Editor’s Note: Clara Lambert serves as TailorMed’s Director of Financial Navigation. Prior to joining TailorMed, Clara served as a financial navigator at the Bhorade Cancer Center at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Illinois and the Cowell Family Cancer Center in Michigan, where she helped pioneer a nationally recognized financial navigation program.
A frequent speaker at healthcare conferences nationwide, Clara is a recipient of the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators Leadership Council Award: Putting Evidence into Practice. She is a past chair of the Association of Community Cancer Centers Financial Advocacy Network Advisory Committee.
Read on or watch the video to learn more about Clara’s personal story and passion for helping patients and families afford care.
TailorMed: What motivated you to become a financial navigator?
Clara Lambert: When we were in our early 30s, my husband was diagnosed with lymphoma. It really affected our family and our finances. We had three small kids, and my husband was the person who had insurance for our family. About a month after he was diagnosed, I lost my job. My husband was having chemotherapy treatments every three weeks and was not able to work full-time. Luckily, his company really supported him and made sure we still had health insurance. But we definitely had a lot of bills.
My husband was diagnosed at the end of September. His treatment ran through the end of that calendar year and into the next year, so we had to meet our out-of-pocket maximum two years in a row. Now that I’ve gotten into the business, I call that a “double whammy.”
Like I said, I was unemployed and he was working about half-time, so our income had a significant drop. And weirdly enough, we were still making too much money to get any assistance from the state.
I did a lot of work on my own, just researching and finding different cost-saving resources that could help us. I actually remember sitting with my husband while he was getting his treatment, feeling proud of what I’d found to help our family. And my thought was, “I wonder if this could ever be a job?”
I wanted to help solve this challenge for other patients and caregivers.
TailorMed: Tell us about your career prior to joining TailorMed.
CL: Shortly after my husband completed treatment, I got a job working at a hospital. I started in registration and then I moved my way up. I ended up being the supervisor for the insurance verifiers and then they added all the financial counselors to my team.
Then our healthcare system decided to build a cancer center. The social work department reached out to me because they knew my story and they knew how well I worked with patients. They told me they were thinking about having some type of a financial position for the cancer center. I got the job and I was able to build the financial navigation program for our new cancer center. We ended up becoming nationally recognized and I found myself doing public speaking on financial navigation.
TailorMed: How did you learn about TailorMed?
CL: I met our Co-founder and CEO Srulik Dvorsky at a conference and he told me about the concept of TailorMed. At the time, I had been trying to think of better ways to work. Our team spent so much time manually looking things up when it came to patient financial assistance. We had built an amazing spreadsheet, but it didn’t do everything. So, when Srulik told me about TailorMed, I was really excited about it. My organization became TailorMed’s first cancer center client, so I was the first user.
I later became a consultant for TailorMed and then, almost three ago, I joined the team as an official employee.
TailorMed: Why did you choose to join the company?
CL: I chose to work at TailorMed because I really believe in the mission. I saw how our platform helped me do my job more effectively—and help more patients. I really wanted to help other financial navigators reach the level of productivity that my cancer center was able to achieve. I’ve personally gotten thank-you notes from people who benefited from the assistance we were able to secure for them using TailorMed. I know the work we do makes a difference in patients’ lives.
TailorMed: What is your favorite part of your job?
CL: My favorite part is working with multiple teams across the country and the world. I get to work with our product, marketing, and customer success teams. Everyone is passionate about our mission to “move mountains for patients.”
What I find most rewarding is helping our clients implement TailorMed. As they integrate our technology into their financial navigation programs and processes—and make the changes that need to be made—these healthcare organizations find that they’re able to help more people afford the care they need.
Even though it has been about 20 years, my family hasn’t fully recovered from some of the things we went through financially during my husband’s cancer journey. At TailorMed, I get to be part of the solution, ensuring that fewer families experience the financial toxicity that my family faced.