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CityBusiness Guest Perspective: The Power of “Yes If”

QUENTIN L. MESSER, JR.New Orleans Business Alliance President & CEO Quentin Messer writes in the May edition of New Orleans CityBusiness how his father inspired him to think with a “Yes If” mindset, and how that has come to light in NOLABA’s recent wins:

My father has been on my mind a lot lately.

I visited New Orleans for the first time with him during a summer road trip. I discovered my love for jazz, politics and sports by peppering him with questions.  He was unfailingly patient with me despite the fatigue he experienced from working night school after working all day as a teacher or weekends as an Army reservist. As a middle school principal, before the days of selfies and YouTube, Quentin, Sr. would record motivational messages for the students in his school: “Be all you can be,”  “Be your own best cheerleader” and “Don’t let the limits of your dreams be what you see with your natural eyes.”

I thought these messages were a little sappy given the realities facing the students who entered my father’s school daily. My dad led schools in tough neighborhoods that experienced changing racial and socioeconomic demographics. How could he command students to “be all they could be” when they were walking to school, often hungry or sleepy from midnight moves from couch to couch or nervous about what might greet them after they left school at the dismissal bell?

My father possessed tremendous faith, and that faith infused him with a remarkable calm and relentlessly upbeat attitude about what his students would achieve, despite the challenges that many faced daily and often hourly. In short, nothing was impossible in my dad’s eyes. Whether test score improvements or PTA attendance, his answer was never “could,” but instead, “would.” It was “when,” never “if.”  It was never “no,” but always, “yes if.”

An April announcement at NOLABA confirms the power of “yes if.” On April 21, Provision Healthcare announced that in partnership with LCMC Health and LSU Health Sciences Center, it would develop a $100 million advanced cancer treatment center, the Louisiana Proton Therapy Center. I can’t underscore enough the significance of this win for our city and region. Proton therapy is one of the most innovative forms of cancer treatment, and fewer than 100 comparable centers exist in the world. This winning development validates the city’s long-term bet on bioinnovation and health services innovation. Dad would often quote Desiderata: “Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. It is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.”

Ultimately, collective “yes if” behavior convinced Provision that the proton therapy center would be a success here. Unprecedented collaboration among major academic, health system and economic development stakeholders, the need for cancer treatment innovation due to the high levels of incidence and the hospitality that greeted their team were among the reasons Provision Healthcare decided to come to New Orleans.

Despite the presence of world-class researchers and clinicians in oncology, population health and neurology and being one of only 15 U.S. cities with two medical schools, New Orleans’ medical innovation sometimes flies under the radar. Lives will be saved and family destinies changed because we refused to succumb to cynicism and realized that the fullness of the economic impact from bioinnovation has never been denied.

“Celebrate a bit, son, but get back to it,” Dad often said. Dad, we are back at it, confident that future announcements will come, fueled by a communal “yes if” spirit that has rebuilt after tragedy and will triumph in creating jobs and wealth while enhancing the quality of health for more New Orleanians.

Quentin L. Messer Jr. is president and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance.

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