BY LAURA BERGELLS
PHOTOGRAPHY RAEANNA ANGLEN
Paul Doyle served on the Kentwood Public Schools Board of Education for eight years. He often talks to students in career and goal setting sessions.
Students might talk to Doyle about what they want to be. A basketball player. A nurse. A teacher.
Doyle, an organizational performance consultant and educator in the healthcare sector, would agree that positions like these are meaningful or valuable.
“But I would switch the discussion back to ‘All right, outside of all of that — what is it that you want your life to be able to provide for you? Let’s talk about that. What would it take to get to that kind of position in life? What would you like to experience? That’s more important than saying what you want to do.”
For Doyle, finding and nurturing your own personal “why” in almost any situation is key. Finding the ‘why’ continues to drive Doyle as he works as a consultant, educator, and community leader.
“What is your why? What is it all about? How are you going to get there? How are you going to do it?”
“If your ‘why’ isn’t strong enough, I’ll tell you, coming from Brooklyn to Michigan: if the why wasn’t strong enough…why bother?”
Doyle grew up in a Brooklyn, New York housing project. The youngest of five from a single parent household, he was the first to graduate from high school. After high school, he left Brooklyn to attend Ferris State University, and became the first in his family to graduate from college.
“I didn’t know exactly where I would end up, but there was something that kept telling me what I would need when I got there,” said Doyle. “And what I mean by that is that I knew I would need the ability to communicate and interact with a multitude of diverse people, whether that was small towns or big cities. I would need to be able to build intentional relationships. I basically dove into communication, speech, sociology, and psychology — just to learn more about behavior, more about what drives people and why we do what we do, not knowing that eventually I would be working specifically in health care, which is pretty much all about people.”
After graduating from Ferris, Doyle actually wanted to pursue his passion for learning and human behavior through teaching and coaching. However, he went back to New York and used his finance minor to land a job in a hospital finance department. After five years in patient accounts, Doyle moved back to Michigan and continued working in the healthcare arena.
Today, Paul heads Paul T. Doyle & Associates, LLC, which supports the organizational performance of healthcare systems through leadership development, community engagement, and strategic planning; as well as diversity, inclusion, and cultural competence. He teaches as an adjunct at the MSU College of Human Medicine in downtown Grand Rapids, focusing on culture and medicine. His work often involves addressing health disparities.
“I think there is a variance in our world. We have a lot of disparities and gaps,” said Doyle. “Certain people have privilege that others don’t.”
Doyle stresses that uncovering the motivating ‘why’ of a patient or client is essential.
“…it’s not what you know, it’s how you find out what you need to know or want to know about something that’s more important.”
“When I work with physicians, the first line that I teach them is ‘what is it that I need to know about you that’s going to help me provide the quality care that you deserve?’ That’s totally different than ‘I heard that all you people do it this way. Or I read about it in a book. Is that true?'”
“In other words, if I was going to ask you about things I want to know about you, I’m not going to inquire or try to obtain that in a way that devalues you or discounts you. I’m going to actually engage in a way that empowers you and gives you value. That edifies and complements you.”
“Every patient or person that has a health issue, what they’re often thinking about more than anything else is, ‘How can I get back or how can I keep my quality of life? Will I still be able to golf? Will I be able to certain things with my family? Is my family going to be OK?'”
“That’s their why. ‘Why I came to see you today at this appointment is because I want to golf next week. I want to get back to what I want to do.’ But you need to take more time in understanding their why.”
Doyle also serves on a variety of community boards, including the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute, Hospice of Michigan, the March of Dimes, and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. What’s his ‘why’ behind giving back to the community?
As a youth in Brooklyn, Doyle participated in after school programs at community centers that were mainly supported by foundations. He participated in youth development, leadership, and music programs.
“I had support systems around my community that enabled me to be able to get on that track of getting out and going and launching my journey,” said Doyle. “I believe in the power of giving. I believe in the impact of being able to support working models that actually can produce measurable outcomes. And I believe foundations, especially community foundations, that’s key to their framework. That’s what they do.”
Without the youth programs at the Brooklyn community centers, Doyle doubts he would be where he is today. He credits these programs — and the unselfish people in his community — with helping to expand his world view and igniting his potential. They were but one key factor that helped him form a strong enough ‘why’.
“I knew why,” said Doyle. “I didn’t know how or what. I wanted to get to a place in life where I would have the ability to live a real quality life. And that’s important.”