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Published on May 28, 2017

jessica claussen, md

The Secrets of Confidence

Thoughts from seasoned Avera professionals

Whether you’re fresh out of college or an experienced leader, confidence in your daily decisions is key to success. We talked to providers and leaders throughout the Avera system about how self-confidence has shaped their careers and what they’ve learned along the way.

Mary Maertens

Regional President and CEO, Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center, Marshall, Minn. Mary Maertens began her career in the health care industry as a nursing assistant for Avera at age 16 and is now Regional President and CEO of Marshall Regional Medical Center in Minnesota.

How has your confidence changed over the years?
I’ve had different life experiences that have driven me to have a closer examination of myself, how I tick, what I’m good at and what I’m not good at, and how to not feel bad about it.

I think it starts with self-awareness. I have a book called “Soar With Your Strengths.” It focuses on changing the paradigm on our weaknesses and accepting that we’re not going to be perfect at everything and be confident to say, “That’s not my area of strength.”

How do spirituality or wellness play a role?
During my mature life I’ve continued to develop myself from a spiritual perspective. Part of that is learning to let go and have that degree of trust that life will work out if I just stand back to let it work itself out.

The last few years in particular I’ve rededicated myself to wellness, nutrition and exercise. I’ve started yoga and golf. One of my personal goals has been to focus on the people and things in front of me and not be so distracted. Yoga and golf require your entire mind to be present.

How do you balance it all?
Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” is a great reference for both men and women. One thing I appreciate is the title — you lean into your work, sit up to the table and offer your opinion. Don’t complain about being heard if you’re not going to speak. You need to own it and be proud of it, and be willing to accept feedback. Speaking to finding balance, I’m very grateful to have the husband I do to help me raise my girls. He can make them supper better than I can. It’s OK to lean into that and not think I have to do everything.

Do you have a go-to item that gives you strength?
I always say, “Keep the faith.” I have a sign on my office wall that says, “Let your faith be bigger than your fears.”


Dena Jundt, MD

Family Medicine/OB specialist at Avera Medical Group O’Neill, O’Neill, Neb. Dena Jundt grew up about two hours south of O’Neill and returned to work at Avera Medical Group O’Neill with her husband who is also a physician. The pair, who are expecting their second child in June, work together to balance their busy work and family lives.

What does being confident mean to you?
If you feel good, you can go to work with more confidence. I try to exercise and stay in shape and eat a healthy diet so I feel good about myself, and that helps me make confident decisions in my practice every day. Spirituality plays a role as well, and we are blessed to work in a facility that encourages spirituality.

How has your confidence changed over the years?
My confidence changes with each new role I take on. I became a confident student, then a confident resident, and now a confident attending physician. Each new role requires me to find a new comfort zone. I find confidence by learning from and relying on my partners, coworkers and through my faith.

Do you have any role models that have helped you be a better leader?
I have a role model who once told me to request that people call me Dr. Jundt and not by my first name, and that ended up being great advice, because to be treated like a physician you have to play the part. She also is a great example of a successful physician and mother.

How do you find balance?
When we had our first son our priorities changed at home. Instead of being totally dedicated to work we had to find a work-home balance. My husband is a physician and having that support system has made it a lot easier, because he understands my job. We help each other out to keep that work-life balance.

Do you have any go-to items or outfits that give you a confidence boost?
I like to dress professionally for my job, I know if I do this and fix my hair I will display a more confident demeanor.


Jessica Claussen, MD

Ophthalmologist with Avera Medical Group Ophthalmology Mitchell, Mitchell, S.D. Jessica Claussen has been at Avera Medical Group Ophthalmology Mitchell for more than three years building her practice. She finds confidence comes with experience and the realization that it’s OK not to be good at everything.

What does confidence mean to you?
It’s just being sure of who you are and knowing your strengths and weaknesses. I don’t feel like it is always having the right answer and knowing what to do in every situation. You can really tackle any new situation with confidence if you know your strengths and limitations.

As an ophthalmologist and a physician in general I have to be confident in the decisions I make and the treatment plans I set out for my patients. I think experience breeds confidence. When I don’t have the answer I also have a strong support network of colleagues whom I reach out to for support.

Do spirituality or wellness play a role in self-confidence?
I believe in the power of prayer. I say a prayer for my patients and myself before each day. I pray to have the knowledge and intuition to deal with the unexpected.

I try to exercise every day at lunch. I try to use the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the time I try to exercise and eat well and that leaves 20 percent for indulgences.

How does balance play a role?
If your personal relationships are out of whack it has a big impact on mind clarity. If particular situations outside of work are making me anxious or upset it definitely spills over into work life. Finding the perfect balance might be the holy grail of the working mother and wife!

Do you have any role models you look to?
My mom has always been a role model for me. She has always promoted independence and that I have the ability to do what I set my mind to.

As a parent, how do you try to instill confidence in your children?
I have two kids, 5 and 2 years old, and another one coming. I want them to know they can do anything they put their mind to. As a parent I will support them in any way that I can.


Tage Born, MD

OB-GYN with Avera Medical Group Obstetrics & Gynecology Aberdeen, Aberdeen, S.D. Tage Born has been in practice for more than 20 years. She’s found that experience is key to self-assurance.

How has your self-confidence changed over the years?
Self-confidence comes with experience. After 23 years in practice, while I would never be so naïve as to say, “I’ve seen it all,” I have seen a lot. With that comes knowledge and the ability to handle new circumstances, hopefully with ease, grace and self-assurance.

Is wellness important to you? How does it affect your confidence?
If you feel comfortable in your own skin, how you feel about yourself becomes irrelevant. To me, good health is imperative to be able to put my best foot forward every day to try and make my family’s lives and patients’ lives better.

What gives you confidence?
My kids. They have all become amazing young adults. I know I must be doing something right when I look at them.

Do you have any mentors when it comes to leadership?
A role model of mine would be Ayn Rand. She was a visionary novelist and philosopher in the 1950s. Her book, “Atlas Shrugged,” is one of the most influential pieces of literature I have ever read. She predicted what would become of our society and economics in the future based on our principles of government. Most of her predictions have come to fruition. Many of her ideas are very relevant today and I use them in many aspects of how I live my life.

How does balance play a part?
Finding balance is crucial. If you cannot keep work and personal life in proper perspective, you will not find happiness and fulfillment. Stay true to your goals.

In my personal life, photography gives me balance as a creative outlet completely unrelated to my work. I’ve been doing photography off and on since I was a teenager — when all camera settings were manual with no options for automatic modes. I’ve recently become more interested now that my children are in college and I have more time on my hands. I am trying to improve — I take pictures of anything. I drive my family crazy.


Sister Lucille Welbig

System Member for Avera Health, Vice President of the Presentation Sisters, Sioux Falls, S.D. Sr. Lucille Welbig is a System Member for Avera Health, which acts as a link between Avera and the system’s sponsors —the Benedictine and Presentation Sisters. She sits on multiple boards including those of Avera Sacred Heart Hospital in Yankton and Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center in Sioux Falls.

How has your confidence changed over the years?
I’ve been in leadership roles for 40 years and I have the skills to really do that thanks to the educational opportunities and experiences I’ve been provided. I’m a good communicator and I listen well.

I have done a lot of searching and reflection about who I am and what I’ve been called to do and that helps me focus. Daily prayer helps me focus and stay balanced.

How does being a Sister play into your self-assurance as a leader?
A big responsibility as a System Member is to make sure our mission is at the forefront of all that Avera does. If the board doesn’t talk about mission, then we ask the question for them. The support and encouragement of the Sisters has been a gift in my self-assurance as a leader.

How has spirituality guided your confidence?
I’m an introvert so I like to have quiet time to myself to reflect, and wellness is a part of that. I often take walks and have time to myself; it’s really a stress reliever for me. I like to be outside and in nature. My prayer is to be quiet and listen to where the Lord is taking me. It helps me focus on who I am and what I’m called to do, and it gives me passion for what I’m doing. I need to believe in what I’m doing and confidence follows.

How does balance play a part in making tough decisions?
For any big decision with Avera, we try to do the preparation and get the information and the education ahead of time. We have discussions one day, but we don’t make the decision until the next day. This gives us time to reflect in the evening and pray.


David Starks, MD, MPH and Katherine Wang, MD

Gynecologic Oncologist with Avera Medical Group Gynecologic Oncology Sioux Falls.and Neonatologist with Avera Medical Group Neonatology Sioux Falls, Sioux Falls, S.D., respectively. David Starks and Katherine Wang met where pretty much all doctors meet — medical school. The couple has been married for more than 10 years and say that focusing on family is a great way to recharge and center their lives.

Why is self-assurance important in your day-to-day lives and careers?
Starks: Particularly in our specialties, things can change quickly and you don’t have time to second guess or poll a crowd. You have to have that confidence to fall back on your experience and intervene.

Wang: Once you’ve walked through a situation when you’re between a rock and a hard place, you get a couple tools for the next time. For myself, there is a lot of self-reflection afterwards: what could I have done differently? Those are the things that can keep the mind going to the next situation.

Also, confidence comes when you stop worrying about what other people think. I always want to make a good impression, but I don’t get fixated on that.

Do you have anything that really gives you a boost or helps you in a tough situation?
Wang: I have my dresses. I really enjoy dressing up when I’m not on call because it puts me into work mode and helps me to focus: I am the doctor, the buck stops here and, yes, if there is a tough situation, you call me because I’m the one who has to make the decision. It’s kind of like putting on a uniform.

Starks: We both bolster each other. It’s very nice having someone at home who is in the medical field. Sometimes bouncing ideas off each other actually is very helpful and comforting.

Wang: Touching base with our families is huge. All our vacations are focused on seeing family. That’s how I recharge and reenergize.

So you help balance each other out?
Starks: After 10 years I think we have decent teamwork with two kids and two jobs. I’m terrible at organization so I’m lucky I married someone who loves lists. It seems to work out with our strengths and weaknesses.

Wang: You spend all this time building confidence as a physician so you can be the person in the know. The second half of that is learning to have the grace to say maybe it is someone else who has the best idea how to solve this problem today. It doesn’t always come from the top down.

Live Better. Live Balanced. Avera.

Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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