Healthy Attitude HNE VP Remains Community and Company-minded

When Amy Trombley was a little girl, she used to stage plays in her basement and charge her friends a dime for admission.Then, she’d take her earnings to the local convenience store and carefully slip the coins into the March of Dimes collection card at the counter.

She credits her parents with instilling within her what she calls a “giving spirit,” one that has stayed with her throughout her personal life. But today, Trombley’s charitable tendencies have also found their way into her professional life, aiding in the many community-minded initiatives she leads as vice president of Human Resources at Health New England, the Springfield-based health insurance firm.

“I was brought up in the Kennedy era, and my parents were very careful to teach me that we all have responsibility to share in this world,” Trombley explained. “That mentality is a big part of my life, and is also valued at HNE, so it’s a part of the reason I’ve stayed here so long.”

Her Story

Trombley has worked at HNE in her current position for 13 years, following a number of career moves that were both successful and colorful. Entering the job force at a young age – her first paycheck was earned on a tobacco farm at age 14 – Trombley scrimped and saved for college by holding two or three jobs at a time, including singing in choirs, making grinders in a deli, and working at Riverside Amusement Park, now Six Flags.

“I went to Westfield State College, but I got a job at Steiger’s (department store) and stopped college for a while,” she explained. “At age 19, I was working as a buyer, taking trips to New York City and having an amazing time.”

But the job also exposed Trombley to the business world at an earlier age than most, and she said she felt an affinity for working with people to create the best outcomes through collaboration and personal development. She returned to WSC to complete a degree in psychology, with the intent of using it in a corporate setting, and graduated first in her class.

Trombley didn’t enter the health insurance sector right away. Instead, she began working for ShopRite in 1980, in employee relations. She was later promoted to the position of management recruiter, before she herself was recruited away by Connecticut Mutual five years later and a year after that, by the Monarch Capital Corp. She rose from director of Staffing to vice president of Human Resources during her time at Monarch, earning a graduate degree in organization development from American International College during the same time.

After leaving Monarch during a transitional period at the company, Trombley worked briefly for the Travelers, but a chance meeting with Pam Bostwick, wife of HNE’s then CEO, Rich Belloff, during a class in graduate school led to securing her current post in 1992.

“It was a smaller job than I was used to,” she noted. “I was working with 3,000 people at ShopRite, and when I started here there were 92 employees. But there was no more commute, and something special about the company that attracted me. Over the years, the biggest thing that has kept me here has been the growth and change within the company – it has allowed me to grow and learn as well, so there has been no reason to move on.”

A Wealth of Knowledge

And her position has also exposed her to an increasingly growing number of health and wellness issues, in addition to health insurance, both among employees at HNE and within the community at large.

“I have three major areas of responsibility,” Trombley said, in part to explain the wide range of health care issues that can cross her desk in a given week.

First, I have a human resources department to run. I’m also part of HNE’s senior management team, so about a third of my time is spent on issues that arise at that level.”

She said it’s rare for professionals working in human resources, even at high levels, to be moved to the senior management table, but it was a move that current CEO Peter Straley found necessary in order to keep a strong, continued focus on employee and community relations.

“Peter knows how to use me as a strategic member of the team, and a large part of that is initiating executive coaching and development to make the company stronger,” she said. “Part of that initiative is finding talent from within the community, and recruiting them to our company. We don’t want people leaving Springfield to find work; we want to keep them here – and that means drafting a workforce development plan that takes into account all types of diversity and starting early, in the school systems.”

It’s the third prong of her duties that resonates most with Trombley, however, and where she has made her greatest professional strides.

“The third part of my job is sustaining a community commitment. Since it’s part of my job description, I have to do so for HNE, but more importantly, I really believe in getting out into the community, so it’s a perfect fit.”

It’s also the area in which health and wellness, and their role in the health insurance industry, are most apparent to Trombley.

“We realized early on that there was a whole segment of the community that we were not involved with,” she said. “We needed to create greater relationships with more diverse populations, not just because it made good business sense, but because those were the populations that needed to be served.”

She added that community involvement is also important to boosting health insurance enrollment, which has been waning in recent years.

“We’re seeing declining enrollment in health insurance,” she said, “and there are risks associated with that. Fewer people are electing coverage over other expenses, and that is troublesome in general … we want to get people healthy and have them stay healthy, but at the same time educate them on the importance of having coverage if something does happen by increasing awareness of our services.”

Pounding the Pavement

To that end, Trombley and fellow staff at HNE forged new relationships with several community organizations in Springfield, including the Latino Chamber of Commerce, the Dunbar Community Center in Mason Square, the Springfield Urban League, and the Black Chamber of Commerce Association of New England, to name a few.

Often, Trombley herself is out in the community, working to foster new bonds between HNE and new groups of people. In the past, she has served on the board of directors for the Springfield Visiting Nurses Assoc. and the Community Fund, has volunteered with the Rays of Hope organization to raise funds for cancer research, and has chaired fundraising campaigns with the United Way.

She added that there is also some overlap between her personal commitments and her professional duties. “I give to several charities each year, and my son and I are active in our church, St. John’s in Mason Square. But even when it’s part of my personal life, people have started to associate HNE with me.”

In addition, that association has led to the development of several health-related programs in Mason Square and across the city and the region. HNE regularly stages health fairs and screenings, and is working with the Urban League to create a parent-empowerment program that will help parents learn positive strategies for their children in the areas of wellness, education, safety, and other topics. The HNE Wellness Van, a multi-colored vehicle for weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure screenings among other services, has allowed HNE to extend the reach of its wellness initiatives beyond Springfield’s city limits, and Trombley hopes that trend of expansion into the four counties of Western Mass. will continue.

“We have sourced areas within and around Springfield that need our help, but it’s important to remember that to help Springfield, we must help the entire region,” she said. “It is important for us to maintain an active presence and remain aware of the community’s needs, because we still have a long way to go in terms of helping to improve the health of the Greater Springfield community.”

And when planning new programs and setting goals, Trombley said it’s important to evolve along with an ever-changing industry as well as an ever-changing world.

Heads or Tails

“To be effective, you also have to be progressive, and I’m proud of some of the things HNE has done in that sense,” she said, adding that creating positive change requires the ability to foster strong, consistent plans while remaining open to new ideas.

In short, stick to the script, but be ready to turn on a dime.

Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at stevenson@healthcarenews.com

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