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Sharp Health Plan president and CEO committed to community

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Melissa Hayden Cook, president and chief executive officer of Sharp Health Plan, was born in San Diego at Sharp Memorial and raised in La Jolla. As a proud San Diegan, Hayden Cook's mission is to reach out to the community. Her ambition to connect the community with the right care at the right time, in a cost-effective and personalized manner, is reflected in the way she utilizes Sharp Health Plan's unique relationship as a subsidiary of Sharp HealthCare, San Diego's largest integrated health care system.

As the only San Diego-based commercial health plan, Sharp Health Plan is uniquely focused. Its not-for-profit status ensures local interests, and to that end, Sharp Health Plan devotes nearly 90 cents of every health care dollar to improve the health of San Diego. The company serves nearly 50,000 members who represent approximately 900 San Diego employers, the largest of which includes Sharp HealthCare, San Diego Municipal Employees Association (MEA) and Rady Children's Hospital, as well as many smaller local businesses. In addition, Sharp Health Plan partners with a host of community programs and organizations to empower underserved populations.

Melissa Hayden Cook

Prior to joining Sharp Health Plan, Hayden Cook spent a combined 12 years with HealthNet and Cigna (NYSE: CI), where she was responsible for managed care strategy, sales and management, revenue growth, product development and broker development. She was the senior vice president of marketing at Sharp HealthCare from 1994 to 2000 and served on the Sharp Health Plan board of directors for three years.

Her return to Sharp in 2005 reflects Hayden Cook's respect for Sharp HealthCare as a health care leader, as well as the exemplary leadership of President and Chief Executive Officer Mike Murphy. Hayden Cook believes it is a privilege, as well as an obligation, to extend The Sharp Experience to health plan members.

The Sharp Experience is Sharp's systemwide initiative to transform and continuously improve health care delivery. Constantly aware of the delicate balance between insurance and health care delivery goals, Hayden Cook seeks to bring the highest value of every health care dollar to Sharp Health Plan members, patients and providers.

Hayden Cook's commitment to the people she serves is revealed in everything she does, personally and professionally. As a two-time San Diego Chair of the March of Dimes, she makes time to champion causes that she finds personally rewarding. In addition, her initiative as a board member of various organizations at the local, state and national level illustrates her commitment to unsurpassed health care for all.

At the local level, Hayden Cook serves two community-oriented organizations: Community Health Improvement Partners, which works to improve health care in San Diego, and Health Science High School and Middle College, which develops the health care leaders of tomorrow. At the state level, Hayden Cook sits on the board of California Association of Heath Plans; together with her fellow board members, she is helping to shape regulations and decisions that directly impact San Diego residents. In addition, Hayden Cook plays an integral part of Health Plan Alliance, a national association of not-for-profit health plans; through this affiliation, she can share best practices and bring revolutionary health care perspectives to San Diego.

Sharp Health Plan is at the forefront of the health care industry's current focus on wellness. Hayden Cook is a visionary, who strives to create new standards of operation in the health insurance industry, and she is determined to develop high-performance products and services that add flexibility and choice for health plan members.

For example, Sharp Health Plan's Health Promotion and Wellness Program begins with an interactive, state-of-the-art online Wellness Assessment. The program captures data about health risk status, current health status (especially related to chronic health conditions), medical consumerism patterns and productivity. This type of sophisticated program was previously only available to employees of Fortune 500 companies, but Hayden Cook is determined to provide this vital resource, as well as many others, to businesses of all sizes.

As a result of her commitment to the health care industry and her work in the community, Hayden Cook has been honored with various leadership awards for her accomplishments. She received the "40 under 40" Leaders in San Diego Award, as well as the Tribute to Women and Industry (TWIN) Award, which honors women who have excelled in their fields and made significant contributions to industry in executive, managerial and professional roles. Hayden Cook resides in Rancho Santa Fe with her husband Ed and their two daughters.


Cihomsky is vice president of Public Relations & Communications for Sharp HealthCare.

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