Growing up, Jo Gardner knew she wanted to work with others.

“I’ve always been a people person,” she said.

With encouragement from her family, Gardner combined her passion with her love of learning to become a doctor. After graduating from medical school, she began her career in India, working in rural, underserved areas.

“That was where my desire to do more in OB-GYN was born as I enjoyed being a part of the miracle of birth,” Gardner said.

Gardner pursued her interest and came to Nebraska to complete a family practice residency at Clarkson Family Medicine.

“The program I attended at Clarkson was amazing for OB-GYN,” Gardner said. “I did about 300 deliveries during those three years.”

Gardner joined a private practice after residency, working in OB-GYN and family medicine before practicing at Alegent Health at Lakeside.

“I loved the fact that I could deliver my pregnant patient’s babies, follow their kids and continue to follow the moms when they were done having babies,” Gardner said. “You really get close to families and build relationships.”

Gardner met her husband in medical school. Once he graduated and went into practice, she had the opportunity to become a stay-at-home mom.

“I feel very blessed to have been able to raise our children,” Gardner said.

Returning to work, Gardner pivoted in her career and took on the role of medical director at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE).

At BCBSNE, she’s part of a team that researches conditions and treatments to set medical necessity criteria. Additionally, her team reviews prior authorization requests and claims.

Gardner said that while students don’t receive much medical management training or learn a lot about health insurance in medical school, she’s always had questions.

“When the opportunity came up, I was keen to learn more about this side of the playing field,” she said.

Gardner said her favorite part of being a medical director is contributing to people’s health and lives.

“Even though there’s no direct patient contact, I’m still impacting the health of our members behind the scenes,” Gardner said. “I use my clinical experience to look at what is necessary and what is not to make sure patients are getting the appropriate, evidence-based care they need.”

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