We had the good fortune of connecting with Tom Willner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tom, how does your business help the community or the world?
I feel very fortunate to help people on multiple fronts. My business, Center Stage Education, provides keynotes and continuing education classes for healthcare professionals using storytelling and music. My partner, Anne McSweeney, and I teach about the patient experience and clinical empathy using my musical about my experience as a cancer patient. Research has shown that clinical empathy improves patient outcomes, so our hope is that our education is ultimately helping improve patients’ lives. Also, the healthcare professionals we serve tell us that our unique approach not only helps them understand their patients on a deeper level but that they feel reinvigorated about what they do after they work with us. In addition, I work in technology for Georgia State University, where we are known for our innovative use of technology to help students. We are ranked third most innovative university and ninth in top performers for social mobility in the country by US News and World Report.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have worked in technology for most of my career but have also been a musician as well. I always joked my ultimate career goal was to be paid to be Tom, and that required combining various skills and passions of mine. I spent two decades doing technology (and some music!) in the nonprofit sector for a cause I’m passionate about – cancer. However, about five years ago, the organization where I worked changed significantly, I began exploring the next step in my career and knew I wanted to make some big changes. I worked with a career counselor, learned a lot about myself, and began taking actions to change my career trajectory. I ultimately moved into higher education doing technology, which I love, and started a business using my music for healthcare education. I found my skills and passions all coalescing around education, perhaps one of my earliest passions. I am now halfway through the pursuit of my Master of Education degree and hope to ultimately pursue a doctorate. My long term goal is to change education for the better using technology and the arts.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would take them for some hikes, like at Sweetwater Creek Park and Pine Mountain, and out on the Beltline (check out the Krog Street tunnel) and to Piedmont Park. We’d go watch the DragonCon parade then have lunch at the Sun Dial. There are so many places I would consider for food. I love the Virginia-Highlands, so we could eat at Babbette’s Cafe, Murphy’s, Atkins Park, Truva, Osteria, and Doc Chey’s. I also love Dua Vietnamese downtown on Broad Street or in the Sweet Auburn Market. I’d probably include an Atlanta United game at the Benz.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to thank David Harris, Co-Founder and Executive Director at Rock Springs. He has been a mentor of mine for many years, and recently, working with him as my career counselor helped me literally change my life for the better.