Jodi Conachen’s ‘guiding star’? What’s best for the patient

Jodi Conachen’s childhood career goal was simple: “I wanted to matter.”

Though her aspirations changed over the years while growing up in Baton Rouge, Conachen says her core focus was always the same. “I wanted to do something that was substantive,” she says, “something that had value to the community.”

In her role as chief operating officer of Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, Conachen is doing just that. She recalls a phone call she had with a patient who was struggling with insurance and scheduling issues—things that are critical for anyone recently diagnosed with cancer.

“She had gotten bounced around by some other providers, but we were able to get her in with one of our physicians very quickly and then work to help get her insurance on board,” Conachen says. “She was able to start treatment within two or three days of that phone call. Now she is in a position to have a very successful outcome.”

Conachen’s career began in health care but then took a circuitous route. While majoring in public relations and mass communications at LSU, she had an internship with Woman’s Hospital that led to a full-time position after graduation.

She stepped away from health care to work with Chef John Folse but then returned to the marketing department at Woman’s, a place that she says “kind of raised me.” “I had several different positions and opportunities in different areas of the hospital,” she says. “Health care has always felt like home because of that.”

Her open-minded attitude led Conachen to later accept positions as communications director with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development—“That one was exciting because it was very fast-paced, and I felt very connected to the decision-making,” she says—and then as communications manager with Community Coffee, where she spent five years before health care came calling once again.

“I remember [then-CEO of Mary Bird Perkins] Todd Stevens in the interview asking, ‘Why would you want to come here?’” Conachen recalls. “And my response was, ‘I think I can make a difference.’”

Conachen spent nearly four years as Mary Bird Perkins’ vice president of marketing and communications before being promoted to her current position as COO. “I’ve loved being a part of this organization,” she says. “It’s a unique group of people that choose to go into oncology, so it’s been amazing to be part of that team.”

In her role as COO, Conachen has been a part of making some big decisions for the cancer center, from new equipment purchases to service lines to partnerships. “A lot of those decisions had to be made very quickly,” she says. “And to be able to know that we were making the right decisions for the right reasons is huge—to be able to have that guiding star of what’s the best thing for the patient, and then start there and build out your decision-making from that.”

A mother of three who earned her MBA while working and has served on multiple community nonprofit boards, Conachen knows the challenges of balancing multiple commitments—“I read a lot of papers on soccer fields and in airports,” she says—but perhaps that balancing act is what makes her excel in her role of helping to guide Mary Bird’s rapidly growing operations.

“Part of what I do is to try to keep the wheels on the bus at all times,” she says. “I’m the designated problem-solver. And then as we roll out all these new service lines, everything’s about implementation and making sure that the concept and the vision actually get to the patient.”


Jodi Conachen has helped spearhead various initiatives to expand and grow Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center’s reach to underserved communities, while expanding the services offered at existing locations. She has been instrumental in coordinating logistics for the center’s recent acquisition of MD Clinics locations across the state, extending into more rural communities to ensure cancer patients are able to receive needed care closer to home.

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