Nizelky Genao 'Lifts While She Climbs' at Beth Israel Lahey Health
In recognition of Women's History Month, Beth Israel Lahey Health (BILH) is spotlighting historical women who were pioneers in medicine, as well as those who carry out their work many years later. In that spirit, we spotlight Nizelky C. Genao, MSW, PMP, ITIL, Vice President, Strategic Planning, Innovation and Integration for BILH Behavioral Services. Genao said she draws inspiration from the women around her who selflessly dedicate their lives to helping others.
"I think of the countless people, women in particular, who have given tirelessly to help heal and provide hope," Genao said. "I think of my mother, my family, my colleagues, and all of the women who have contributed fearlessly as pillars in our communities and given so much of themselves to help restore others."
Genao comes from a long line of women — her mother had 17 siblings (including 12 sisters). So, organization was key with a family of her size. But those relationships helped shape her professional skills and career path. "I am a planner by nature and my family was always very nurturing and caring so those traits are instilled in me. I want to help make care more efficient and integrated. My experiences and my desire to help others is what drives me."
Genao said her career path has come with many obstacles, but she has learned to take a step back, block out the noise and make a plan to overcome all that comes her way. "Each challenge has helped me build character, forge partnerships and learn to enhance my ability to problem solve," she said. "I determine when I need help, when I need to seek advice and where I need to take ownership — these are the first steps to change. I recognize that challenges come with many feelings, especially fear, but what I have also come to learn is that I feel better when I have conquered the fear and overcome the challenge."
Genao credits her mentor, (Ret) Associate Justice, Kathleen A. Voccola, who she worked with in the Family Court and the Rhode Island Judiciary, for passing the torch to her through mentorship and supportive friendship. "To this day, Judge Voccola, who I kindly call 'Mama Voccola,' demonstrates commitment to her values while radiating strength and encouraging unity. She was one of the first women in my career who invested in my personal development, created an approachable and inclusive work environment, and coached me in the art of communication. She contributed to the woman I am at home and at work — a woman who balances vulnerability and risk with strength and drive. I have continued to find these women in my career, and I feel fortunate to work with many of them today."
Her work as a contractor in multiple federal agencies and as a director of several juvenile drug courts, where she created programs and helped identify creative solutions to support people with behavioral health and substance use needs, prepared her for her role at BILH, where she helps to build fully equitable behavioral health programs. She embodies the spirit of those who came before her and is applying her skills and experience in planning complex projects to help others, which she says is what drives her in her work.
In that vein, Genao was given a piece of advice that she carries with her today and shares with other women: "Lift while you climb."
'It's important to bring people along with you on your career journey and to ask them to do the same,' she said. 'Judge Voccola did this for me, and I believe in doing this for others. This will truly create the diverse, inclusive and representative environment we strive for as a health care organization."