November 4, 2021

Meet Castlight: Q&A with Mary Cain, VP of Clinical Product

In this blog series, Meet Castlight, we’re featuring some of the best hearts and minds that drive our business. In this Q&A, we learn more about Mary Cain, our VP of Clinical Product.

What’s your role? How does it support Castlight’s mission?

The Clinical Product team’s job is to serve all of Castlight and to be key support for making things happen across the company—we are the voice of the member, we are the source of the best clinical evidence and policy, we are the standard-bearers for Castlight’s healthcare mission, and we provide leadership and vision around key clinical initiatives.

Our team is small but, boy, do we make big things happen! Our team’s philosophy is to try to never be rate-limiting for any other team or project; rather, we try to really make things happen in collaboration with all our colleagues in order to achieve the company’s top priorities. You can’t have health navigation without the clinical context our team brings.

What led to your decision to join Castlight?

I came to Castlight in 2017—as a public health person, I was and remain very excited about how Castlight is focused on bringing solutions that help an entire population, from wellness and prevention to care for acute and chronic conditions. I am so lucky that the work I do on a daily basis is so closely tied to the mission of Castlight. I am stimulated by my team, my colleagues, and my work, and there’s nothing I love more than tackling a thorny problem that may lead to improving the health of others.

What’s your mantra?

There are two mottos I absolutely live by:

Assume positive intent. I’ve learned over the years that I can’t know what’s going on for others that day—maybe they dropped their coffee, or they missed the bus, or the dog won’t stop interrupting their video meetings. Thus, I have to assume that everyone is bringing their best and trying their hardest. They are working with the info they have in front of them. My response is to ask questions and to try to listen as actively as I can to hear what’s going on. I can’t promise it’s always easy, but it’s the better of the options. 

Be the change you wish to see in the world. Whenever I’ve taken career evaluations, the recommendations always came back with jobs that served the greater good in some way. In addition to helping Castlight members live healthier lives, I’ve worked in homeless shelters and on school committees. There’s nothing worse than complaining about something and not trying to make it better, even if it’s just in your own little corner of the world. This goal to make things better feels like something I share with a lot of Castlighters. 

What was your go-to quarantine activity?

It might be hard to tell in virtual meetings, but I’ve lost 45 pounds in the past year or so! I’m not going to lie—it was not easy. My go-to activity was activity, period. For years, my family and I have been big walkers, and we have a regular loop in the Mission/Noe Valley that includes pizza, ice cream, and the local comic book store. During quarantine, we still walked a lot to keep us sane, I just avoided those stops.

I also participated in a doctor-supervised program that involves a new class of drugs called semaglutides, which helped a ton. This drug is now being used a lot for obesity and is something that has the potential to change how we think about weight management.

I have had amazing support from my friends who were cheering me on throughout this journey.

What’s the biggest challenge for leadership with a remote workforce?

It’s so important to stay connected to our colleagues personally in order to hold onto the trust that’s needed to work well together. Even though we’re distributed all over the country, my team takes a few minutes when possible to share a bit about our daily lives outside of work.

Beyond this challenge of personal connection, we are surrounded by such smart, thoughtful people who just rub off on us. I loved eavesdropping on the project conversations of my colleagues when we worked in the same space, and I hate losing out on the serendipity of hallway conversations and what I overheard. There’s a luxury in that opportunistic meeting that can’t happen as easily remotely. We have to purposely Slack or email someone—we won’t just run into them accidentally.

have been able to visit our Care Guides team at our Customer Excellence Center in Sandy, Utah, which has been a great experience! It’s so good to be with them and watch them work. You can overhear them helping our members and really making a difference. You can also see how far we’ve come as a company and how far we have to go to make sure our technology doesn’t get in the way of the important work they’re doing.

What are you most excited about as the next innovation in digital health?

I am excited about the opportunity to improve health equity. The social movements of the past few years have opened society’s eyes to how unbalanced our health outcomes are depending on where you are born. We don’t have the solution figured out yet, but the first step to solving a problem is talking about it.

I love what Castlight is trying to do with our social determinants of health (SDoH) work. We are arming our Care Guides with the most comprehensive member profiles. When combined with the overlay of our Care Guides’ empathy, that data allows us to help people in new ways.

In addition, our expansion into serving health plans as a new market is so exciting! When I think of the sheer numbers of people we can touch, it makes me jump up and down. 

What are you passionate about outside of work? 

A few years ago, my birthday was approaching and my kids were talking about what they wanted me to wish for as a present. My son said he wanted me to get a sewing machine because then I could make anything. In quick response, my daughter corrected him that I wouldn’t be able to make cheese. This is such a good summary of the silliness and joy that I get from my family on a daily basis. It sounds corny, but they are so much fun.

There’s a lot of costume-making and crafting, attempts to recreate recipes from The Great British Baking Show (with very mixed success), mural painting, art-based fundraising to serve the homeless, and ridiculous numbers of children in and around our home.

Never has anyone entered our home without my brilliant, amazeballs husband trying to feed them something delicious. Never has he picked up the kids from school without filling every seat in our large vehicle with any kid who wants to join the crew. Many of my work calls get interrupted by way too many (vaccinated and masked) teens on the other side of the wall yelling as they play Fortnight or Super Smash Bros. Between the fam, the yappy dog, the cat, and the gecko, there’s never a dull moment—so I’d better enjoy the ride!

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