Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana’s John Brown Jr. has long dealt with his share of adversity. The youngest of five, Brown grew up on the outskirts of Kansas City, Missouri. His family did not have much, but when he walked in the door after a long school day, he would always be welcomed by a house brimming with activity and kids; so much so that he seldom had time to dwell on what he didn’t have.
Instead, he focused on all that he did have.
“Every other kid wanted to be a president or an astronaut, but I thought I could do it all at the same time,” Brown says. “I grew up poor, but honestly, I was always more focused on things money couldn’t buy.”
Indeed, it was things like integrity, honesty, and living with a set of principles that Brown would focus on, not only in his personal life but throughout his professional career.
In his current role as senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Blue Cross, Brown continues to look for ways to empower individuals to do their best despite the adversity they might face. Since joining Blue Cross in January 2017, Brown has quickly established a number of programs such as a diversity council and a variety of new employee resource groups. He has also implemented a plan to ensure that all Blue Cross employees go through a rigorous course on both diversity and inclusion training.
“By the end of 2020, every employee will have gone through this four-hour required training,” says Brown, who is certified by the Society for Human Resource Management as a senior certified professional. “I don’t think diversity and inclusion is a destination. It’s a journey.”
“We are proud to partner with John Brown to deliver Diversity and Inclusion Training,” says Dr. Odette Christie, CEO of OEC2 Solutions, LLC. “John’s laser focus on leadership, empowerment, and diversity creates substantive actions that promote an inclusive culture and drive business success and innovation.”
Math and science were Brown Jr.’s favorite subjects in school so he always assumed he would pursue a career in the tech industry. After receiving his bachelor of science degree from DeVry Institute of Technology in Kansas City, Brown took a job at Southwestern Bell.
“It was there where I began to realize that the same skills that would drive outcomes in the tech space were the same ones that would drive outcomes in the healthcare space,” he says.
From there, he would take positions at Aetna and Marsh USA, and eventually accept a role as a segment vice president of retail service operations for Humana in Louisville, Kentucky. In that role, Brown was responsible for enrollment, claims, and customer service support of individual business lines, including Medicare Advantage and Medicaid.
Also while at Humana, he began work on a diversity council in which senior leaders across the organization would join together to learn about inclusion and diversity.
“As far as I was concerned, there were not nearly enough women and people of color in senior leadership,” Brown recalls.
To collect metrics to prove that his assumptions were correct, he would do one survey after another.
“I would always ask for the data to be cut by demographic,” he recalls. “You would see things such as the fact that African-American males were experiencing the company in a totally different way than other demographics.”
While there, he also established an employee resource group, which Brown says gave employees a voice that some of them had never had before.
“From women to people of color to members of the LGBTQ community, no matter who they were, it gave those employees a seat at the table,” Brown says. “It helped to remind them that they had a voice and that they could use that voice for good.”
As he moves ahead with his career at Blue Cross, Brown says that he feels many eyes following him, especially men and women of color. But there are other people paying attention to his career, too. Both of his daughters are looking to their father as a role model.
“Whether I’m at work or volunteering in my free time, I know they are watching me,” Brown says.
In fact, as Baton Rouge, Louisiana, continues to heal from a ferocious few years of floods, as well as shootings and events that have ripped the community apart, Brown has been right there, doing what he can as a community advocate to get things moving in the right direction again.
And yes, he’s proud of what he has accomplished in his professional and personal career. But there is so much more to be done, he says.
A Charitable Spirit
Throughout the years, Brown has devoted countless hours to a number of local organizations. From serving as a mentor to serving as a board member, he has carried his virtues with him into organizations such as YMCA Safe Places.
“It’s a place where teens in peril can come, no questions asked,” he says. “I firmly believe that every child deserves a fair start. They should never be burdened by the challenges surrounding them.”
Brown is currently playing active roles in Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana and 100 Black Men of Metropolitan Baton Rouge.
“We all can learn from each other,” he says. “When we take the time to learn from each other, there is nothing we can’t achieve.”