Featured Member: Kate DeBartolo ’06
On how she went to Wellesley because it was “raining men.” As a high school senior, I wanted a large southern co-ed school with a D1 sports team. And yet, my dad had always loved Wellesley and convinced me to add it to my list as a favor to him (he downplayed it perfectly). During the admitted student’s visit, they had a concert with all of the performing groups. The Tupelos came on and said, “This next song is really emblematic of our time at Wellesley. We hope you like it.” It was “It’s Raining Men.” It was very tongue in cheek (and a great performance). I figured, if they could poke fun at the whole no boys thing, I could handle the non-coed thing a bit more. I went in spite of the fact that it was an “all girls school,” and it became my favorite thing.
And of course she became a Tupelo herself. I was in TZE and on the Academic Review Board, but the Tupelos were a super important part of my college experience. I had sung a cappella in high school and knew I wanted to sing again in college. Seeing the Tupies perform that night in April ended up being the clincher for why I decided to pick Wellesley. By my senior spring, I was in practices or performances more hours than I was in class.
How she fostered an interest in public health. Wellesley didn’t have public health as a major, but that was the angle of many of the classes I took in various departments. Both of my parents are physicians, but I knew from a young age that I didn’t want to be a clinician. I was never interested in going to med/nursing school myself but interested in working in the industry.
On encouraging difficult conversations. I’ve worked at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement for the last ten + years. We have an initiative called The Conversation Project, which focuses on getting the general public engaged in thinking about what their wishes are for care at the end of life and how to talk about it with their loved ones (these important decisions can’t just live in a filing cabinet somewhere!). In addition to engaging the general public, we also work the flip side of how the health care system can reliably record, receive, and respect those wishes. It’s complex work, but extremely rewarding. As the national field director, I work with thousands of individuals and organizations to bring this to their communities where they live, work, and pray. There are a bunch of us on the project from all different years at Wellesley; others in the org refer to us as the Wellesley mafia.
Isn’t that a lot of death and dying? To me, it’s the opposite. It’s how you want to live your life to the end. 90 percent of people know this is important and want to talk about it, but fewer than 30 percent actually do so. As our co-founder, Pulitzer prize-winning columnist Ellen Goodman, always says, “it’s always too soon, until it’s too late.” We’re providing the free resources to make it easier to think about your values (it’s not about tubes and CPR) and how you can talk about this in a loving way. It is unbelievable to see the relief this work provides for people. I teach training sessions all over the country and am constantly blown away by how much folks are willing to talk to strangers about this supposedly taboo topic. Once you provide space for discussion the stories flood out. It has been amazing to see the uptake and interest across the country in the last five years.
How she got that Natitude. My husband works for the Washington Nationals as their Director of Baseball Operations. He does the “Moneyball” stuff. We both grew up in the Boston area and were huge Red Sox fans growing up. Now that we are in the Nationals world, my friends can’t believe it. At Wellesley, the Tupelos would do a day where you dress up as a fellow Tupie, the people who dressed up as me would wear all Red Sox gear. I almost got a Sox tattoo in 2004. And now, I can go to a Red Sox-Nats game and not care about the Red Sox at all, much to the chagrin of my parents. Pigs are flying over Fenway.
On embracing the Little Quadrant that Could. I have a big old mutt, Max, who is 75 pounds of love (unless you are a fellow dog on “his” block). We live in Southwest near the Wharf area that just opened up, and walk along the water there every day. The sunsets are amazing. Plus, we’re ten minutes from the ballpark. Since my husband has to work during all the games, I’m always looking for buddies to watch with (I just tend to avoid July and August – that heat is too much for this New Englander).