Veracity: It’s More Than a Word

2013 CTU Kansas City Commencement Speech by CTU (formerly SBC) alumni and Chief Operating Officer and Founder of Mobile Wound Solutions, Martha Kelso.

CTU Kansas City Graduation Speaker - Martha Kelso at the podiumRecently, CTU (formerly SBC) alumni and health care entrepreneur, Martha Kelso, addressed Colorado Technical University (CTU) Kansas City graduates, offering her perspective on the word “veracity” and how new graduates can use it to be successful in their careers. Following is her full commencement speech.

First, let me congratulate you graduates, friends, and loved ones on this very special and momentous occasion. Today is such a milestone event in any person’s life and you all should be proud of the steps you’ve taken.

For some of you, this is just the beginning. Graduation is a steppingstone toward other things in your future. For others, it’s the final step toward goals that you’ve created at some point in the past. Whichever path you’re on, it must be the right path for you.

My desire to be a nurse started when I was 8 years old. Our family made one of our once-a-month Sunday trips from Marysville, Kansas, to Beatrice, Nebraska, to see Grandpa, who lived in a nursing home. After spending time visiting, I became bored in his room and decided to go up to the front where they always had bags of popcorn. On my way through the long hallways, I heard someone crying out for help. I looked around and did not see a staff member nearby. Continuing to hear the cry for help begging and pleading for someone … anyone … to come help, I went to the nurse’s station and did not find anyone there.

Finally deciding that I was someone and I could help, I tracked down the source of the desperate plea. It was an elderly woman in a wheelchair. The wheelchair was caught on the handle of the door and the woman was not able to get the wheelchair unstuck without help.

I was able to maneuver the wheelchair away from the handle of the door. The woman thanked me over and over again, and then asked me to push her next to her bed. She told me how tired she was and how she just wished to lay down. She showed me she was tied in to the wheelchair but couldn’t reach the tie to get it undone so she could stand. I did not understand what a restraint was or that it was there for her safety. Feeling empowered by my good deed of getting her unstuck from the door, I untied her and helped her stand.

She sat down on the bed and I lifted her legs in to the bed. She told me her feet hurt so bad and asked me to take off her shoes, so I did. I knew how proud my parents would be that I helped rescue this poor soul. They would be so happy that I was around at just the right time.

Then I heard a voice from the door.

It said, “What do you think you’re doing?!”

I tried to tell the nurse about how helpful I was and how I saved the elderly woman from the door. The nurse let me know the shoes I had just removed were special shoes to help her feet heal because she had fractures. She had the fractures because she kept getting up and falling. She demanded to know where my parents were and whom I was there to visit. I answered, “Grandpa Johnson.”

She paged for the family of John Johnson to return to the nurses’ station. I was so scared. My parents looked at me with disappointment for putting the life of a resident at risk. The facility told my parents I could no longer be in the facility unattended for any reason as I posed a threat to residents. I was devastated and confused. I could not understand how someone could need help so desperately and not be able to find someone to help them. It was then that I realized that I wanted to be part of the solution.

Later, when I was 15 years old, my mother had noticed an ad in the local paper advertising for Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) classes through a work-study program in high school. She suggested I take the classes since I had such a strong desire to help others. I completed the classes and my career in health care was born.

After six years of working as a CNA, I moved to Kansas City to go to college.

As stated in my introduction, I graduated from the North Kansas City Campus 14 years ago. For me that graduation ceremony marked the halfway point in my journey. I was 21. After graduation, I took a couple of years to rest, restock, refuel, and recuperate before beginning the next leg of the journey.

Along the path I chose, I began to discover who I was, who I thought I wanted to be, and ultimately who I was meant to be. It was a wild ride with some great sightseeing adventures. I enjoyed it, but I was always restless. I couldn’t seem to find the one place that made me feel like me. The place that just felt right. So I kept searching, learning along the way. I saw every job, every person and every opportunity as a learning experience. It was all really a challenge and a chance to do better.

I am 36 now. When I reflected back in preparation to share some words of wisdom with you, I realized my 20-year career in health care could be summed up in one word. That word is veracity.

Veracity is not just a word; it’s a concept. It’s a noun. It’s a principle. It could be a descriptor used to describe someone as veracious. And yes, by calling someone that the word is a compliment. Use it at Thanksgiving time to describe a family member at the table and see what response you get, “Hey Mom, Grandma is being veracious again.”

They’ll wonder what Colorado Technical University’s been teaching you.

You see veracity is about THE truth. It’s about being true to one another. It’s about being true to your loved ones. Veracity is about being true to your employer, community and mankind. But most of all, it is about being true to yourself.

When you made the decision to further your education, it was a big step toward fulfilling that need to be truthful. Making the decision to stick with it and graduate was another good step in the right direction. You could even describe it as being real. Again I say congratulations to our graduates.

So the question is: Now what?

You are starting down your career path with your new degree, new title, or new certificate. I want to challenge you to continue your path of truthfulness. Veracity.

Superman has been America’s icon since 1933. He flew around in blue leotards and a red cape. The concept of Superman was to have someone who could save the damsels in distress and fight injustices around the world to keep us safe. What did Superman fight for? “Truth, Justice and the American way.”  

In a word, he fought for veracity.

Similarly, Wonder Woman had a powerful weapon known as the Lasso of Truth. It could force anyone in its grip to be honest even against his or her will. Again, veracity.

Captain Freedom goes on a Quest for Truth, simply looking for the real honest answers.

As you can see, veracity embodies superheroes time and time again, but we don’t need superheroes’ capes and names to embody their spirit.

In 2010 I was working in a clinic treating wounds and ulcers. One of the physicians I worked with decided he no longer wanted to treat patients at the clinic, but rather wanted to go to them. He saw a need in our community of Kansas City and had a desire to fulfill that need. He talked to me about his idea, and I promptly told him he was nuts and had no idea what he was getting into. We dropped it.

A few months later, he approached me again with his idea. I asked how serious he was and he confirmed he really felt driven to make this idea a reality. I started drawing up the business plan and ideas on how to make his idea a reality.

We started by making sure a need truly existed. We quickly found out it did. We structured the company to align with Christian values, and also wanted to be sure we could provide access to everyone, even if they couldn’t afford the services. We knew we would not get rich from treating patients if they had no insurance and no money, but we believed it was the right thing to do. We believed if we did the right thing at all times, the business and the money would come.

We joined hands and jumped off the cliff together without our leotards and capes. We quit our full-time jobs. We launched the practice in March 2011. We were told we were crazy. We were told it wouldn’t work. We had national companies telling us to abandon the idea and our desire to make Kansas City a better place, and that we would only ever be little fish in a big sea that would quickly get swallowed up.

We decided to continue because we wanted to be true to ourselves, true to our beliefs, and true to our nation’s elderly and retired poor residing in nursing homes in the greater Kansas City area.

Our belief in doing the right thing created a ripple effect that quickly turned into a tidal wave. Within six months, we were nationally benchmarked against other wound providers across the United States. We had the highest heal rates compared to the rest of the nation. News crews began asking what we were doing to get such phenomenal results. They wanted to know our magic remedy. They wanted to know which lotion or potion we were using to heal people quicker than anyone else. Our answer was simple. We were doing the right thing for the patients to the best of our ability at all times and educating along the way.

The answer was so unusual that the media was stunned. We treated 47,000 visits our first two years in business. We are in four states now, with our corporate office located in Kansas City, and are scheduled to treat 45,000 visits this year alone.

Now I want to share the most important element of our success. We have one rule. It is a rule that could have only come from someone born and raised in the Midwest. The rule is this: when you are out in clinic rounding at nursing homes or hospitals doing your daily routine, act every moment of the day as if your mother was standing next to you the entire time.

This concept is so simple. If you are doing something and your mother would frown, you shouldn’t be doing it. If you are doing something and you could picture your mother saying with a smile, “That’s my kid,” then you’re doing the right thing. Of course, if you aren’t sure that your mother fits the bill for our moral compass, pick a nice neighbor or a spectacular aunt. Regardless, the concept rings true.

This concept is about the nature of veracity. Of course, we have numerous policies that have to be followed. That’s just the nature of health care, but that is our one rule for our doctors, our managers, our nurses, our office managers, everyone employed by us or representing us in any way. Not a single week has passed us by since March 2011 when we haven’t had to ask each other and ourselves: Are we doing the right thing? When trying to answer a difficult question or solve a complicated scenario this one question has served us well.

Graduates, teaching you the concept of veracity is the gift I want to leave you. Please take this concept away with you. As Ghandi stated, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” When you do, you will leave the world better than you came in to it.

As you go out into your professional settings, I hope our paths cross somewhere in the future. I hope you take the time to say, “Hello,” and tell me the stories you’ve created in your own lives when you followed the path you were meant to follow.

I also extend my congratulations to your friends and your loved ones and say thank you for being here to support these graduates on their special day.

Graduates, once again, congratulations to you. I am proud of you and your accomplishments and achievements at Colorado Technical University. I know your path wasn’t easy. Anything worth doing is never easy, but when you follow your beliefs and drive to do better, it is always worthwhile.

Remember, veracity. It’s not just a word.

Thank you.

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Image Credit: Davis Baker Photography

Colorado Technical University cannot guarantee employment or salary.  This graduate story is unique and may not represent the typical experiences or outcomes for our graduates.