20 Under 40: Shannon Stephenson

Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Shannon Stephenson

Shannon Stephenson, 37

CEO, Cempa Community Care; Owner, Vertical Consult and Academy VC; Member, Mayor [Berke]'s Joint COVID-19 Task Force; Chair, Community Testing Subcommittee; 2019 Champion of Health Care: Community Outreach; Past president, board member, Association of Governmental Accountants Chattanooga Chapter; Member, Healthcare Committee and Governmental Committee, Tennessee Society of Certified Public Accountants; President and Executive Committee, Ryan White Clinics for 340B Access; President, Chickamauga Lake Property Owners Association; Member, Executive Committee and Prevention Committee, AIDS United Public Policy Council; Member, Southeast TN Community and Health Equity Advisory Panel, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee; Member, Diversity, Inclusion and Health Equity Committee, Center for Healthcare Innovation; Former canine handler, Tennessee Task Force 3; Former certified firefighter, Tennessee and Georgia; Technician, SPRAT Rope Access; CPA

Mantra: #isittrueisitkindisitnecessary

Quarantine projects: Testified in the State Senate on a bill that would protect safety net providers; expanded our organization's efforts to combat COVID-19.

What have you been most grateful for during the pandemic? The support of the entire Cempa family, both staff and board. I have watched the selflessness of others who choose to serve their friends and neighbors in a time of need. I have also been appreciative of much-needed community collaboration, and I hope this type of collaboration carries forward into the future.

How did the pandemic upend your routine? I recognized immediately that this would impact not only our staff, but the patients we serve. I knew that an open line of communication needed to be established and that those who looked to me and our leadership team needed to have confidence that we were making the best decisions possible. This led to a shift in our priorities and the need to establish and enact emergency protocols during the pandemic.

What motivates you? Knowing that the work I do impacts people's lives daily, I am motivated to be a visionary change-agent who drives successful results. You will find me looking for new ways to solve old problems, even if that problem seems too difficult to change.

What do you credit for where you are today? Gifts and mercy from my higher power.

One thing you couldn't live without? My family. Dogs are family!

Has the pandemic changed your outlook in any way? You always must embrace the unexpected and shift priorities accordingly, which is exactly what we did at Cempa. We shifted our focus to ensure our underserved communities had access to COVID-19 testing.

What (else) did you want to be when you grew up? The first woman President.