Meet the Team

Meet the Team

Since we’re in the relationship and credibility business, our team is paramount to our success, the success of our clients, and the success of our customers. We’re proud to think that Ikigai is associated with some of the finest, most knowledgeable, most credible group of healthcare executives in the nation.

Michael Brouthers, Founder/Principal, Ikigai Growth Partners


Michael Brouthers is a proven healthcare leader with experience at some of the world’s largest healthcare payers, providers, and IT firms (United, Humana, CIGNA, DaVita, and DXC Technology) as well as in some of its most creative entrepreneurial niches (hospitalist medicine, e-healthcare directives, quality and pricing transparency).

At the core of Michael’s experience is his grounding with Payers. From his roots in provider contracting and customer service at CIGNA to his leadership of Humana’s North Florida health plan, to his Regional Vice President position with UHG’s Specialty Care Services division (now Optum), Michael has lived in and understands the Payer world and the world of delivering cost effective, high quality care.

Michael has always enjoyed working closely with clinicians. At DaVita, for example, he worked with clinical leadership to create and implement a new clinical strategy and a more effective clinical program delivery model (called the DaVita Clinical Quality Pyramid) in order to achieve the firm’s goal to become the clear, clinically differentiated leader in the dialysis industry.

At DXC Technology, Michael worked with Market Leaders, Account General Managers, and Salespeople in the US Payer, Provider, and Life Sciences segments to grow their revenues, create new partnerships and products, and evaluate potential acquisitions.

He has also been the CEO or a senior executive in several cutting-edge entrepreneurial healthcare niches.

  • He created and was the CEO of Embark Health, Inc., the nation’s most comprehensive end-of-life planning firm (electronic advance directives and database).
  • He was the CEO of Cogent Healthcare, Inc., (now a part of Sound Physicians) one of the nation’s first hospitalist organizations.
  • At Healthcare Bluebook (quality and pricing transparency) Michael was responsible for establishing and maintaining outstanding long-term strategic and operational relationships with the firm’s largest employer, payer, and provider clients.
  • As a young engineer shortly out of college, Michael was the Founder and CEO of one of the world’s first video game cartridge companies, Funware, Inc.

Michael has an MBA and a BS in Management Systems Engineering, both from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.


Kristie Domzalski

Kristie DomzalskiKristie Domzalski is an accomplished Finance & Operations Specialist within the Venture Capital industry and holds a Master’s in Finance from the University of Notre Dame.

Her expertise lies in fortifying firm infrastructure and optimizing operational processes, with a broad skill set encompassing portfolio management, investor relations, regulatory compliance, and more.

Throughout her career, Kristie has consistently delivered impactful results, crafting robust operational frameworks that enable venture capital firms to dedicate their resources to maximizing returns for Limited Partners. Her strategic approach and meticulous attention to detail have earned her recognition as a trusted advisor within the industry.

When she’s not busy with work, you’ll often find Kristie kicking back with her family and her furry friend, Lola, soaking up the good vibes.

Heidi E. Garwood, JD

Heidi Garwood is a healthcare consultant, managed care executive and attorney with more than 20 years of experience in significant leadership roles at major health plans. Having led Medicaid organizations in several states, Heidi has extensive experience in healthcare operations, business development, IT and case management system migrations, business strategy, long-term care operations, medical and quality management, Medicaid expansion and growth, member engagement, value based contracting, Medicaid RFPs, regulatory compliance, and social determinant of health strategy.

Most recently she served as President of Medicaid for Health Care Service Corporation, where she oversaw and had profit and loss responsibility for their Medicaid line of business, leading key initiatives to strengthen operational and financial performance, membership growth and compliance across five states. From 2014-2018 she was the Chief Executive Officer of Aetna Better Health of Florida, where she led Medicaid operations including medical and quality management, network design, provider relations and contracting, community development and all other aspects of plan operations. Prior to that, Heidi spent 15 years at Humana directing their Florida Medicaid program and managing Florida legal matters for Humana’s Medicare, Medicaid and Commercial business as a Senior Attorney.  Before Humana, Heidi served in a variety of government relations and senior legal counsel roles in the health care industry.

Heidi serves on the Board of SHARE Cancer Support, a national nonprofit that supports, educates, and empowers women affected by breast, ovarian, uterine, or metastatic breast cancer, with a special focus on medically underserved communities.

Heidi has a passion for books, travel and the outdoors and is recognized as an innovative, inspirational, engaged, and disciplined leader who achieves results.


Mike Shumer

Mike Shumer is a longtime Investor, Board Chair and Director, with extensive Entrepreneurial and CEO experience. He has expertise in the development, scaling, and management of complex service models through exit.

Mike has deep relationships with and understanding of the stakeholders in the healthcare marketplace including payors as channel partners (BUCA & regionals), government partners (e.g. VA) and regulators, TPAs, providers, self-funded groups, and most importantly, patients. Mike also has active Director roles with companies from early-stage/scaling to +$1B.

He has also been involved with multiple innovative business models, through exit.

  • Chairman – Crucialist was a tech-enabled population health medical practice and post-acute care platform that was one of the first value-based Hospital-at-Home medical practices with multiple payor contracts.
  • Chairman – Credential Genie software company with a successful exit.
  • Chairman/CEO – Crucial Care was the first value-based multi-site emergency medicine practice that meaningfully lowered downstream hospital utilization and created actuarially validated savings. Successful exit to a BUCA payor.
  • Principal – Medical Life Holdings is a portfolio of healthcare-related companies that has returned industry-leading returns for its investors since 2007.

Mike has an MBA in technology Management from The University of Phoenix, and he attended the University of Florida, where he received his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine. Mike enjoys most outdoor pursuits, and he has great passion for his friends/family and myriad philanthropic pursuits.

Michael S. Brown

Michael Brown is the Founder and CEO of Cornerstone. Michael has served not-for-profit and for-profit healthcare clients of all sizes for almost 28 years while employed at bulge bracket Wall Street firms, and now through his own venture. During his career, Michael served as strategic advisor and banker to some of the largest and most complex transactions, including M&A, JV relationships, venture, and financings. He served the US as a Marshall Fellow in 2008 and is still active with the trans-Atlantic program today. He has sat on numerous Not- For-Profit Boards. Michael earned a BS from Taylor University (Business Systems and Accounting) and earned his MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business (Economics and Finance).

Jeffrey Hogan

 Jeffrey Hogan is the President of Upside Health Advisors a national consultancy providing advisory services to payers, providers, health systems, employers and health-tech point solutions.  Jeff also serves as an advisor to private equity, family offices, and to health startups looking to position themselves into the health care marketplace.  Jeff is focused on health care payment reform, health policy, care transformation, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, value-based health care, health care quality and precision medicine.  Prior to his role at Upside, Jeff served as the Northeast Regional Manager for Rogers Benefit Group, a national benefits marketing and consulting firm.  He retired from Rogers Benefit Group in 2021 after 30 years with the company.  Jeff regularly appears on national forums focused on moving to value-based health care and is actively working to promote health care related transparency measures in the market.

Ian Gordon

Ian Gordon is a 30-year healthcare industry veteran known for driving innovation across payers, providers, and services providers. He has a proven track record of facilitating collaboration across companies and integrating new capabilities to deliver broader end-to-end solutions.

Over Ian’s 30-year career, he has held a variety of C-suite roles focused primarily on operations, technology and strategy inside payers, third-party administrators, home health and hospice providers, and a variety of suppliers to both payers and providers. Some highlights of his career include leading an effort to start up a shared services utility for multiple Blues plans, participating in starting a company in the claims payment integrity space, and designing and implementing a first-of-its-kind technology solution that drove a material increase in revenue and reduction in operating expenses for a major player in the Home Health market.

Ian is currently the Health Plan COO for Kaiser Permanente Washington and an investor in and advisor to a number of early stage companies in the health care ecosystem.

Ian holds an MS degree in Management Information Systems from the University of Virginia, an M.B.A. from Rider University, and a B.S. in Accounting from Montclair State University. Ian earned his Certified Public Accountant designation in New Jersey and spent time practicing and delivering consulting services at Coopers and Lybrand, NYC.

Ian currently resides in Colorado with his wife Michele, near his grandsons little Ian and Zeke. He is an avid cyclist and recently completed a bucket list item of riding his bicycle from the coast of Oregon to the beaches of North Carolina.

Michelle Mercer, RN

Michelle Mercer, RN is an innovative, passionate leader who thrives on process conceptualization and improvements, operational challenges and the optimal development of individual human potential. She brings over 30 years of successful executive and senior healthcare leadership in hospital, health plan and corporate settings from start-ups to well established entities.

* As COO of a Embark Health, Michelle conceptualized, documented and launched all operational processes; created and implemented multi-state call centers, researched and established contractual relationships and designed positions and training programs.

* As a Solutions Principal for, a $6 billion global I.T. company (HCL), Michelle developed and presented to C-Suite executives, solutions focused on quality improvement, provider decision support and Meaningful Use.

* As Senior VP of a Cogent Healthcare, Michelle created and launched a number of key initiatives including a physician and leader development program, a unique coding documentation, training and auditing program and a company compliance program. Michelle established a scalable service center to cover billing, transcription, 24/7 call center, training, post discharge follow ups and physical resources for coding and auditing.

* As an Associate Executive Director of Humana Healthcare Plans, Michelle led all medical management, cost control and successful accreditation efforts, including leading the first in market “Full” accreditation status as well as bringing a separate failed market to “Full” accreditation status.

* As a Senior Director for Davita, Michelle conceptualized and managed a document management system for all clinical initiatives, created and implemented transition to a digital platform for national clinical policy and procedures, and led oversight of CMS accreditation for all outpatient clinics.

* Michelle’s executive nursing and hospital leadership roles have given her invaluable insight into turning organizations from mid-level performers into regional leaders, supported by patient/physician satisfaction ratings, marketing surveys and quality survey results.

Cliff R. Frank, MHSA

Cliff Frank has been involved in managed care programs for 30+ years working for payers, hospitals, IPAs, PHOs and Clinically Integrated Networks (CIN). Throughout his career his focus has been on reducing waste and enhancing quality for the benefit of patient care. Creating clinical and financial alignment among providers and payers has been a central theme to his professional work across a variety of settings and organizations. Cliff provides leadership to CIN’s operating shared savings relationships with payers and Medicare, and routinely consults to organizations on their managed care contracts, strategy, preparation for provider risk transfer, and innovative provider-payer partnerships.

Cliff has been CEO of several provider-sponsored risk-bearing entities including FirstCare Health Plans of Texas, Vermont Managed Care, and Shore Quality Partners. He has also served as hospital VP of managed care, a medical group executive, and other provider-based organizations.


Cliff’s consulting and interim executive clients have included:

  • Connecticut Children’s Medical Center
  • University of Miami Medical Center
  • Coordinated Behavioral Care IPA
  • Jersey Integrated Network ACO
  • Chicago Health Colleagues ACO
  • Health Alliance Plan
  • Compass Medical Group
  • Carepoint Health
  • Shore Medical Center
  • Borland-Groover Clinic
  • Palos Medical Center
  • Avera Health Plan
  • Parkland Health Plan
  • Fletcher-Allen University of Vermont
  • FirstCare Health Plans
  • Porter Hospital
  • Thomas Healthcare
  • Integris Health of Oklahoma
  • Kindred
  • Montana Health Coop
  • McIver Urological Clinic
  • Exigence of Buffalo, NY
  • Vermont Health Coop
  • Rush System for Health
  • Mon Valley Hospital
  • Princeton Medical Center
  • Overlake Medical Center
  • Steward Health
  • Marathon Health
  • Scott and White Clinic
  • Sarasota Memorial Hospital
  • Methodist Medical Group
  • Ohio State University Hospital and Medical Group

Cliff co-authored a book – “Physician empowerment through Capitation” Aspen, 2000 and has published numerous articles on capitation mechanics, operations, and risk assessment.

Cliff is a frequent speaker at conferences on population health including HIMSS, National Association of Managed Care Physicians, and the National Association of ACOs.


Scott Public Relations

Joy Scott and her communications and marketing firm, Scott Public Relations, have worked with the principals of Ikigai Growth Partners on numerous company launches and campaigns boosting firms to market leadership. Scott Public Relations is a 30-year-old communications firm with a specialization in healthcare, insurance, and related technologies. Clients range from Fortune 100 corporations to national non-profit organizations to young firms with brilliant ideas to take to market. The agency specializes in thought leadership for executives and organizations, in brand leadership through PR tactics, and in the launch of new ideas and services to transform the lives of patients and improve the national effectiveness of healthcare. The firm has been honored with numerous awards and recognized as one of the top independent agencies specializing in healthcare and insurance.  The Scott PR team is comprised of seasoned communications veterans and former journalists who have decades of experience in these complex industries and deep relationships within their communities and ecosystems.

Garland Creative

Garland Creative is a design studio led by owners Rob and Jenny Garland. Their innovative design strategy leverages the culture, values and history of their partner organizations to produce unique, successful, and client-centered solutions.

They have rich experience in creating new corporate identity through numerous mediums, encompassing both print and digital forms.  Their expertise includes designing graphics for trade shows, large enterprise events, as well as creating environmental graphics and wall displays for corporate offices.  Their role as a creative partner in numerous large scale rebranding efforts has also expanded into project management, and providing oversight and quality assurance of the roll-outs.

Garland Creative has collaborated closely with Ikigai Growth Partners leadership on various healthcare design initiatives. In addition, they have partnered with major healthcare enterprises like DaVita, Optum, HealthTrust, HCA and HealthStream for their design and rebranding needs. / 615-423-9685

Innovation Protocol

Jody Menerey, Director Client Partnerships

Innovation Protocol is a strategic brand consultancy that serves clients who mold markets, transform categories, and recharge industries. We build brands that challenge and redefine the world around us and are sought out for our transformational work in brand strategy and design.

In deep partnership, we help business leaders navigate change with clarity and conviction. When done right, brands are a compass, not a concept. They advance organizations, becoming powerful business tools for intelligent evolution.

Our approach, rooted in rigor and research, defines how we advise and instill confidence for clients. Developing sustainable partnerships, we dive deep into our clients’ business realms and team cultures to ensure brand alignment and action.

We equip brands to see and seize opportunity. Built to guide, grow, and galvanize with strong self-belief, our clients’ brands remain powerful as business evolves – enduring as a north star, for decades, not just days. We call these brands Intelligent Brands, built to endure.

Maverick Health Policy

Julie Barnes is the Founder and CEO of Maverick Health Policy, a consulting firm located in the Washington, DC area. Maverick provides strategic advice to organizations that need guidance about federal health information policy. As a former policy analyst, health care litigator, and Capitol Hill staffer, Ms. Barnes informs business strategy and investment decisions about digital health and payment policy. She and her team offer expert analysis about interoperability, price transparency, data privacy, artificial intelligence, value-based care and related issues to traditional health care entities, technology companies and venture capital firms.

Prior to founding Maverick Health Policy, Ms. Barnes served as Vice President of Federal Strategy at Cambia Health Solutions, a Senior Advisor for Leavitt Partners, Director of Health Policy at two think tanks — the Bipartisan Policy Center and New America Foundation — and was an attorney at Crowell & Moring. While she was an attorney, Ms. Barnes was the long-time chairperson of the American Health Lawyers Association Health Reform Educational Task Force and Editor-in-Chief of a legal textbook on managed care.

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