June 18, 2021

Communication and Connection in a Virtual World with Healthcare Leader, Dr. Tabari Baker

Dana Safa

1Huddle Podcast Episode #16

On this Bring It In podcast episode, 1Huddle’s CEO and Founder Sam Caucci sat down with Dr. Tabari Baker, healthcare leader, and expert in cell and molecular Biology. Dr. Tabari is the Scientific Affairs Manager at Roche Diagnostics Corporation. He has a Ph.D. from Georgetown in tumor biology and is using his education and knowledge to eradicate health disparities and homelessness in Washington D.C. 

On this episode of Bring It In season one, Dr. Tabari sat down with 1Huddle’s CEO Sam Caucci, and discussed communication and connection in a virtual world and how leaders can best engage their workers to power through the pandemic.

Audio available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. 


Below are some of the insights Dr. Tabari shared during our chat, edited for length and clarity. You can find more Bring It In podcast episodes here.

  • “One of the things that we have learned very early on in this kind of pandemic period is that we don’t have to be face-to-face to be effective.”
  • “Everyone in communication wants to feel like they’re heard and you have to make sure that you are presenting that even in this virtual environment.”
  • “But what I would say to those who are struggling with engagement, particularly in this virtual environment, is that, one: recall that you have a personality and it’s okay to be personable in your communication style.”


Sam: So Dr. Tabari, I got a question just to kick us off. And I know that, you know, your background as the scientific affairs manager at Roche, has you doing a bunch of stuff, but how has work been changing and how do you see it changing from, from your seat at Roche? 

Dr. Tabari: Yeah, thank you, Sam. That’s a great question. One of the things that we have learned very early on in this kind of pandemic period is that we don’t have to be face-to-face to be effective. We’ve always thought that we did. We always thought that it was important to look a pathologist in the eye and tell them about our assays, but what we found is that we can be equally as effective in doing webinars and providing content in different ways. And that agility that we have found during this pandemic has been freeing actually. And it allows for the democratization of our educational content. So, I’ve been really excited even though I’ve been exhausted because I have kids and have been trying to multitask on a daily basis. But I’ve been excited about the possibilities post pandemic of what we will be able to do, as a medical and scientific affairs team. 

Sam: So many people talk about Zoom fatigue, and, you know, what do you say to that? I mean, is there a way to communicate, currently that you’re finding and using digital and video technology, or a way that you’re going about it that you feel others could learn from? What do you think the keys are to doing it effectively? 

Dr. Tabari: Yeah. I think one is getting trained, honestly. Our team recognized that this was going to change how we operate, so we brought in a trainer to teach us how to better use Zoom, which doesn’t just mean how to click through the app necessarily, but it means how you present in an effective way. One of the things that I liked, and I remember from that training, was to remember that this tool is only for communication at the end of the day, and that communication requires one big thing, and that’s psychological safety. And so that psychological safety, you have to be able to convey via digital, which is a little bit more challenging than doing it face to face. And so what we learned in that training is that remembering that everyone wants to feel like they are valued. Everyone in communication wants to feel like they’re heard and you have to make sure that you are presenting that even in this virtual environment.

Sam: Sure, I think there’s a Gallup study that came out. This was pre-pandemic, which I can only imagine what it is now, but it was a study focused on employee engagement and workforce engagement as a whole. And it made the point that only 15% of the global workforce is ‘engaged’ at work. The study was really powerful, the only challenge in it is the word ‘engaged’. You know, employee engagement is a really tough, you know, descriptor to visualize and wrap your head around. When you think about how do you properly engage folks today, what are the things that if you’re talking to a worker out there that’s listening, who’s trying to figure out how they skill up, level up or to your point, do a better job communicating, what do you say to them about how to become a better communicator to ensure that engagement is occurring in their workday?

Dr. Tabari: Yeah, we have thought a lot about engagement, just because our role is to engage with healthcare professionals. And, once again, it’s challenging during this environment because face-to-face seems to be the gold standard. But what I would say to those who are struggling with engagement, particularly in this virtual environment, is that, one: recall that you have a personality and it’s okay to be personable in your communication style. Especially in this virtual environment, it’s almost essential, because if I remember correctly, some of my statistics, the average fruit fly has about an eight-second attention span. And that is the exact same attention span for a human when they’re sitting on a virtual call. So your goal is to ensure that every eight seconds or so that you are providing a reason for the listener to give attention to you. And so what I try to do personally, is there’s lots of voice inflection. There’s gesturing, during a Zoom call, and that seems to help with engaging at least those that I talked to on these virtual calls. Now from an employee engagement perspective, meaning internal, we have also struggled with the closeness of our team, just because we’re not once again, in face-to-face contact.

So what we have started doing are things like virtual happy hours, giving our team the opportunity to be together on a zoom call that’s not really a zoom call. It’s just an open forum. So we’ve had fun, engaging things, we’ve played games together. We’ve done trivia, we’ve played a game called mafia, virtually, just to ensure those connections. And once again, my real driving home point is that communication is about connection. And ensuring that you’re connecting with everyone. 

Sam: And games are pretty cool. I mean, I’m not gonna jump on that one, but you know, I think that’s pretty cool. I think what I’ve always admired and just full transparency, you know, I’ve known you Dr. Tabari for a bit of time now. And I think that one thing I’ve always admired about you is thoughtfulness around connection and communication. And that’s kind of what, you know, I’m excited to talk to you about, because I think that is something that today, you know, just because you have new technology available doesn’t mean you necessarily know how to use it correctly. And I think that, you know, you see, I see a lot of younger workers and even managers struggling to figure out which technology to use in a moment. And it just feels like the stack of technology is just getting bigger and bigger and just knowing when to deploy. You know, whether it’s a Zoom and you turn your video on, or you’re doing a phone call where you’re texting, you’re emailing or you’re Slack-ing, or you’re Microsoft Teams-ing. And, you know, it’s just like, there’s so many different ways to try to connect, but the thoughtfulness component is so critical, right?

Dr. Tabari: Yeah, I think that’s the most important part. I think the tool is almost irrelevant. ACE Hardware sells hammers, Home Depot sells hammers, Lowe’s sells hammers, your local Cornerstore probably has hammers. All of them will get the nail driven in however, the skill is in the person who’s using the hammer. And so I think that what employees and people like me in roles that used to be kind of field-based and now are home-based, we have to learn how to just be the communicator first and whichever tool that you end up communicating through, becomes irrelevant.

Sam: I have to ask you this question, because I think it’s given your background in the healthcare industry. As you look at, again, you’ve probably had all types of conversations with folks and friends,, as we’ve been going through the pandemic, about how to react and how to stay safe and how to protect yourself. But I want to ask you a question more from, as a leader. Like, what do you think leaders should be doing today? In addressing and handling in the sort of new world that we’re moving into. What do you wish or hope that managers or leaders can do a better job at, with the way that they are tackling this kind of new work environment that has emerged, or it might be here a lot longer than some may think? 

Dr. Tabari: Yeah. That’s a challenging question, Sam, because we’re all in this new world and we’re all trying to figure out which way is up and which way is forward. I think that what I have seen from my leadership, which I can applaud is transparency. And I think that what people need in times of uncertainty is just that transparency. And in that transparency, you get the vulnerability of the leaders. And that is really crucial for those like me who were kind of down the line in really believing that, one, we will get out of this just fine, two, I feel safe in my environment. So the two things I look for are really transparency from our leadership and vulnerability. It’s not required to know all the answers, necessarily. But what is required is that we see that there is a path forward that you can envision and being able to communicate that through that transparency and vulnerability, I think are most helpful.

Sam: That’s great. Yeah. The point you just made about, you might not have all the right answers, and being able to share that and communicate that with your team is so important. I have one final question for you and I think it’s one that, again, I’ve watched from afar seeing how you interact. Your non-profit work, you know, today more than ever, there’s no lack of work that are on all of our plates and work has become around the clock for so many. And I just want to ask, you do some really cool stuff on the nonprofit side in D.C., like I guess why do you do it? 

Dr. Tabari: Yeah. Honestly, Sam, I do nonprofit work, which I sometimes call the most important work that I do all day, because I believe that health disparities should be eradicated. And Community of Hope, which is a nonprofit where I serve, they are intentional about trying to eradicate the barriers to both healthcare and housing instability. And so in that volunteer work, I am excited because I get to see how changing healthcare affects not only those who can’t afford all of the bells and whistles that come with great health care, but I also get to try to give those same bells and whistles to those who may be in a situation that they need a little assistance with getting that same quality of healthcare. That work for me really speaks to the core of who I am as a scientist and as a person. And I’m really excited to be able to help with that.

Sam: Yeah, it’s really powerful. And I appreciate the work you do. And thanks for taking time for the podcast. 

Dr. Tabari: Yeah. Thanks Sam. I hope to hear more about how gaming is going to move into the lexicon of the future. So awesome. Thank you.

Topics Discussed: Diversity, Communication, Nonprofit, Vulnerability, Leadership, Connection

Dana Safa, Manager of Digital Marketing at 1Huddle

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