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Healthcare executive and community advocate takes new role with Peak Performance Group


Debra Willis

RICHMOND, VA – Peak Performance Group, the worksite benefits communication and enrollment firm, reached across the industry aisle to hire long-time healthcare executive and community advocate Debra Willis as its business development manager this month.


Willis’ experience of more than 40 years in healthcare means she brings a wealth of knowledge to the insurance and benefits side in her new position with PPG. Her extensive background as president of Partners in Healthcare, LLC for 12 years and Respiratory Care for 17 years, board chair for EZ Bites Nutrition for cognitive loss individuals, and past president of Ms. Wheelchair Virginia, a 501(c)3, means she also brings a large community network and connections to the benefits business.


“I have been very entrenched with the healthcare market and in the healthcare arena, so branching out into the insurance world is a new venture for me. It’s a new journey,” Willis said. “I was impressed with the Peak Performance Group’s story and heartfelt mission. Being locally owned and operated resonated with me as a professional in the community. It was their authentic, genuine, and honest approach to this ‘other business world’ that captured me.”

The company’s mission is one developed by PPG founders Laura and John Millen to educate both employees and employers about benefits packages and bring a more personal touch to the vague world of healthcare and employee benefits. PPG works with small businesses to optimize benefit solutions and provide better coverage as well as better understanding of the complicated world of healthcare insurance without increasing costs.


“With over 17 years of experience in the employee benefits industry, we can spot a special person when we meet them,” said PPG Managing Partner John Millen. “That person is Debra. When I learned that she was open to other career opportunities I jumped immediately. Debra's unique genius is her ability to connect with others on a personal level. She will be our ambassador to help put the CARE back into healthcare, and put the HUMAN back into human resources, for any employer that truly cares about their most valuable asset, their employees.”

Willis began her career as a music specialist dealing with all aspects of chronic and mental illness, she also has experience in social work and healthcare marketing. During her career, she has seen how insurance benefits impact people’s lives.


“I believe wholeheartedly that what John and Laura are trying to do with PPG’s out-of-the box thinking is putting customers first and being able to create win-win scenarios with employers and their employees to get better benefits and to be better served,” she said.


“I think when people start talking about insurance and benefits there is a veil that goes up,” she explained. The fact that so many workers don’t understand their insurance coverage and employers remain fearful of the cost of providing good coverage ignites a fire in Willis to change that for the better.


“I am learning and I will use my skill set to help transform people’s ideas about benefits and to transform awareness and education about benefits specifically to the small business owners,” she said, adding that she wants to use her vast network in the industry and the community to continue to grow Peak Performance Group.


During her first week with PPG she participated in a two-day marketing strategic planning session and helped develop plans for the next year, including more outreach and community education with events such as mini-seminars and lunches. She will begin her efforts “in her own backyard” of Virginia but sees PPG and her work extending nationally.


“I’m ready for it,” she said. “The passion, the conviction and the integrity come from living in that healthcare world on the other side. Now I want to bring value to employees and employers to help them understand their benefits, to understand what is going to be in their best interest and have a better quality of life.”


Debra is married with two grown children and a 15-year-old granddaughter. She has a busy life outside of her professional career in which music plays a big role. She directs a multi-voice community choir of 30 and as assistant director of an 85-member choir. She performs as a part of a duo, playing the piano, and she is a duplicate bridge life master. She attended Richard Bland College at VCU and is a self-described student of life.


PPG was founded at the end of August 2001. The business has weathered the ups and downs of the economy: surviving 9/11, the Recession of 2008, and Obamacare. John and Laura Millen built a benefits network that makes them the leading local resource of understanding the ins and outs of the entire industry.


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