Kristine Anderson is the executive vice president and civilian services group lead at Booz Allen Hamilton — a sharp pivot from her soccer and pre-med days — but a testament to her attraction to the business and sociology side of health care.
Health care isn’t the only industry under Anderson’s purview, but it’s where she has put down her roots, even from the beginning. She got her bachelor’s degree in neurobiology from the University of Pennsylvania, where she began her studies on the pre-med track.
“I was going to go to medical school. I’m not sure why, just somehow as a teenager I decided that’s what I would do,” Anderson said. As a pre-med student, she focused on neurobiology, biology and psychology.
But Anderson became drawn to the nature-versus-nurture debate. She took an urban health care class and was more interested in the business and sociology side of health care, rather than delivering care. She decided the second semester of her junior year she wouldn’t go to med school.
“I came out of college in 1990. This was the beginning of doctors hating managed care,” Anderson said, referring to national debates over doctors losing autonomy. “I didn’t really know what any of that meant the way I know today, but I knew that physicians were very unhappy at that time,” she said. “And when I would go intern at the hospital, I saw it.”
But regardless of what physicians were saying at the time, Anderson wasn’t really drawn to the patient care or lab science aspects of health care.
“Watching cells grow is really boring to me,” she said.
Getting up each day to check that cells have grown as much as only can be seen through a high-powered microscope was not for her.
“I’m a macro person. This is going to drive me crazy,” Anderson joked.
Rather, she was more interested in the intrigue of the lab, and what people were actually doing.
And because Anderson never really started a profession in the medical arena, making the switch wasn’t too challenging.
“The hardest part is always, you have to tell your family you’re not going to be a doctor,” she said.
Making the Transition
Growing up, Anderson knew of a few professions: doctor, lawyer or dentist.
“I don’t even know that I knew there were professional jobs outside of those,” she said, attributing that knowledge to her upbringing in a blue-collar town near a steel mill. “I correctly knew I liked health care so that helped, but just the wrong side of it.”
So, how did Anderson go from interning at hospitals in Pennsylvania to government contracting on the Beltway?
“I would say by accident,” she said.
After graduating college, she was working in Philadelphia and studying at The Wharton School — where she ultimately received her Master of Business Administration — when a graduate school classmate from Booz Allen Hamilton introduced her to the company.
“I’d never heard of Booz Allen,” Anderson said, “maybe I had, but I didn’t remember hearing it.”
At the time, the center of gravity for health care that used to be Chicago was transitioning to Washington, D.C.
And Anderson felt compelled to apply the work she was doing in Philadelphia on quality and safety for health care at the individual hospital level to the national level.
“At the time, all the things I was working on were coming into the government . . . pre-high tech,” she said, like health IT adoption and measurement of quality for hospitals and doctors.
For example, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was launching its Hospital Quality Initiative at the time, a way to understand data on hospital performance and quality information from patient perspectives.
“I’ve been working on algorithms for how to measure quality for years,” Anderson added.
So, it was the right time to make the move. Anderson had been attending Booz Allen Hamilton events, meetings and picnics for years through a friend with the company. In fact, she referred to a comment made by current Booz Allen Hamilton Chief Innovation Officer and Executive Vice President Susan Penfield at the time.
“As Susan Penfield calls it, it was like the great seduction of Kristine Anderson over a year,” Anderson joked.
Ultimately, the timing was right, and she was ready for something different.
“I came not knowing a thing about government consulting. Had never done it, didn’t know how the contracting worked. It was great, but I really did it pretty blindly out of a passion for the topics,” she said.
Anderson did hold positions at other companies before joining Booz Allen Hamilton. She consulted for The Moore Group after college, then was vice president for operations and strategy at CareScience, a software solutions company she helped launch in 1992 and take public in 2000. But it’s at Booz Allen Hamilton she has spent the last 13-plus years.
Impact at Scale
What excites Anderson most about the industry is its scale.
“You have an opportunity to make a very big impact,” she said. “That’s kind of scary, too, which is why I think it’s reasonable that in a lot of ways, especially on a policy, that government goes slow, because unintended consequences are amplified, but the benefits are amplified.”
She saw first-hand how hard it was to implement change hospital by hospital, especially when a chief medical officer or CEO would leave in the middle of doing so.
“I’d see them go right back to what the standard had been before this person really pushed through,” Anderson said.
And though she believes health care is an imperfect market, it’s also a place where, if done well, regulation can help. That’s why the scale aspect was so intriguing.
“Everything was all health care at that point in my career. There was no other topic I would have considered,” she said.
But health isn’t Anderson’s sole interest.
“I keep my identity around health even though now I’m running civilian services. Health is part of civilian,” she said, as she’s still involved and invested in government health IT adoption and electronic health record implementation projects.
But she’s more so interested in technology adoption across government.
“It’s kind of exciting to have all these other missions to pay attention to — in Treasury, Homeland Security, Justice. There’s just so much going on and it’s interesting to me to see the pace of adoption, how it changes according to the business problem, how pressing the business problem is, and whether or not it’s funded,” she said.
Anderson has found a way to separate her health policy interest and technology interest and spread the technology more broadly. And she enjoys civilian work in general, because she’s drawn to citizen-based services.
“It’s not hard for me to get passionate about thinking about immigration as I would about health care,” she said.
Working in the civilian space gives people a voice, and technology allows for impact at scale — being able to reach a broad number of citizens and do it more efficiently. Plus, expanding technology-based citizen services to the people gives them better access to those services.
And it’s focusing on those enduring missions that is driving much of Anderson’s personal priorities in 2019.
“We’ll always need health care as a country, even if we change our view on how to do it, right? That can change. We’ll always need to figure out immigration, no matter what the framework is that you’re working in,” Anderson said. These are what she refers to as enduring missions.
And as the company’s CEO Horacio D. Rozanski likes to say, Booz Allen Hamilton runs on passion. So, for Anderson, she’s focused on really amplifying that passion and keeping people excited about the work they are doing in government consulting — identifying the missions to get involved with and getting excited about working on them.
Personal Stories and Personal Passion
Anderson’s personal passion and inspiration for the work she does stems from her own life experiences.
“For the most part, in my heart of hearts, I’m a health care person. I grew up without insurance, and I knew what decisions our family made because there wasn’t any insurance,” Anderson said. And she feels passionately that everyone should have the ability to get insurance.
In fact, Anderson is bothered by nationwide income inequality as a whole — especially how it affects basic citizen rights and protections. It’s part of the reason she’s so passionate about education, too, and initiatives to provide people with opportunities.
“I think a lot about, if I were in a different circumstance, would I have this opportunity?” she said.
This, too, stems from her own personal experiences.
“I feel like I’m part of one of the American dream people,” Anderson explained, as one’s upbringing shouldn’t affect the ability to be successful.
According to the Federal Reserve’s Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2017, 40% of adults said if faced with a $400 unexpected expense, they wouldn’t be able to cover it or would have to sell something or borrow money to do so.
“I do worry that health care is what becomes immediately inaccessible,” Anderson said. “If you think about what one health care visit costs, if you don’t have insurance and you don’t have $400 in the bank . . . it’s not enough.”
So, she sticks to protecting opportunities around education and health care. But for these industries to really see the true potential of technology’s benefits, they must be backed by good policy in government — policy that has a goal.
And if there was one thing Anderson could wave a magic wand to fix in the health care system, it’s information liquidity. She believes the index for health records should be the patient.
“Everywhere I go, if I want it to happen, my records should come with me,” she said. “It’s doable technology, but it’s got a lot of business barriers to it.”
It also requires a fundamental shift in the way society thinks about health records. They belong to the individual, not to an organization.
“There’s still not a lot of control for the patient and I think we need to get our heads straight on that’s what the system is built for. That’s my wish,” Anderson said.
Recognition for Passion and for Impact
Anderson has been recognized for her life’s passions in the form of a few rewards — including WashingtonExec’s 2018 Healthcare Executive of the Year.
“The health care awards are more like, this is 20-something years life that I’ve been fighting with others, and that’s really cool,” she said.
But Anderson also admires the yearly Booz Allen Excellence Awards, where staff nominate the most impactful work they’ve done.
“When I go to that event I could work here forever,” Anderson said, “it is completely amazing.”
In fact, she’s blown away by the accomplishments of her colleagues and the passionate service of what the company can be a part of.
“Our purpose statement is to empower people to change the world,” Anderson said.
Booz Allen teams work on a range of advanced technology projects, such as using artificial intelligence and satellite imagery to protect warfighters abroad. And it’s impactful, life-saving work like this that Anderson truly admires.
“That’s not something I would have been exposed to, because I don’t work in the [Defense Department] intel space, but even the things that we do in the civilian space that you see. Reducing the veteran backlogs for their benefits applications, and where there’s real people at the other end,” she said.
And that’s her most inspired evening, even if she’s not winning an award.
Women Lifting Up Women
But aside from Anderson’s day-to-day passions and inspirations, she has another long-term goal in mind, too.
“Professionally, I want to help make a difference in bringing more women executives through the ranks, particularly diverse women, because we’re sorely lacking as a nation,” she said.
Looking 10 years ahead, she anticipates having more volunteer time to spend doing just that. And while more than half of Booz Allen Hamilton’s leadership team is women, more can be done locally to empower women in executive roles.
Because they’re there, just one or two levels down, Anderson said.
“But there’s so many examples of women in those positions where they’re essentially running the company on someone else’s behalf, and I think we just need to help get that gone. And I feel that way about all diversity.”
This also means giving every person opportunity, and the chance to be their best in their own way — not just handing off work to the same deputy or colleague.
In fact, this idea of opportunity and women leadership programs has been something Anderson has been working towards since her soccer playing days — which she did for 35 years, and even spent time coaching afterward.
“When I was young and a soccer player, which I was for many years, I used to think I wanted to do this through soccer,” she said. Anderson wanted to work on kids’ leadership development as part of a soccer development program.
But she has seen the sport change over the years.
“I definitely saw this really crazy side of everybody needs to be in the Olympic development program, and everyone’s going to get a college scholarship,” she said, which they won’t. “But I really think the benefit of sports is leadership development. You learn how to work as a cohesive group. You get all these different opportunities at different times to show leadership.”
She still hopes to make a difference at the late high school or early college level someday, but Anderson has seen first-hand what combining women and sports with her leadership development passion can do.
Not only did she help start the women’s soccer team at her high school, but she did so at the college level, too. When she began her freshmen year at the University of Pennsylvania, the women’s soccer team was a club team, but she helped raise its ranks to a collegiate sport recognized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
So, supporting women leadership groups isn’t a new concept in her education, professional or personal path — and leadership development spans from adolescent sports to industry executive.
But perhaps her greatest wish for the next 10 years is to have “two functioning adults” in her life — her children.
“They’ll be out of college. Hopefully, they’ll have careers. And if they’re happy and thriving, I could probably retire,” she said.