Women In Wellness: Seema Kumar Of Cure On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

Women In Wellness: Seema Kumar Of Cure On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

Be more patient. Nothing worth having comes to you overnight.

Today, more than ever, wellness is at the forefront of societal discussions. From mental health to physical well-being, women are making significant strides in bringing about change, introducing innovative solutions, and setting new standards. Despite facing unique challenges, they break barriers, inspire communities, and are reshaping the very definition of health and wellness. In this series called women in wellness we are talking to women doctors, nurses, nutritionists, innovators and entrepreneurs, therapists, fitness trainers, researchers, health experts, coaches, and other wellness professionals to share their stories and insights. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Seema Kumar.

Seema Kumar assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer of Cure, a healthcare innovation campus, in 2022. She brings to this position more than 30 years of experience in driving the mission and strategies of academic, government, corporate and non-profit organizations advancing health through innovation, convening, and coalition building. Her career includes transformative work at Johns Hopkins, the National Institutes of Health and the Whitehead Institute/ Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Genome Research. Prior to Cure, Seema held senior leadership positions at Johnson & Johnson, including as Global Head, Office of Innovation, Global Health and Scientific Engagement, where she lead the company’s launch of the JNJ Innovation Centers, JLABS, and Global Public Health Organization. Most recently, she led the COVID-19 vaccine external engagement efforts, including an award-winning public health engagement program.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Igrew up in India as the only child of two inspiring parents, both of whom greatly contributed to my journey and pushed me to be independent. My father was a multi-lingual, progressive scientist, and my mother was a natural and charismatic leader. My father is the one who sparked my curiosity in science. After we watched the fireworks during Diwali one year, he explained to me how light travels faster than sound. My fascination with science and passion for storytelling eventually led me to the University of Maryland, where I designed and earned a master’s degree in science communications and journalism. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to continue learning through career-defining experiences at Johns Hopkins, the National Institutes of Health, the Human Genome Project at Whitehead Institute, the launch of the Broad Institute, and reimaging innovation at Johnson & Johnson. All of these experiences helped pave the way to my current role as Chief Executive Officer of Cure, a healthcare innovation campus working to enable scientific innovations that help solve the most important health challenges we face today.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

It is difficult to only pick one, but being involved in the public understanding of the Human Genome Project is one I will always be proud of, as well as the launch of JNJ Innovation Centers and JLABS, and the story behind the award-winning educational broadcast program, “The Road to a Vaccine.” While serving as an external engagement lead for Johnson & Johnson, our team came together to fill an information void at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. While under lockdown, we quickly launched the weekly live virtual show, “Road to a Vaccine,” with journalist Lisa Ling as the host. The program served as a transformational way of communicating with the public about the science that impacts people’s lives. What I learned from these experiences is that people are interested in science and health, it just has to be delivered correctly — in an engaging, authentic way and using credible people. People want to hear from people, with stories that they can connect to.

In many ways, these experiences helped drive my vision for Cure. Today, in addition to incubating new innovations and advancing healthcare through an ecosystems approach, our organization is working on new ways to tell impactful and engaging stories by developing and hosting events and discussions with leaders across an array of disciplines across the healthcare ecosystem.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about a mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

You could call it a mistake or a valuable learning, but a key learning from my early career was understanding the need to slow down and savor every moment, to not be in a rush, and to take time to learn and develop as a leader. As a young and ambitious professional, I was eager to climb the professional ladder, ready to do my next job rather than the one I was in, thanks to peer pressure. However, I quickly learned the importance of taking time to do my current job well and be open to learning and growing in new spaces. I learned to appreciate the luxury to experiment and make mistakes because as a young professional, I could take risks, and fly thanks to aircover I had from senior bosses who encouraged me to try different things.

Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

At Cure, our mission is heavily focused on breaking down barriers that are stunting progress in the healthcare space. Too many leaders and organizations are working in silos, which prevents knowledge sharing and impedes the endless possibilities that can come from working together across disciples and specialties toward shared goals.

Our innovation campus is home to more than 20 companies that are developing truly innovative health solutions, including new therapeutics, medical devices, data analytics platforms, diagnostic technologies, and healthcare service companies. We also host weekly and monthly event series with guest appearances from innovation and entrepreneurial leaders who provide their perspectives and spark dialogue about critically important topics in health and wellness.

This collaborative environment on campus allows all of us to connect with peers and provides our residents access to leaders outside of the healthcare business world, including government officials, investors, physicians, academics, and nonprofit leaders. We believe creating synergies among these difference networks is what will ultimately drive meaningful improvements in our health system.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing?

1. Get some movement into your day. Whatever movement feels good to you and is sustainable for your lifestyle, commit to that. For me, it’s about doing something that will make me feel grounded and centered, whether it is a high-intensity workout, a long walk or yoga.

2. Your diet can have both an immediate and lasting impact. You are what you eat and it is the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. When I’m home, I love to cook, which is a relaxing escape from running a business. I use the kitchen to experiment with new recipes and I’m sure to include nutrient dense elements in my meals to ensure my family and I are getting the sustenance we need to sustain our busy lives and keep us healthy.

3. Find a community. This could be a book club, a workout class, or simply a good group of friends who share similar values. For me, it is connection with my culture, whether watching a movie, singing, dancing to a Bollywood song, or empowering women of Indian origin.

4. Discover what makes you feel grounded and connected to your purpose. For me, this means spending equal time pursuing my personal passions, quality time with my family, staying present in the moment, making time for self-care, and connecting to my culture.

5. Practice your purpose. I believe the key to true happiness is following your calling, despite how difficult the journey to get there may be. I think we should all strive to be in full alignment with our professional lives, ensure that your work is married with your core values, and in balance with your personal life. That is where you find happiness and purpose.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would start a movement toward leveraging AI to achieve peace, prosperity, health (including mental health) and happiness in the world, while also empowering women as agents of social change. I was recently in India and was inspired by the transformation in a country that was young and poor and at the bottom of the world pyramid (low income country — LIC) when I was growing up there, and now has risen to take on the G20 presidency. The kind of change I saw at Kendall Square in Cambridge, Mass., over the course of a decade, I have seen happen in India, thanks to technology, community, collaboration, and empowerment of people, especially of women. I have seen transformation happen in many neighborhoods, cities, and countries. I believe that leadership, political will, democracy, women’s empowerment, health (physical and mental), sustainability, civic responsibility, and individual accountability can result in positive change in health, wealth (prosperity — GP), and happiness. Women are a critical factor as they are the chief medical, financial and development officers of the family, community, and the world. AI will be a critical tool to help us achieve this.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. Savor more moments and don’t feel rushed to get to the finish. There is no finish line.
  2. Be more patient. Nothing worth having comes to you overnight.
  3. Always lead with kindness and confidence.
  4. Spend time building community and collaboration. No one can accomplish solving global problems alone.
  5. Remember your “why.” Your purpose.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

All of the topics mentioned above are incredibly important and inter-related, and in fact one in the same. That’s a big lesson we learned (I hope we did!) with the Covid pandemic. I am a proponent of the “one health” philosophy. In our daily lives, we are recognizing that we are part of a global ecosystem, that we are one people, and as we travel around the world and enjoy the places we visit, we must recognize that we are global citizens who are responsible for the planet, and vulnerable to emerging and potential pandemics that can impact the entire world. It is critically important that we take care of our planet — from food that is farm to table, to watching our carbon footprint, to our collective mental health in handling our stresses at the personal, family, community, and world level. One health is a collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach — working at the local, regional, national, and global levels — with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes and recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment. We can’t be siloed in our thinking about these big topics because we need to take a systems approach to this.

What is the best way for our readers to further follow your work online?

You can stay connected with me and Cure on LinkedIn.

Thank you for these fantastic insights! We wish you continued success and good health.

About the Interviewer: Wanda Malhotra is a wellness entrepreneur, lifestyle journalist, and the CEO of Crunchy Mama Box, a mission-driven platform promoting conscious living. CMB empowers individuals with educational resources and vetted products to help them make informed choices. Passionate about social causes like environmental preservation and animal welfare, Wanda writes about clean beauty, wellness, nutrition, social impact and sustainability, simplifying wellness with curated resources. Join Wanda and the Crunchy Mama Box community in embracing a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle at CrunchyMamaBox.com .

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