 16, and Teia, 14. Led by their dad on guitar, the girls are accomplished musicians who enjoy family jam sessions playing classic rock, jazz, and blues.

To see Vengco and his three daughters cover the Foo Fighters hit “Times Like These” in their studio click here