VersAbility Board Member Kapua Conley Defines Success as Touching Lives

Kapua Conley didn’t plan a career in healthcare.

He enjoyed working in IT management consulting.

Then he got diagnosed with cancer. He was 24.

After surgery, four rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, he was cancer-free. The two years Conley spent getting healthy gave him time to reflect. He recalled his father, a Navy physician, always taking the time to talk about his passion for medicine and healing to Kapua and his sibling.

As a young graduate of Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman School of Business, Conley equated success to the pursuit money.

“I wanted to make a lot of money and emulate what my college friends were doing,” Conley said. “So, I got a job that gave me the opportunity to maximize my earning potential in a short amount of time.”

Conley was confident he would live despite the cancer diagnosis. But it was life altering, and he wanted to learn from the experience. His takeaway redefined his career path.

“Having cancer rebased me back to where I came from,” he said. “I realized that I wanted success for me to be about touching lives. I found an industry where I could leverage my business skillset and acumen to help the community I live in.”

An administrative fellowship role at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston started his trajectory. He went on to hold executive leadership positions in Texas, Arizona, Nevada and California before joining Sentara in April 2018.  Today Conley is a Regional President for Sentara Healthcare, responsible for the system’s Peninsula hospitals.

Healthcare positions and titles are endless, but Conley narrows healthcare into two primary roles: those who deliver care to patients and those who assist those who deliver care to patients.

“My job is to assist clinicians to make sure they have everything they need  to deliver exceptional care, and I take pride in that,” said Conley, who also holds a Master of Health Administration from Tulane. “That’s how I’ve lived my career in healthcare — making sure I break down barriers and give opportunities and provide resources so our clinicians can take the best care of patients.”

One of the factors that goes into accomplishing that is keeping care local. Under his leadership, Sentara created more infrastructure, recruited more physicians and developed stronger programs in key areas, which include primary care, cardiology, OB/GYN and neurology.

“People shouldn’t have to travel far for basic services,” he said.

Conley began serving on VersAbility Resources’ volunteer Board of Directors after touring its Hampton headquarters with CEO and President Kasia Grzelkowski. He was heartened to learn VersAbility provides careers for people with disabilities not just locally but in Hawaii and Guam, too. He has family living on both islands.

“The mission is what really resonated with me, so I asked, ‘What can I do to help?’ ” he said.

The missions of Sentara and VersAbility overlap from Conley’s perspective. Sentara has an integrated delivery model and embraces holistic care. Too often, social determinants dictate who receives care.

“If you don’t have a job, it’s hard to think about healthcare,” Conley said. “To think about healthcare, you need food, transportation and housing. Organizations like VersAbility help us deliver our mission of delivering healthcare every day.” Toward those ends, Conley is on the YMCA of the Virginia Peninsulas Board, the Board of Trustees for the Fort Monroe Foundation and a member of Greater Peninsula NOW. He is also a graduate of Peninsula Chamber of Commerce LEAD program and CIVIC.

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