Celebrating Women: Melissa Hayden Cook
Meet the President and CEO of Sharp Health Plan
Photo by Jenny Siegwart
How long have you been in your position?
I’ve been CEO for the past 12 years.
What is your background?
When I was in college, I really wanted to be a doctor and was accepted at UC San Diego to study pre-med. I received a business scholarship from Wells Fargo and chose to attend USD.
What are the secrets to your balance?
Being in San Diego makes it a little easier. At the age of 30 I decided that balance was important and I had the opportunity with Sharp in 1994. I have two daughters, so when I joined Sharp, I got purpose and balance. Being present, finding joy wherever you are, and being happy and fulfilled at work is very important to bringing joy home. Men and women have the same issues in balancing family and career; we both have to make good choices.
What changes have you seen in health care over the years?
The biggest challenge has been navigating health care in terms of serving the community and to optimize affordable health care. There are daily changes, and we’re always looking at opportunities to make health care better for San Diego. We define change as opportunity. Being a regional nonprofit allows us to better understand the unique needs of our customers, the local market, and the community.
Did you have mentors?
I would say that my mother was my first mentor. She told me I could be anything I wanted to be. She had a very strong work ethic. I work with amazing people and I learn something every day. I am surrounded by people who are as passionate about our customers and about making a difference.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
In addition to raising my two daughters, my greatest accomplishment has been successfully navigating health care reform in the past four years. We have been able to bring affordable, sustainable health care to people. We are the highest member-rated health plan in California and one of the top 100 in the country based on quality and member experience.
How do you see your future?
I love where I am. I have assembled one of the finest leadership teams. There will continue to be changes and I look forward to working with my team to evolve and create greater service to the community.
What do you think people would like to know about you?
I am very authentic and down-to-earth. I’m interested in our staff and our team members, and I’m focused on their happiness.