Learn more about our caring and experienced senior management team, as well as our diverse board of directors and their roles and responsibilities.
Chief Executive Officer
Karen has been employed with OPTIMUS for four years. Prior to joining OPTIMUS as an employee in 2017, she served as legal counsel for OPTIMUS and the board of directors and was the chair of the OPTIMUS Foundation. Karen is an operations leader with a unique combination of academic preparation and professional achievement in the law, health care, and management. She brings to her position ten years of nursing experience working at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a Harvard teaching hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Additionally, she has nine years practicing regulatory and corporate health care law and medical malpractice defense litigation and four years in risk management in teaching hospitals. She is an innovative, strategic, and progress-driven professional with extensive experience and a track record of success improving the clinical and financial performance of health care organizations. Karen is a mission-focused executive with a proven ability to launch new and enhanced programs, creatively resolve operational issues, and achieve consensus and shared vision among staff on all levels. Karen holds a Juris Doctorate degree from Boston College Law School and an MBA from Boston College, where she also obtained her Bachelor of Science degree as a registered nurse. As the CEO, Karen is responsible for the administrative and financial responsibility of OPTIMUS operations. These management functions include but are not limited to planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and executing the policy directives of the board of directors while guiding and developing short- and long-range strategic plans, monitoring and affecting applicable legislation and ensuring the financial health of the organization. Other key duties include fundraising, marketing, and community outreach.
Chief Operating Officer
As chief operations officer, Dr. Rodriguez directs, plans, and coordinates the operating activities of the organization toward the achievement of established objectives for planning and managing patient care delivered by nurses and clinical support staff in clinical areas of Optimus and closely collaborates with the chief medical officer to develop and ensure adherence to best practices to provide patient-focused services and achieve quality patient outcomes. As chief operations officer, Dr. Rodriguez is responsible for the day-to-day operational activities with full authority in the absence of the chief executive officer. She manages, leads, and supervises a multidisciplinary team and manages critical projects to carry out the vision of the chief executive officer.
Chief Financial Officer
Grace Austin was appointed Chief Financial Officer beginning March 2023 after consulting with Optimus since August 2022, is a Big Four-trained CPA with over 29 years of experience in Accounting and Finance, 10 years at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and over 5 years in Human Resources and Administration. Grace holds a bachelor degree in Accounting earned at University of Connecticut, Storrs and she is a CPA. Grace’s responsibilities at Optimus include finance and accounting, billing and revenue cycle management and grants.
After beginning her career at PwC, Grace served in various leadership roles as well as Principal founder of her own practice providing CFO, senior-level executive leadership and business development consultation in several industry experiences; most recently in health care services and technology, retail, manufacturing, not-for-profit and federally-qualified health care centers. Under her consulting practice, Grace’s most recent health care experiences involved performing an extensive financial statement compliance review including an assessment of internal controls at Optimus; and start-up and success launch of CT’s statewide Health Information Exchange (HIE), Health Information Alliance, Inc. What sets Grace apart is that she is a cross-cultural and visionary leader who translates business goals into reality across organizations. She possesses excellent communication skills, which allows her to align all stakeholders. Grace thrives in fast-paced and frequently changing environments and has a proven track record of achieving corporate goals and driving profitable revenue generation, business development, cost containment, and recommending streamlined processes to maximize free cash flow and enterprise value.
Chief Human Resource / Administrative Officer
Maria Xavier-Dowski serves as chief human resources and administrative officer (CHRO). She is a highly experienced, multi-lingual human resources and administrative professional with over 20 years of experience in human resources and financial services, 14 years of which has been working in health care.
Reporting directly to the CEO, Maria works with leaders across the organization by fostering an HR business partnership that reflects and supports OPTIMUS’ dynamic needs to create a workplace culture that embraces OPTIMUS’ mission and vision with a commitment to equity, diversity, respect, inclusion, and integrity while simultaneously ensuring OPTIMUS remains in compliance with regulatory standards pertaining to clinician credentialing and privileging as required to meet all regulatory agency requirements
In her current role, Maria is responsible for leading OPTIMUS’ overall human resources strategy, talent acquisition, leadership development, organizational design and cultural development, employee education and development, compensation, payroll and benefits, HR operations and technology as well as employee and labor relations. As CHRO, she has changed the function, culture, and impact of HR across the organization to support its business goals and strategies as well as the needs and aspirations of OPTIMUS’ 420 employees in the communities where OPTIMUS operates.
Maria has a proven record of facilitating profitability through expert development and management of corporate human resource operations including mergers and acquisitions. She has demonstrated experience in building and leading top-performing teams, and turning around troubled organizations, restructuring, and realigning human resources and other operational departments, specifically in ambulatory care settings including community health. Maria’s human resources experience extends beyond Connecticut. Prior to working in community health, Maria worked for SunBridge Health LLC as regional director of human resources, where she had direct oversight of thirteen (13) skilled nursing facilities in six states, including the northeast. SunBridge Healthcare, LLC (now Genesis Health Care) provides health care services and long-term residential care for patients and residents.
Maria holds a master’s degree in human resources management and a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration, both from Sacred Heart University.
Chief Medical, Health & Wellness Officer
Dr. Katherine Golar is an experienced physician administrator with a demonstrated history of community health center leadership, working collaboratively to promote the delivery of high-quality integrated medical, dental, and behavioral health services to individuals, families, and communities while addressing the social determinants of health for patients and clients from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures. As chief medical, health & wellness officer, Dr. Golar works to ensure that patient-centered care is at the forefront of patient services.
An innovative primary care internist and well-respected physician leader in the fields of integrative medicine and community health, she has also served as a member of the Connecticut Statewide Integrative Medicine Collaborative, sponsored by the state’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS). Dr. Golar believes strongly in the therapeutic benefit of helping patients identify and tap into the strengths that exist in their lives and environments, and incorporating these into their health care, based on their personal values, background, and preferences. She is a vocal proponent of team-based care, of integrative care as the basis of effective primary care, and of Joy at Work—an initiative promoted by the Institute of Health Improvement, the American College of Physicians, and others, focused on supporting clinicians and other health care staff in the important work that they do.
Dr. Golar views all her work in health care through the lens of diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and social justice; and in addition to her professional work in community health centers, has been a member of the board of directors of several public and private organizations focused on increasing access to health care for under-resourced communities. A graduate of Cornell University and the Boston University School of Medicine, Dr. Golar completed her internal medicine training at Montefiore Medical Center’s Residency Program in Social Medicine and was inducted as a fellow of the American College of Physicians in 2019.
Chief Quality & Transformation Officer
Dr. Alix Pose is an experienced quality and transformation officer with a demonstrated history of working in the community health care industry. She is skilled in epidemiology, prevention, health promotion, health care management, and telemedicine. She is a health care professional with an MD degree in family medicine (licensed in France), a master in public health from the Yale School of Public Health, and a master's degree focused in Traditional Chinese Medicine from the University of Bridgeport and holds a license in acupuncture from the state of CT.
As the chief quality & transformation officer, Dr. Pose reports to the chief executive officer with a dotted line to our chief medical officer, is the lead executive overseeing quality and clinical transformation across OPTIMUS Health Care, and also supervises the Department of Integrative Medicine, promoting quality, performance improvement, and clinical effectiveness in the clinician community, and partners with other members of the senior leadership team to strengthen and grow clinical programs and enhance patient safety, clinical quality, and patient satisfaction.
In collaboration with other senior leaders, Dr. Pose is responsible for setting and implementing a culture of excellence in the delivery of clinical services and fosters clinical leadership and engagement as necessary for care redesign across the system. She is responsible for planning, developing, and executing strategies for care delivery process improvement, cultural transformation, performance measurement in partnership with patient care design, data warehousing, and analytics. She leads the organization’s efforts to attain and maintain top performance as measured by HRSA and other publicly reported methodologies as well as champion the work efforts around safety and zero-harm across the care continuum and partners with leadership to lead zero harm improvements in partnership with the chief compliance officer. This collaboration includes the oversite of the patient complaint process, tracking and trending patient complaints, responses and areas for improvement.
Chief Compliance & Risk Management Officer
Cari Ann is an accomplished compliance and risk professional who has successfully tackled progressively challenging leadership roles within behavioral health organizations. She has built organization-wide clinical programs that achieved rapid growth, improved clinical quality, grew productivity, strengthened compliance, and lowered risk. Cari holds a license in marriage and family therapy and has used her experience as a clinician to inform her views on compliance and risk. Cari has created comprehensive organization compliance and internal auditing programs that increase clinical quality and compliance outcomes across programs. Cari was selected as a Young Leader by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, allowing her to collaborate with clinical compliance professionals across the nation.
As chief compliance and risk management officer (CCO), Cari oversees and monitors OPTIMUS' compliance and risk activities, which are designed to guide the conduct of employees, as well as to maintain and foster the improvement of the quality of operational functions and clinical services and proactively guard against clinical and enterprise risks. Specifically, the CCO (a) coordinates health-center-wide proactive compliance and risk management programs, (b) manages policies and programs for the internal reporting of noncompliant activities; reviews, audits, and monitors the efficacy of billing, financial, insurance, conflicts of interest, and privacy programs; as well as the standards and guidelines for disciplinary, corrective actions, and reporting process, (c) manages OPTIMUS’ Compliance Program and facilitates the establishment of procedures to reduce identified problem areas, (d) promotes employee education regarding the commitment to compliance with all laws, regulations, and guidelines applicable to the OPTIMUS business.
Additionally, the CCO oversees the Medical Records and Security department staff and services. This includes subpoena management, safety and security programs for the organization, and the responsibility of ensuring the organization remains in compliance with regulatory standards pertaining to state facility licensing. Cari Ann holds a Master of Arts in marriage and family therapy and a Bachelor of Science in psychology and is an international accreditation surveyor with CARF international.
Jessica M. McCauley (Chair)
Carlos T. de la Iglesia (Vice-Chair)
Gary R. Smart (Treasurer)
Brenda Burton-Seldon (Secretary)
Mack H. Allen, Jr.
Casey D. Parker
Henry H. Yoon
Lisa Emmons (Chair)
Robert A. Scinto