by Dr. Doreen Samelson, Chief Clinical Officer
Six years ago, after working for a large healthcare organization for 20 years, I made the decision to leave and join Catalight and I have never looked back. Catalight, a non- profit, supports individuals with developmental disabilities including autism by removing barriers and biases to create a more equitable and inclusive world. Catalight’s work with families first got my attention, but when I think about what keeps me engaged and inspired in my role at Catalight, I think about their values. Shortly after I joined Catalight, the organization embarked on a journey of examining its values. This work resulted in rich discussions, and for me an opportunity to examine my own values. After several drafts and feedback from our teams, Catalight settled on these four values (see Catalight.org):
- Bold: Act courageously and think
- Equity-informed: Ensure fair and equal access for
- Community-centered: Support and celebrate the experiences of others.
- Wellbeing-driven: Create healthy structures and
While creating values statements was not new to me, what has been new is being part of an organization that strives to really live its values. Each of these values has played a role in my decision to pass right by the traditional retirement age with no intention of retiring from such impactful work. As the Chief Clinical Officer, I am responsible for ensuring that all our clinical services and programs live up to our values. But I don’t do this alone. I am privileged to have a great team that believes as strongly as I do that we must continue to strive to make sure our values are embodied in the work we do. Here is how I see myself and my team members at Catalight living our values.
- Bold: My team and I develop new treatment modalities that push the boundaries of what many people think treatment should look like for autism and other developmental disabilities. And we started the Catalight Research Institute to support new ideas and data-driven outcomes.
- Equity-informed: As an organization, we realized we had work to do in this As a white person, I’ve had the opportunity to meet regularly over the last three years with a black colleague at Catalight for open and meaningful conversations. As leaders, we have been encouraged to examine our own biases and be transparent about the work we must commit to if Catalight is to be an organization that leans into equity as a value for our employees and the families we serve.
- Community-centered: As Catalight expands our services to reach more underrepresented and underserved families, my team and I have used qualitative research methods to learn from the feedback we are getting from This important data will help us better serve our families as we extend our reach.
- Wellbeing-driven: Wellbeing has become a daily conversation and effort at My team and I developed three clinical wellbeing scales and wellbeing is measured for employees too.
Everything is not perfect at my job and some days I think, “well, my 70th birthday is getting closer, and many of my friends are retired,” then another family needs us, and my team has new ideas to make our programs better and I feel grateful to be able to work for an organization that is willing to work on living our values. So retirement can wait – there is important work to be done!
For more information, please contact
Dr. Doreen Samelson, Chief Clinical Officer