Cynthia Allen was introduced to us by one of her coworkers as “a superstar” who has to her credit “a whirlwind of accomplishments.” As the Community Involvement Manager for Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation (BMHCC), her job is as multifaceted as the title suggests, and we are thrilled to welcome her this week as our FACE of Memphis. Her story is one that will inspire you to, as she says, never quit and keep pushing forward with humility and appreciation for the gift of each day.
Have you always called Memphis home?
Yes. San Diego is my birthplace, but I grew up in South Memphis so this has always been home for me.
In reading about the numerous community programs implemented by BMHCC under your leadership, it is clear that you bring knowledge of the medical community, outreach coordination and public relations into play each day. Which pursuit came first in your career path?
Outreach coordination, since I began working at Leadership Memphis (started in 1995 at age 19). I met so many leaders who I greatly admired and wanted to emulate, like Rose Flenorl with FedEx, Martha Beard at the Federal Reserve Bank and Beverly Robertson at the National Civil Rights Museum. They became mentors to me over the years, along with a host of other alumni who I basically grew up with for nearly 10 years.
When offered the position at Baptist to work in the community, I didn’t hesitate! If you are passionate about your work, then it really doesn’t feel like work. You look forward to each day with new possibilities, or at least I do. I think my life experiences growing up in the inner city gave me a passion for addressing needs in our community that create a better quality of life for all of us.
Describe your family and how your job as a mom coordinates with your position at Baptist. In other words, how do you do it all?
I’m the proud mother of two wonderful children whom I so adore — a son just entering Germantown High who makes me laugh every day and a daughter in her first year at Berea College in Kentucky who’s learning that she probably doesn’t know all that she thought she did last year!
You know kids aren’t born with instructions, so you stay prayerful that you’re always making the best decisions for them and I ask a lot of forgiveness and understanding for whatever I forget to do because I have a million things to do in one day, it seems. However, we manage to spend lots of time together laughing somehow and just being thankful for the many blessings we have. I feel so blessed to work for an organization like Baptist, where they truly value family and have really embraced my children.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
The people, the opportunity to help create something bigger than yourself every day and sharing the Baptist story. I gain so much from people sharing their personal stories about life and connecting the dots. Nothing warms my heart more than knowing we’re truly making a difference in every life we touch every day and that makes it all worth it. From patients in our hospitals who may be celebrating new life, to those who face their last days, to the thousands of community partners we serve, I feel so honored to serve each of them and humbled to be a part of or represent the 14,000 health care heroes across the Mid-South.
The communications field has been through a tidal wave of digital change over the past decade. Have you felt the impact of constant change in your job?
It absolutely has. If you can imagine how fast technology changes by the hour, the advances in health care are evolving just as quickly. I may be a little different from most people, but I think change is good and typically embrace it. Change brings about better health care options for you and your family. Change means moving forward and going from good to great. In communications, it allows more room for creativity and reaching larger audiences with our message.
What new projects at home are you working on right now?
Hmmm. Redecorating with lots of color and Pier1 favorites — out with the old and in with the new. All of my old furniture seemed so traditional and not a clear reflection of the new me. I guess I’m going for a more shabby chic or beach cottage theme and bringing more of the outdoors in to keep my “happy” going. Never had so much color or mixed styles, but I’m loving it.
In addition to the wonderful medical centers that Baptist operates throughout the community, tell us a bit about BMHCC community outreach partnership — your specialty.
Beyond the walls of our hospitals, we’re also a trendsetter in health outreach to the most vulnerable by providing free primary care for the homeless, recognizing early on the significant correlation between faith and health demonstrated through our Memphis Healthy Churches program that we’ll be expanding this year and creating the first residential hospice house in Memphis.
What is Baptist’s newest addition to their community outreach partnership?
There’s so much going on all at once that it’s hard to list just one, but I’d have to say our new partnership with the Memphis Botanic Garden, and you’re the first to know. We are working with them over the next couple of years to enhance their educational curriculum for all ages. We are also partnering with Shelby Farms Park to incorporate more health initiatives along with the park expansions, and we are further enhancing the free iPhone ShelbyFit app, first app of its kind in this area linking the community to free ways to get active and maps of local trails for outdoor family activities. This is just what Memphis needs—a prescription for outdoor play, no membership required and all ages welcome!
Of the many community programs Baptist has implemented under your leadership, briefly describe a few that have special meaning for you.
Baptist Operation Outreach: Our signature outreach program where we provide free medical care, transportation and prescriptions for the homeless in our community. (We were recently ranked #1 nationally for hospital charitable services, by the way.)
Children’s Museum of Memphis: Home of P.D. Parrot’s Healthy Habitat for young children to experience what to expect at a doctor’s visit so they don’t feel afraid, or they can learn about becoming a health care professional someday.
Salvation Army Kroc Center: The Baptist Fitness Center was recently named the number one fitness center in Memphis, and we couldn’t be more proud of our partners at Kroc. Kroc has become a staple in our community and a beacon of hope for a healthier Memphis, combining health, the arts, recreation, worship and so much more.
What inspires you to keep going when the challenges of balancing work, family and more set in? Do you have a favorite activity or set of activities away from work?
To keep pushing is the only option for me, and I think it creates balance for me. I believe Nelson Mandela once said that the challenge ahead always looks impossible until it’s done. I think I’m motivated by seeing the progress we’ve made in the community, and I’m eager to find more opportunities ahead.
Best advice you have ever received?
The best advice was definitely to treasure every moment with your children and take a million pictures, which I pass along to every new parent I encounter, because they grow much too fast and you can’t turn back time.
I believe we all have purpose, and our past (good or bad) makes us who we are today. So rather than living a life of regrets or wishing things were different back then, you have the opportunity today to use it all for the good of others and great is your reward in that.
How do you recharge your battery?
At least once or twice a year, we run away for vacation (literally, run away). My favorites are the spontaneous road trips without a plan. Drives my daughter crazy, but the best of memories are created. If you’ve never loaded up the truck with a road map (or now the iPad) with no particular place to go, you should try it at least once.
Favorite escape or guilty pleasure?
Honestly, nothing’s more comforting after a long day than curling up on the couch watching a hilarious comedy with the kids while eating a bowl of cereal. I know, not practicing what I preach, but definitely is a great escape after a long day!
Favorite vacation or travel destination?
Anywhere I can find a great beach! When I was married and the kids were small, we made several trips to the Orlando area for Disney World and Sea World. Aside from that, the Bahamas is probably my favorite, or San Diego.
What books are you reading?
I’ve yet to figure out why I fall asleep reading whenever I try and can rarely finish a book. I’m not sure what that says about me. I’m so embarrassed to say that, but women are typically forgiving of each other.
What three lighthearted things could you not live without?
I can’t live without cereal, milk, a bowl and a spoon!! Truly an addiction. If you count those all as one, then I’d have to add great movies and my cell phone.
Favorite beauty product you can’t imagine not using?
Now that I don’t have a perm, I would say Mizani hair products with Thermasmooth Complex and MAC Paint Pot Primer makeup. Both work like magic.
Thank you, Cynthia, for a glimpse into your life at home and work. You are truly an inspiration to us as a devoted mother and as a leader in the community through your position at Baptist.