HerStory Moment with Dr. Shelley J Cooper

It’s Women’s History Month and this month the HerSuiteSpot blog will feature interviews with women leaders and entrepreneurs that talk about how they found their SuiteSpot in our HerStory Series. We recently sat down with Dr. Shelley J Cooper, CEO & Founder at Diversity Telehealth to learn more about her and how she got started as an entrepreneur in this HerStory Moment. Here is what we learned:

When you began your career many years ago, did you ever imagine that you would have a leadership role in this profession/organization?

No, I didn’t image any type of leadership role. In most cases, I wanted to stay in background and just do my job. I get very nervous when I need to speak in front of a crowd or make a presentation.

Who is a role model that you look up to and why?

Oprah Winfrey is a role model that I look up to because she didn’t look like the “typical” talk show host and didn’t come from the pedigree of families that one would expect to achieve the unbelievable status she has reached. Yet, she continued to do her best and believe in herself. Her perseverance and determination along with continued self-improvement led to her success.

What are the benefits to having women in leadership? 

Women in leadership provide innumerable benefits. In my view, women are incredible multitaskers. We can be successful and several jobs/tasks at once. We have to be in order to accomplish our daily responsibilities. In leadership positions, we continue to “get the job done” while caring for our families, creating innovative ways to problem solve, develop strategies to move our companies forward, in addition to many other things.

What has been your most significant barrier to leadership and how did you handle it? 

My most significant barrier to leadership has been judging myself too harshly. I tend to expect perfection from myself and when that doesn’t happen, I shy away from taking on additional opportunities. Only in the last few years have I made a stronger attempt to cut myself a break when things don’t work out exactly how I envisioned them. I ask myself, “Would I judge a friend as harshly as I’m judging my efforts?” In most cases, my answer would be “NO”! If that’s the case, then why do I expect perfection from myself. I am working as hard as I can with the resources I have in the timeframe I’ve been given. Sometimes I have to accept “good enough” as the finished product and move on. My doctoral chair often reminded me that “published is better than perfect”.

What is something that you are immensely proud of?

I am immensely proud of my family and my 25-year career in education. Now that I’m a grandmother, I realize many of the things I stressed over, really weren’t that important. And as I look back at 25 years as an educator, they were fabulous years that I savor. But I wish I’d been more “present” during the childrearing years and enjoyed the journey more than trying to be perfect and coming up short. I love my family unconditionally and cherish the different stages of development we experienced. Now I’m “birthing” a company and I’m trying to remember the same advice: be present and enjoy the journey more than the destination.

What qualities make a great leader?

I believe compassion, patience and tenacity are the most important qualities to be a great leader.

What do you believe will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of leaders?

The next generation of leaders will need to overcome the social inequities we’ve endured. It’s so difficult to understand how social injustices have endured for such a long time when there are so many reasons we should work together for the betterment of society as a whole. The next generation has a huge task ahead of them: How can we learn to work together to make things better for everybody, not just a single group. That’s a lot to overcome.

If you could try another job for a day, what would it be?

I would love to be a restaurant owner for a day. I love to cook and preparing food is my love language. It would be so cool to have a soul food restaurant with jazz playing and vibrant colors on the walls. Making people happy through food has always been something I’ve enjoyed. Holiday dinners allow me to fulfill that passion.

If you could give your 18-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?

My advice to my 18-year old self would be: Don’t be afraid! Try new things and don’t be afraid to fail. Everybody else doesn’t have everything figured out like they appear to. Trust yourself.

What is your favorite book or what book are you reading now?

Any books by the Obamas are my favorite books. I enjoy savoring their experiences and what they’ve brought to our communities and to the world. I attended both inauguration ceremonies and plan to visit the Obama library when it’s finished.

Where can we find you on your day off?           

On my day off, I’m usually at my computer trying to learn about something new. Or I am watching mindless reality shows and cheering for the underdog.

More About Dr. Shelley

Dr. Shelley J Cooper founded Diversity Telehealth in 2012, a telemedicine consulting firm that specializes in bringing healthcare to underserved populations in diverse communities. Located in Kansas City’s historic 18th & Vine Jazz District, Diversity Telehealth has formed relationships with area healthcare and civic organizations that are attempting to revitalize a culturally rich, but underserved groups within its urban core.

Dr. Cooper is a 25-year veteran educator who became interested in continuing her dedication to service by studying telemedicine and earning her Doctorate degree in 2014. Her dissertation, “Opinion Leaders’ Perspective of the Benefits and Barriers in Telemedicine: A Grounded Theory Study of Telehealth in the Midwest” laid the foundation for the establishment of Diversity Telehealth. Dr. Cooper also provides no-cost telehealth services for families in need through her 501c3 organization, Diversity Telehealth Community Network, Inc. She is currently introducing her Come On Now! app, a patent-pending, revenue generating app that reduces clinical no-shows by infusing telehealth options. Dr. Cooper has been married to her high school sweetheart for 36 years and has 3 grown children and 3 grandchildren.

Connect with D. Shelley, click here.

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