Meet Lori Evans Bernstein, the CEO/Co-Founder of Caraway, whose mission is to fundamentally change the way Gen Z experiences the healthcare system. Caraway's vision is to treat their members' needs in the moment and provide them with skills to manage their health over their lifetime. That's why they've built a care platform to be instantly accessible, always available, comprehensive, and equitable. Learn more about Caraway here.
Hi Lori! So excited to speak with you. Before we jump into this discussion, I'm curious...What is your morning routine?
My morning routine, during the school year, consists of waking up and walking our youngest to school. Then I exercise – either running in the park or cycling on the Peloton and grab a cup of coffee on my way to work.
What were some of your earliest career interests? Did you have any idea as to what you wanted to pursue professionally?
From a young age, I had a deep interest in medicine. It all started when my cousin was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes; witnessing her condition and the challenges she faced sparked my initial curiosity about medicine. As I grew older, I initially thought I would pursue a career in medical school. However, as I delved deeper into the field, my interest shifted towards public health. Eventually, I became fascinated with how technology could drive innovation and improvements in healthcare. The majority of my career has been focused on applying technology to improve patient outcomes and foster innovation.
So many college students often feel immense pressure to determine their career paths by graduation. What advice would you offer to those who are feeling lost about where they want to begin their career (and to those "planning out their life")?
If you feel lost about your career path, I'd suggest two things. First, pursue your interests and passions. Take advantage of opportunities like speaking to professors, attending career fairs, and participating in events that align with your interests. Additionally, if you have already started your first job, make the most of it by volunteering for new tasks and seeking guidance from your boss or company leaders. Embracing these opportunities can lead you to find your true passion; that's really how my career interests evolved. When it comes to planning out your life, ensure that you feel a strong interest and passion for your chosen path. Embrace the situations and opportunities that come your way, as they may shape your plans and bring you closer to your goals. Over time, you'll gain confidence in your plan or even find that it evolves with new experiences and discoveries.
You co-founded HealthReveal, a clinical AI company, prior to Caraway. What gave you the courage to embark on an entrepreneurial journey?
My courage really came from the team that came together to pursue HealthReveal. A former colleague approached me with the idea, and as we discussed it and formed a plan, we became increasingly excited. As we brought in other leaders, the collective enthusiasm grew, fueling our belief that we could achieve great things together. Having a strong team that works well together gives you the courage to take risks and feel empowered. It's a shared journey where everyone is committed and invested.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered professionally since pursuing an entrepreneurial route? What has surprised you most about yourself?
The greatest challenge I faced professionally was managing through the COVID-19 pandemic. Running a business and leading a team during such a challenging time was a significant learning experience. It underscored the importance of effective communication and over-communication with my team, especially during a period that felt isolating and tumultuous. It also gave me a deeper appreciation for managing with empathy, understanding that every individual was going through this really difficult experience in the context of their own lives.
Caraway's mission is to "fundamentally change the way that Gen Z experiences the healthcare system." Can you elaborate on Caraway's vision and the inspiration behind the company's founding?
What we've seen is that Gen Z has evolving and urgent healthcare needs, including a mental health crisis and a staggering lack of reproductive health access. At the same time, they've really been sidelined in making decisions about their health. Our goal is to give them the care they need, when and where they want it – we want to both meet their immediate needs for care, and give them the tools and information they need to take care of their health in the long-term.
Many people in the United States would describe the current healthcare system to be antiquated, certainly when it comes to serving the needs of college women, non-binary people, and people assigned female at birth. You shared in a past LinkedIn post that "college women often don't know where to turn when they have a problem, have trouble getting appointments for routine health needs, spend countless hours waiting for an appointment at student health or urgent care, and experience deep frustration and risk because they can't get the care they need." What has surprised or shocked you most in learning about how this population's needs have not been adequately met?
What surprised me the most was the sudden and significant lack of access to healthcare services. The further we went in envisioning Caraway, the clearer the challenges became; the struggle of trying to figure out what type of clinician they should talk to for what kind of need (especially because their concerns often overlap mental and physical health, but provider specialties rarely do); finding clinicians they can trust and rely on, especially when they've just transitioned away from a family doctor or off their parents' insurance; getting an appointment with a provider when they need one – and that's to say nothing of the drastic gaps in access to reproductive healthcare, which have long been a challenge, but have become even more stark since the Dobbs decision.
How do you hope that Caraway can change or advance the conversation on women's healthcare needs?
In particular we're really advocating for integrated care, where better outcomes are achieved by treating individuals as whole people. By combining mental and physical health, we're aiming to address the overall needs of women and make sure they're truly listened to and understood as whole people.
What are you most proud of?
I'm proudest of the team we've assembled at Caraway. Our team is unparalleled in their dedication and expertise. We've fostered a culture of gratitude and empathy, which has had a profound impact on our collective work. Every Monday during our all-hands meeting, we start with a gratitude practice, whether work-related or personal. This practice has created a positive team culture that everyone appreciates. It's also reflective of our mission – we know that gratitude practices can reduce stress and improve both physical and mental health.
How do you practice self-care? How do you unwind?
I really make a conscious effort to put my computer and phone away. I engage with my family, have dinner together, take walks with friends, play sports and read. By disconnecting from work and engaging in other activities, I can unwind and recharge my energy.
In TWN, we always conclude interviews with this question: What is one lasting piece of advice you wish to offer readers?
For aspiring leaders, it is essential to find a balance between taking the lead and embracing the opportunities to learn. There are times when you need to trust your instincts and know what is right, even if it contradicts what others may be telling you. This balance can be achieved early in your career or later, as long as you prioritize personal growth and happiness alongside external pressures. Remember, a career should be a source of fulfillment and purpose, rather than merely a means to an end, especially when considering work-life balance.
Thank you so much for your insight and wisdom, Lori. We're rooting for you!
Learn more about Caraway here.