Dr. Nicole Fallah-Helo, CEO and Executive Director of The Meadowglade, is a trailblazing force in the mental health realm. Her vision encompasses Compassionate Client-Centered Care, combining science and holistic approaches for tailored treatment. She’s on a mission to reshape mental health services in Los Angeles and Ventura County by reducing stigma and embracing individualized care.
Dr. Fallah-Helo’s approach to team building centers on character over qualifications, fostering a positive work environment at The Meadowglade. Her emphasis on integrity, empathy, and service cultivates success. Collaboration with healthcare providers and communities bolsters patient well-being through educational initiatives, workshops, and outreach activities.
As a Middle Eastern woman of color, Dr. Fallah-Helo’s journey has been marked by breaking stereotypes and championing diversity. She’s elevated voices of women, especially those from minority backgrounds, creating a thriving space. Nicole’s inspiration stems from her immigrant mother’s resilience, driving her to lead with empowerment and advocacy. Her message to aspiring healthcare leaders: embrace your identity as a superpower, celebrate uniqueness, and shape an inclusive future.
As the CEO/Executive Director of The Meadowglade, what is your vision for the MG’s future growth and mental health services in the Los Angeles and Ventura County area?
The Meadowglade vision is founded on providing Compassionate Client-Centered Care for all through treatment customized to meet individual needs via a combined scientific and holistic health approach. Prioritizing the needs of the whole client versus a one size fits all approach, remains central to our future growth as mental health leaders and patient/client advocates. In turn, my vision for the future of mental health services in the Los Angeles and Ventura County area is an extension of that very ideology. Hence, as mental health stigmatization declines with increasing awareness and normalization through conversation, we will likely see increasing services in the Los Angeles and Ventura County areas providing care to everyone in need with a less rigid, no wrong door approach to mental health treatment.
Building a successful healthcare enterprise requires a dedicated team. What are the core values and qualities you seek in your staff, and how do you ensure a positive work environment at The Meadowglade?
My underlying objective when recruiting new talent across a variety of levels is to focus on character or soft skills as equally as important as job qualifications or hard skills. The age-old adage, hire for attitude, train for skill is central here, as the importance of creating a positive organization culture begins with the right people with the right values. Thus, throughout the years, I have discovered core values and qualities of integrity, conscientiousness, and empathy, teamed with a strong work ethic and willingness to serve others remain crucial to creating a positive work environment and continued success at The Meadowglade.
Collaboration with other healthcare providers and community organizations is vital to promoting mental health. How do you foster partnerships and synergies to enhance the overall well-being of patients?
A dedication to our community through ongoing outreach, education and awareness, has always remained at the forefront of my approach in building partnerships and synergies with other healthcare providers and community organizations. Through a range of free educational seminars, workshops, and community activities, such as sponsored local chamber events and fundraising initiatives, I have built relationships and business alliances with many influential leaders and organizations, dedicated to increasing mental health awareness and resources for patients in the community.
As a Middle Eastern woman of color and healthcare leader, what specific experiences or challenges have shaped your journey in establishing and leading The Meadowglade?
As a Middle Eastern woman of color, my experiences and challenges as a healthcare leader are not dissimilar to those faced by most females in a range of industries, particularly those of color. Those who, like me, have unfortunately faced additional stigmas, stereotypes and biases based on their gender and race, such as constant questioning of their authority, decisions, and everyday ability to perform. I experienced early on that just being a senior leader and female left me facing the issue of being one of a very small group of people in my position. Furthermore, the constant stark reminder of the lack of female representation in executive level roles, heightened as a woman of color, led me to work harder to ensure my voice was heard and to let other females, particularly minorities know that they were not alone in their journeys and could still succeed.
Thus, I strived to form groups, join boards, committees, later leading a hospital diversity committee and also forming social networking groups, as well as all influential avenues I could think of to help amplify my voice in advocating for more inclusion. Thankfully, those efforts did pay off in immeasurable ways and I am very proud to say today that of all of my company leaders from our Program Director and Facility Manager to our Clinical Services Director and more, are female and the vast majority of those are women of color. As a result, to see my efforts in increasing diversity and inclusion crystalize in the form of actual, tangible change, along with better performance outcomes company wide, was probably one of the most rewarding highlights of my career.
Who or what has been your greatest source of inspiration and support throughout your career as a healthcare professional and entrepreneur?
Throughout my life and career, my greatest source of inspiration and support has always been my dear mother. Our family matriarch, my mother moved my brother and I from Iran as a child post Iranian revolution, in the midst of a devastating war with Iraq. This was at a time where Iran shifted almost overnight from the freedoms of the Shah era to sudden sweeping radicalizations and a horrifying regime change of mass oppression, complete with forced hijabs, hangings in the street and a new, second class standing for women. As a result, my mother left her entire family behind to provide us with the freedoms all Iranians had lost, particularly women, who now lacked many basic human rights.
Next, we moved to the UK and despite her resilience and grace, my mother faced the constant struggles many immigrants unfortunately endure. With the systemic racism and limited opportunities facing her, my mother was forced to take on manual work just to make ends meet, despite her high level of education, experience, and acumen. I will never forget the degradation and exhaustion she endured just to create a better life for my brother and I. I made a promise right then, as a child that I would do everything I could to make my mother proud and lift us out of the unfortunate role she was forced to play as a woman of color at that time.
To this day, I attribute my mother and her endless strength and tenacity, with all I have achieved in my life. Today I am proud of what I call my immigrant mentality, perseverance and unwavering resolve to make a difference and help others, while understanding I would never be where I am today had it not been for my mother. The true immigrant queen and warrior.
Diversity and inclusion are essential values in modern businesses. How do you promote diversity within your organization and the mental health field as a whole?
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are values so crucial to me that I have spent much of my adult life and career dedicated to promoting them. From my past experience as the Chair of a local community hospital DEI committee to leading major diversity initiatives for increased awareness, whether for the Meadowglade, mental health space, or beyond, I strive to educate everyone on the importance of coming together to celebrate our diversity and the immense advantages that come with it. Differences that are both beautiful and beneficial to growth. Thus, with the plethora of ideas, viewpoints and contributions that different cultures bring to the table, vastly improving organizational outcomes, I make it my mission to actively seek diverse candidates. Much of this has been achieved through inclusive hiring practices, and also by empowering existing employees so that inclusion becomes an action and not just another empty corporate promise.
In your leadership role, what strategies do you implement to empower and mentor other women, especially those from minority backgrounds, to pursue careers in healthcare or entrepreneurship?
My objective has always been to increase awareness and educate people, particularly women of color, so they can see what is truly possible and available to them, and from there, feel motivated towards the pursuit of their own unique goals without fear of failure or limitations. Therefore, through regular community outreach and active participation in local events and initiatives, my approach has been to inform the general public, particularly women, on important healthcare matters and available resources to them, along with opportunities such as jobs and programs that would benefit them.
On an internal level, as a company leader, I have employed the same strategies, regularly engaging many female employees and aspiring leaders on a group and individual basis, through conversations on their aspirations and career goals. I have found by sharing my own career and personal experiences, particularly the challenges I have faced as a female leader and immigrant, I have been able to effectively coach and guide others in developing their own long-term career plans with practical, tactical measures in achieving them.
As a role model for aspiring healthcare leaders, what advice would you give to young women from minority backgrounds, who aspire to make a difference in the field of mental health and business?
Never forget who you are. Truly embrace where you are from and everything about yourself, irrespective of your perceived bad or weaker traits as they only serve to make you everything you can be. Do not minimize yourself or create limits that do not exist. America Ferrera once stated it impeccably. Your identity is your superpower and that is a mindset I have always lived by. By embracing your diversity and what makes you unique to others, you can find your own distinctive strengths, talents and special qualities that will be of immense benefit when working to help others in the mental health industry, the world of business and beyond.