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Author Gail Trauco: “Here Are 5 Things You Should Do To Become a Thought Leader In Your Industry”

Show up as your true authentic self. As a thought leader, you were “born to be different.” “Own” your destiny, dreams, and ideas. My Southern drawl often evokes humor and commentary. It’s authentic and “Hey, Ya’ll” it’s just the way I talk! Two weeks ago I was invited to be a keynote speaker at a global pharma meeting in Barcelona. Of course, I accepted. “Do ya’ll want this talk in English or Spanish?” My question was followed by dead silence on the phone.

As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gail Trauco.

As a registered Oncology nurse, pharmaceutical trials expert, and licensed Grief Mediator, Gail Trauco has spent four decades helping patients navigate the sea of red tape in the American healthcare system. She is known for finding solutions when everyone else says there is no way. Her Medical Bill 911 online course and book are helping American consumers around the country get out of spiraling medical debt.

Based just outside Atlanta, Gail has gained a reputation as a fierce advocate for patient’s rights and for resolving some of the most difficult medical cases in the currently crippled healthcare industry. As a lifelong healthcare professional and frequent on-camera expert, she is equal parts Gloria Allred, Erin Brokovich, and Nancy Grace.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Growing up on a rural North Carolina farm makes you want to get out fast! There was no running water or bathroom in our overcrowded 4 room farmhouse until I reached 8th grade. One room had a coal heater replaced with a kerosene heater in the early 1970s. My grandparents raised 5 of us after we were abandoned by our parents. There was no health insurance and no child support. Food was scarce in winter months and you ate what was on the table. “Poverty” was our life and I was determined to escape.

In elementary school, I was asked to carry my third-grade classes “student files” to the office on the last day of school. “Don’t read your file,” Mrs. Jennings says…Of course, I took a peek at the teacher comments for Grades 1–3. My first-grade teacher wrote that “I was too bossy.” Little did that teacher know that “Miss Bossy” would become a 2020 DNC Healthcare Policy Advisor Nominee.

I was an academically gifted student and left in 1975 on a scholarship to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. From Foggy Bottom to Chapel Hill on a Greyhound bus…my journey began! I knew that I was different — dreaming of people, cultures, and countries. Books were an escape and took me on imaginable adventures. As the oldest, you are always “bossy” telling your siblings what, when, where, why, and how to do it. I’m still “bossy” and CEO of a seven-figure company.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

Thought leaders are people, not companies. My expertise in Patient Advocacy and healthcare policy create awareness and change. The changes created in people’s lives through my Patient Advocacy 360˚ practice allow people to heal and move on with their lives. Other Advocates are watching, as I create a new movement in “whole” patient advocacy management. I’m disrupting America’s broken healthcare system — and increasing awareness TODAY!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

In my early years at Duke University’s Cancer Center, I was the only nurse that spoke Spanish. One afternoon a call came from the ER that they needed me to interpret for a patient. I told the other nurses that I needed to go to the ER and they “rolled their eyes.” On arrival in the ER, I couldn’t find the patient and asked the ER nurses to help me locate him. The patient had hidden in a closet because he thought that the ER had called ICE! We brought him back to the ER bed and moved on with the visit. I’ve never pictured myself as a nurse to fear — but on that afternoon one patient was trembling!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Before moving to Atlanta, I traveled here monthly to visit Emory’s Winship Cancer Center. There was a Holiday Inn Select near the hospital and was my favorite hotel in the area. One day I checked in at the front desk and went on up to my room. I left my suitcases and went back down to the restaurant. A quick dinner and I was back in the room….BUT NOT ALONE! There was a man who passed out on the bed. My suitcases were undisturbed and a snoring bear of a man was on the bed! I ran back to the front desk. In disbelief, the hotel desk clerk and security entered the room…It was true! The front desk had given another guest in the same room and key. I moved to another room. Lesson Learned: I verbally confirm the room number and how many keys have been issued. I look around a room immediately upon entering to check for other suitcases or personal belongings. Mistakes happen, but I don’t stay at Holiday Inns anymore!

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?

Forbes Magazine contributor Shel Israel defines a thought leader as “someone who looks at the future and sets a course for it that others will follow. Thought leaders look at existing best practices then come up with better practices. They foment change, often causing great disruption.”

Thought leaders LIVE their opinions through their actions and words. They are moving toward the future and not lying hidden in the trenches Thoughts leaders CREATE energy for process flow and improvements — raising the standard.

A typical leader follows the rules and policies that are in place. A typical leader organizes and implements strategies to follow a process flow that is already in place.

A Thought Leader creates new movements that result in change. Nothing happens until business Influencers join the movement. A Thought Leader created the movement and Influencers lead the march.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

Thought Leaders are problem solvers and seek to improve processes. It takes courage to be a Thought Leader and set on a journey to make a change. It is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into becoming a Thought Leader — IF you want to see changes occur.

It’s not an overnight process and takes time and resources. Here are 3 things that are critical to becoming a thought leader.

  • Invest time to promote yourself through speaking and writing for publications.
  • Hire a business coach. Hiring a coach is like trying on shoes and costs vary from $20K-$50K annually. You will quickly learn that each individual coach will have one or two “gold nuggets.” Annually, you will need to re-evaluate what you’ve learned. You need to experience continued growth and “move on” when you require additional coaching expertise.
  • Get in front of a camera. Learn to book yourself on television. Hire a producer and create YouTube videos.

Thought leaders are required to communicate their message. People need to see and hear the message. Take action and communicate!

Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?

Thought Leadership creates business opportunities and has created new revenue streams of business opportunities for me in 2019.

Keynote Speaker: Fee for keynote speaking fees range from $10K-$25K, dependent upon the venue and obligatory needs for a venue.

Patient Engagement in Clinical Trials. Many pharmaceuticals, biotech, and device companies are creating Patient Advocacy Departments. These new niche departments require consulting expertise during the design and conduct of the clinical trials to create patient-friendly materials. As a Patient Advocate, I am interacting with patients daily and have the opportunity to create “surveys” to determine specific patient needs.

Life Management Advocacy Services. The newest and most extensive revenue stream for my business is “Life Management Advocacy Services.” This includes but is not limited to medical case review, remote estate management, business assessment, medical bill negotiation, and end of life planning. Vendors are located throughout the US in the patient’s geographic location and their specific advocacy case needs to be managed. When a patient is able to eliminate stress, they are able to begin the healing process.

Publication. Write a book(s) on your topic. It provides you with readily accessible information for business growth and expansion.

Medical Bill 911. Medical Bill 911 is the nation’s first online course teaching patients “self-advocacy” and ALL steps required to successfully negotiate medical bills. The DIY eliminates the need to pay vendor fees for services that you can do yourself. Cut your medical bills in half and get on with your life!

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry? Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.

To become a thought leader it is essential that an individual becomes a seasoned human magnet that attracts those who need to hear the message. Five steps to creating magnetic polarization are detailed below.

  1. Travel: Get out in the world. Experience people, places, and cultures. My first international destination was a 1979 scholarship to study in Greece with a group of 20 other US students. The Greyhound bus to Waltham, MA lost my luggage and it was returned to my family’s farm in NC. They had no telephone and didn’t know what to do with the returned suitcase — so they DID NOTHING! I landed in Greece with $90.00 in my pocket and bare essentials borrowed from other students. It didn’t impact me the way the Group Leaders feared — I had grown up in poverty. It was just another day and I was on Greek soil. The trauma was lessened by a country filled with history, music and a generous, loving people.
  2. Be the jewel: Live your philosophies so that others see your example. As a CEO, we are often tasked to deliver messages, positive and negative. In my role as a Patient Advocate, the messages are often difficult and life-changing. I spend time face-to-face with people when a difficult message has to be delivered. A physician will deliver a medical diagnosis to a patient and discuss treatment options. It’s the Patient Advocate that will help “put the plan” in place for a patient to seek alternative treatments or evaluations. Families may decline an outside medical consult because of travel costs. I have personally paid for hotels and airfare in order for patients to seek additional treatments and/or evaluations.
  3. Public Speaking: Accept and create public speaking opportunities that put you in front of other people. Tell YOUR story and why it is important. Each time I speak the opening remarks travel through a time machine to January 1975. I was sitting at the kitchen table studying for a chemistry test by the light of a kerosene lamp. My grandfather had been having chest pain for months after falling off the porch. He asked to be driven to the local doctor’s office and my sisters drove him so that I could continue with my studies. An hour later the neighbor knocked on the door…my grandfather had died in the local physician’s office. He was never transported to the hospital immediately across the street because he didn’t have health insurance.
  4. Write a book: Invest the time and money to write a book on your expert topic. Put your ideas into words. Spend the time to write a book on your expert topic. You can successfully self-publish on Amazon. Use the book in your “thought leader” toolbox to elevate your status. Writing a book is hard work and an accomplishment.
  5. Be authentic: Show up as your true authentic self. As a thought leader, you were “born to be different.” “Own” your destiny, dreams, and ideas. My Southern drawl often evokes humor and commentary. It’s authentic and “Hey, Ya’ll” it’s just the way I talk! Two weeks ago I was invited to be a keynote speaker at a global pharma meeting in Barcelona. Of course, I accepted. “Do ya’ll want this talk in English or Spanish?” My question was followed by dead silence on the phone.

In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach?

In my opinion, Dorie Clark is a Thought Leader for entrepreneurship and personal branding. Clark is a professor at the Duke Fuqua School of Business and frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review. She has written three books which are all visible on my desk. My personal favorite is “Stand Out.” Clark has clearly documented the process to find your breakthrough idea and build a following around it. Dorie Clark is impressive in her continued efforts of Thought Leader marketing and uses some of the techniques below.

  • Linked In Learning Videos
  • Online courses
  • Mastermind
  • One day events
  • Continued content contributor to reputable sources
  • Personal interactions with people through Linked In and Facebook

Clark also brings a unique talent with her ability to remain human and “real.” She’s involved in creative venues like stand-up comedy and as an investor in “Tootsie The Musical.” Her down-home approach was inspired by her North Carolina roots.

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

The term “thought leader” should never be avoided. Change in processes is necessary in order for our society to grow, develop and move forward.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

It’s all about which way you look. Growing up in rural NC’s Piedmont region, I knew hunger, cold, sweat and tears from parental abandonment and poverty. Life was hard: no running water, heat in one room, sexual and physical abuse. I dreamed of other countries, people and places — knowing that I would live that vision. At 18 I left “home” to attend college with a full scholarship and never looked back. IF I could survive 18 years of “lack,” greatness was my destiny.

Every morning I wake up with an “attitude of gratitude” and a heart full of “pay it forward.” As an entrepreneur, I make choices and decisions that impact employees, contractors, clients — and my 3 sons. As a single mom, financially providing for 3 sons was my motivation in the early years as an entrepreneur. Today they are all their own success stories: Chef, Coding Engineer, and Peace Corps Healthcare Educator in Guatemala.

A maternal “heart and vision” spill over into my entrepreneurial philosophies. In healthcare people, places and faces all have immediate needs and as an advocate, my role is to fill that unmet need. It’s easy for me to stay motivated because the “bottom line has a heartbeat.”

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Let’s start a movement to remove all suffering and fear of immigrants living in the US. It breaks my heart every time I see the suffering of immigrants being detained at our borders who have tried to enter the US. IF they cannot enter the country, transport them safely home with dignity. At least two people died at home from the recent El Paso shooting who didn’t seek medical care for fear of ICE deportation. We MUST eliminate the fear in which people are living. This is NOT part of our founding fathers intended for “freedom and justice for all.”

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”-Melissa Gilbert

A successful thought leader is a position gained from experience, success, and failure. Thought leaders have “osmosed” information since their birth and one day DNA transformation occurs. Your thoughts and words become propelled positive actions that impact people, places, and outcomes. Adopt your philosophy.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have lunch or breakfast? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

I would love to have lunch or breakfast with CBS Morning News anchors Gayle King and David Begnaud. Both of these anchors conduct excellent investigative reports and news-making interviews. As a Thought Leader, it would be an honor to share real-life patient advocacy stories with these two journalists. I am a Thought Leader and it’s my responsibility to continue planting “seeds of change.” A “forest” would be planted through intellectual discussions with both of these individuals. Gayle King and David Begnaud might like the opportunity to have a family join us to learn firsthand how my approach to Patient Advocacy provides break-through solutions for American families in crisis.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.



Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.



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