Women Who Mean Business

Carmen Parker-Bradshaw is a Woman Who Means Business

Carmen Parker-Bradshaw just began at Burrell Behavioral Health two years ago, yet she has already made great strides toward enhancing company culture, lowering wait times for patients and expanding outreach to patients in Northwest Arkansas.

By Tessa Cooper | Art Direction by Sarah Patton | Makeup by KKD Beauty Café

Mar 2020

Carmen Parker-Bradshaw Community Health Expert
Photo by Brandon AlmsCarmen Parker-Bradshaw Community Health Expert Purchase Photo

Editor's note: Since the initial publication of this article, Carmen Parker-Bradshaw is no longer associated with Burrell Behavioral Health.

Carmen Parker-Bradshaw is an idea person, but what sets her apart from most dreamers is her ability to take ideas and see them to fruition. In other words, she makes stuff happen. 

Take MSU Care Clinic for example. The Mercy affiliate clinic provided nearly 3,000 office visits for uninsured low-income adult patients, ages 18 to 64, in its first year of operation alone. And it was Parker-Bradshaw who, while working as a system director at Mercy, first presented the idea to collaborate with Missouri State University to provide uninsured, low-income individuals with access to health care. “Something that I’ve always been passionate about is caring for the marginalized population,” Parker-Bradshaw says. 

But before improving the Springfield health care scene, Parker-Bradshaw spent time in Washington, D.C. as an executive healthcare fellow. These fellowships focused on policy initiatives with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Global Health Affairs and World Health Organization. Through this experience, she got to draft papers for the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and she helped see it through authorization and implementation with public health entities across national borders.

She went on to further her policy fellowships on public health initiatives focused on tuberculosis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other domestic and international communicable diseases and essential public health functions. “Ultimately, as a fellow, I served as an advocate and ambassador for public health, and it was the starting point in which I realized for our nation’s population health to improve, vast policy changes were needed at the domestic and international level, hence focusing my career.”

Her time in D.C. also sparked her advocacy for marginalized populations and helped her understand that if the most vulnerable people don’t have equal access to health care to reach healthy outcomes, they are limited in their overall individual success and contribution to their community.

These passions had lead her to a niche area of the healthcare field in Springfield, working with Mercy and MSU on healthcare accessibility. Taking on the role of chief administrative officer at Burrell Behavioral Health seemed like a natural career progression. On the strategic side of things, she provides executive oversight for the non-clinical and administrative performance of the organization—which requires collaboration with clinical leadership to make sure they meet their goals while upholding their mission.

“[I] quickly realized that I could not let being the youngest person in the room minimize my impact.”
— Carmen Parker-Bradshaw

Since she started at Burrell, Parker-Bradshaw has made it her mission to lower the wait time for patients. She’s helped implement procedures that connect individuals with qualified mental health professionals as quickly as possible. In the past two years, Burrell has decreased wait times by 57%. To achieve this, she and the team evaluated all of their clinical processes to make sure the patients’ experiences were as simple and comfortable as possible. Now, Burrell also offers telehealth options, including a robust telepsychiatry program.

“Even though we are becoming more comfortable as a society to talk about mental health, it doesn’t mean it’s any easier to go get help,” she says. For example, you might be willing to go get help because you are less fearful of the stigma, but help isn’t always easily accessible if you’re uninsured. Getting an appointment that fits your schedule, like during the evening, can be a challenge too. “At Burrell, we are doing everything we can to make access in real-time available, wherever you are, whenever you need it,” Parker-Bradshaw says.

It often takes a bit of convincing with a dash of excellent communication skills to make big changes, such a large decrease in patient wait time happen. According to Parker-Bradshaw, her role requires equal parts logic and gumption. And at 37 years old, she knows what it’s like to be the youngest person and the gender minority in a boardroom, but she doesn’t let that intimidate her, and she isn’t the least bit bitter about it. 

“When I started my career in Missouri, I reported to a board of directors that was all male, and dare I say, males over the age of 50,” she recalls. “Then, I started serving on state boards that were largely the same variety and quickly realized I could not let being the youngest person in the room minimize my impact.” She says she has learned when and how to receive and respond to redirection or constructive feedback while knowing when to boldly speak up and convince her peers or superiors to change their perspective. “As women, I think we have a responsibility to not let fear undermine our success or our future potential opportunities,” Parker-Bradshaw says. “We often are extra-filtered or try too hard to be accommodating and politically correct when no one else in the room is doing that. We have developed this belief that if we speak our mind it will lessen our opportunity to be considered an equal at the table. And that is complete and utter BS.”

Parker-Bradshaw goes after what she wants with full force, especially if she believes it is for the good of public health. And she’s just getting started. She hopes to begin working on the national level in health care reform and advocacy. “I am still pretty young, but I have encountered far too many first-hand experiences and legislative testimonies to know the difference access to care can have on a person, a community, an economy, and so on.”



Overland Park, Kansas


Married with one daughter and one son


Playing pingpong and board games, drinking wine and spending time in nature with her family and friends


Cordially parting ways with Mercy to step into her new role at Burrell


“It’s okay to have more fun. I got very serious really quickly after grad school, which is great; it’s done well for me personally. But sometimes I think, especially as a woman, we feel like we have to look like we’re so professional to be taken seriously. I feel like the older I get, the more I’m loosening up.”


“Finesse” by Bruno Mars featuring Cardi B

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