Cambia Grove’s Roots: A Conversation with Mark Ganz


Mark Ganz, CEO of Cambia Health Solutions, has been a stalwart champion of innovation, continually looking to push the boundaries of health care transformation to create a person focused and economically sustainable health care system. 5 years ago, Mark worked alongside colleagues at Cambia and the community to create Cambia Grove - a neutral convener and catalyst for change. Since our founding, Mark has been a consistent supporter of the community’s work, advising the team to stick to our core values of asking hard questions, welcoming all stakeholders to the table and pushing the health care sector to do better and be better. 

I recently had a chance to catch up with Mark to discuss Cambia Grove’s origins. I invite you to read along below. I also invite you to join us for our 5 Year Anniversary Celebration on October 7th where we will have the opportunity to continue this conversation with Mark during a special Under the Boughs event with host Lee Huntsman.


Maura Little: Hi Mark. It’s great to be here with you today! I hope you and your family are doing well during these unprecedented times. I would like to start our conversation with some of the basics. How did you end up working in health care?

Mark Ganz: Thank you Maura. 2020 has certainly presented us with challenges we could have never foreseen – but also with opportunities to deliver innovations focused on the needs of people and families – from birth to completion of life.  This is the time for nimble leaders to step forward, unleashing solutions based on hope that address the pandemic, health equality and the coming mental health crisis – for wholistic care focused on body, mind and soul.  It is not a time to profiteer, which demonstrates a profound lack of hope that the healthcare system can be better.  As an industry, we have the opportunity to demonstrate what we can do when we come together and collaborate for the greater good– which is the purpose of the Cambia Grove!

To answer your question about how I found myself in health care, I grew up in a health care-oriented family. My dad was a doctor and I was exposed to his sense of ministry about serving individuals and families. He had a great clarity of his role, that it was about healing, not just about diagnoses and cure.  And so, with my sponge like eyes of a little kid, I got the chance to watch him as he served our community. 

From that time, I have always known that I was going to do something in health care.  It was my intention to serve people when they may not be at their best. It has been a true honor and privilege to be working in this field.

ML: With the intentionality that you bring, starting from watching your father serve individuals and families to where you are today as CEO of Cambia Health Solutions, in your 18 years as CEO, tell me about your philosophy from taking Cambia from a traditional health insurer to a total health solutions company.

MG: When I first joined Pierce County Medical Blue Shield in 1992, I never looked at the company’s mission as solely to provide good health insurance. I saw the mission as being a company in service to people who were going through health care journey’s and that the company would serve people best if it maintained and grew an authentic curiosity – a curiosity that would then lead to a generosity of spirit and action in how we serve people.  For me, it’s never been about running a health insurance company. What it has been about is running a company that treats every individual fairly. 

For Cambia, the ultimate goal is not to measure our success as a company by merely how much our customers love us.  While our customers may enjoy the experience they have interacting with us, they may rate their entire health care experience as too painful, too fragmented, too mysterious. The health care system is a mess. 

Our job as a company, our ultimate goal, is to eliminate the mess. Not to be the brightest star within the mess. We must be a catalyst to transform the system.

ML: Absolutely. The mess of health care is real.  We hear about this daily at Cambia Grove and we are working with innovators from around the world to untangle the web we live in. Tell me more about your thought process in developing the Cambia Grove. How do we at Cambia Grove fit into this mess?

MG: Cambia’s interest in establishing the Cambia Grove is focused on trying to help catalyze the entire industry to move more quickly towards a patient and family centered way of thinking and acting. The conversations that are held, the ideas that are catalyzed, the relationships and bonds that are built, are able to occur more quickly because Cambia Grove exists. Additionally, Cambia Grove plays a critical role in holding health care organizations more accountable to higher standards of service and to be more socially just. 

Our health care sector must come to the realization that our current service and economic model gets in the way of innovation.

Many problems we face in health care can be solved through innovation, not passing the buck on to the government which we so often do these days. Cambia Grove is a place where we can make change happen.

ML: You mentioned relationships and bonds as important to innovation, something that the Cambia Grove can help foster for the health care sector. Over the past 5 years, we have been fortunate to connect with health care innovators from around the world. How do you think these relationships can impact innovation? 

MG: The Cambia Grove community is strong and continues to grow. As we look to the future, we must continue to build critical mass. We need players in health care to re-think their roles and why they exist. The 5 Points of Health Care™ must re-think the social contract and innovators must continue to push the boundaries of their own thinking. 

While we all must re-think our own position, relationships are key to implement the innovation we need.

Unfortunately, the hate we see in society today destroys the capacity to build authentic relationships. We see it in our politics. We see it in the way social media works. There is a lot of hate and it’s all about sending people off into their corners.  

Conversations should not be about whether or not we agree, they should be about respecting and embracing that we are all different. We talk about diversity and inclusion so much more and yet we practice it in our day to day life so much less. I think that in health care there is too much division and not enough relationship, especially across the various disciplines. 

With all of that in mind, what attracted me most about creating the Cambia Grove was the notion that there would be a place that would be all about promoting authentic relationships. A place where we can learn from one another. You check your sword at the door, engage with others across the spectrum and promote real work together in the innovation space. 

ML: I could not agree more. Relationships are key to making change. Especially relationship between individuals that in one way or another compete with each other. One of the questions I get from individuals who are first getting to know us at the Cambia Grove is around our neutrality. Being neutral is a unique element of the way we operate. Why was Cambia Grove set up to be neutral?   

MG: I would say that while we are neutral in our partnerships, we are not neutral in our work at the Cambia Grove to promote authentic relationships and attack the social and economic structure that are preventing innovation from impacting our health care system.  Our job is not intended to be neutral around those two principles. 

In order to work towards authentic relationships and creating a better social and economic structure, we have to be fully inclusive, we have to be neutral to the partnerships we develop. 

No one company and no one person can transform the system on their own.

In short, there are no strings attached to the Cambia Grove. The Cambia Grove is a means for Cambia to accomplish our goal of transforming health care to create a more person focused & economically sustainable heath care system. And we can’t do this alone.  

Additionally, on that note, I would like to point out that Cambia doesn’t gain anything more than anyone else. We come to the table just like the rest of the community, as a partner and participant looking to learn and connect with the innovation community around the world at the Cambia Grove. At the end of the day, we want all boats to rise.

ML: Now comes to my last question. You recently announced you’re retiring at the end of the year, with our current president and chief operating officer Jared Short becoming CEO in January 2021. What do you hope we accomplish in the next 5 years? 

MG: I would like to be able to say that because Cambia Grove existed, we as a health care sector shifted from institutionally focused conversations (conversations focused on what each institution needs), to one that focuses on what the people we serve need.  I would like to say that Cambia Grove prompted a greater degree of curiosity and a greater degree of innovation that results in a more integrated, sensible, economically sustainable relationship between individuals and families and the institutions that provide goods and services to them in health and sickness.  That, to me is the bottom line. That is why Cambia Grove was created and exists. I have absolute confidence that Jared Short will help Cambia Grove continue to fulfill this purpose, he is the right leader for this time and I look forward to seeing what you can all accomplish together!

ML: Mark, thank you again for joining me today. As the CEO of Cambia for the past 18 years, you have made countless contributions to create a structure by which health care can better serve individuals and families. I think I speak for my team as well as our entire community in saying thank you for creating and supporting the Cambia Grove and for pushing us as a community to find ways to change structural elements of health care to create a system that embraces innovation. Over the past 5 years, we have accomplished a lot.  We hope you will continue to engage with the Cambia Grove and we look forward to working with Jared as our next CEO who will build on what you help us start, taking us into the future!


About Mark Ganz

Mark Ganz is chief executive officer of Cambia Health Solutions, a nonprofit total health solutions company dedicated to transforming health care by creating a person-focused and economically sustainable system. Mark is working to champion change, challenging leaders and Cambia employees to focus every decision on consumer needs.

Transforming the way people experience health care is the cornerstone of his vision. Since taking the top post in 2003, he has guided the company and industry along a path of re-imagining and reshaping health care to be more empathetic, transparent, and economically sustainable. At Cambia, that means nourishing game-changing companies such as HealthSparq, while delivering on the promise built nearly 100 years ago as a trusted health plan.

Mark has an extraordinary record of involvement regionally and on the national stage. He serves on the board of directors for the following organizations: America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP); Portland General Electric Company; Oregon Business Council (also executive committee member); Greater Portland Inc (a regional economic development corporation); Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association; Prime Therapeutics; University of Portland Board of Regents; Chair, Boy Scouts of America-Cascade Pacific Council; Catholic Charities; The Conversation Project; Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC) and Advisory Board Member, Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics. 

In 2013, he was honored with a Governors' Gold Award for his lifetime contributions to the state of Oregon in the areas of health care, economic development and leadership through community service. Mark’s commitment to community was also recognized when he was inducted into the Gonzaga Preparatory School Hall of Fame along with his brothers, Rick Ganz, SJ, and Bill Ganz, MD. In 2015, the National Eagle Scout Association awarded Mark the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award (DESA) for his tremendous commitment and leadership within the community and health care industry. Recognition of Mark's groundbreaking work to personalize health care led Portland Business Journal to name him Healthcare CEO of the Year for 2014. He was profiled in 2017 by The Harvard Business Review on his unique vision to embrace innovation and take strategic risks in collaborative leadership in "The Board's New Innovation Imperative." In 2018, Mark was named one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare by industry outlet Modern Healthcare.

Mark earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.  While an undergraduate, he was a staff member for U.S. Senator Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson (D-Wash). He lives in Portland with his wife, Leslie, and their two children.

About Maura Little

Maura joined the Cambia Grove team in April 2017. She brings with her a diverse set of allies looking to transform health care. Her previous government roles built her network to include a range of stakeholders from life sciences, global health, energy, ICT and natural resources.

Maura passionately believes our region can be a shining example of what is possible in health care through collaboration. Her current role as Executive Director builds on her previous leadership roles in advancing the conversation towards constructive change. 

As Governor Inslee’s Life Science and Global Health Sector Lead, Maura led strategic initiatives to put our region back on the map—from recruiting the 17th Annual NIH SBIR/STTR Conference to Washington for the first time in conference history, to working with startups to connect them to vital resources that will help them grow and thrive in the Northwest. 

Maura began her journey in the health care sector in 2009 where she played a key role in communicating the federal Affordable Care Act to local stakeholders as a staff member for then Congressman Jay Inslee. As the Washington State Director of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, her perspective was greatly influenced by her work in patient advocacy.

When Maura is not working toward health care transformation, you can usually find her working to transform her house. She spends most of her time at home boating or working in the yard and enjoying the island life with her husband and two young boys.