This interview was so juicy with phenomenal content that I ended up splitting it into two parts. In this first blog post, I will introduce her and her chosen field, as well as share a life lesson that she imparted on me. Enjoy Part I! Skip ahead to Part II, if you want to read abut the advice she shares to female entrepreneurs.
Kay Deguchi, owner of Ochanomizu Orthopoedic Clinic — an innovative rehab center, is an exceptional entrepreneur. With over a decade of experience in pharmaceuticals, medicine, medical devices, and even media companies such as Disney, Kay is extremely knowledgeable and brings a diverse set of skills to her chosen field of interest.
As the owner of multiple businesses, Kay’s current focus is her rehab operation with approximately 50 employees. Her goal is to create an environment where there is less invasive surgery, less pills to take, and offer a quality of life that is equal to a patient who has had an implant or surgery. Amazing, no?
From a health economics perspective, it’s innovative, because it’s less costly (~50% of the cost of a normal surgery), and has shown improvement in >80% of the patients. Plus, these patients can remain with family, friends, and continue to work, thereby retaining the quality of the patient’s life. Kay believes that with a rapidly aging population in Japan, rehab will become a necessity as an alternative to surgery, and a highly effective way to preempt surgery. As people age, the muscles and musculoskeletal structures slowly deteriorate, leading to more and more injuries and other health problems. Instead of relying solely on pills or surgery, patients should have an alternative option that is strikingly effective and more cognizant of the person’s overall health.
Unlike the US, Japanese doctors who enter the rehab arena are considered to be second-tier, or second-class citizens. Rehabilitation, traditionally, was only for doctors who weren’t considered skillful enough to be surgeons. As such, the field has had a negative connotation for a while. Kay is working tirelessly — day and night — to transform that mindset in a field that she knows will truly make a positive impact on the lives of many Japanese people.
Without a doubt, I absolutely loved interviewing Kay Deguchi. As I was cognizant of her time, I was only planning to spend 30 minutes with her, but we ended up speaking naturally for 1.5 hours. And while I interviewed her, she seamlessly handled business. I was astounded — it was so natural for her.
Since we met at her office, it was probably easier for her to spend a bit more time with me, as she could take care of important tasks. Just by observing her in action, I immediately knew that she lives true to her values of treating both employees and patients with the utmost respect. She knows that one can run a successful business, while at the same time, fundamentally respecting people.
One of her life experiences truly shaped who she is now. When she had to lay off hundreds of Japanese people, some of whom had been working at the company for over 30 years, Kay received a hand-written note from the wife of a man, who had been let go. That letter struck a chord in her heart on the importance of treating people with dignity.
The letter read: “I am not writing this letter to accuse you. I just need you to remember that our families have lost our bread-winners, and that our families are left with no alternative ways to make a living. Yet, we need to find our lives forward. I understand that you’ve had to make the decisions you made from a corporate standpoint, but I need you to remember it has affected many people at our level.”
At the same time, her company applauded her and her team for executing efficiently (i.e. plant closures, expense reductions, etc). This was a test for Kay … whether to choose her path as a faithful corporate executive, or to stay true to her values. She chose the latter, and sent in her resignation letter the day after her company offered her a promotion.
This encounter set her forth on a quest to identify how a company can balance efficiency / productivity, and treating people with respect. After joining another multinational company, Kay spent her time in several different countries, steadily increasing her knowledge, skills, and responsibilities.