Iowa native Clare Kelly returned from Washington, D.C., in August when she was hired as executive vice president of the Iowa Medical Society (IMS), the statewide professional association for Iowa physicians. She spent 13 years in Washington, where she worked as a lobbyist for the Children’s National Medical Center for six years and director of federal legislative affairs for the National Association of Children’s Hospitals. Before that, she was a fund-raiser for Sen. Chuck Grassley during his re-election bid in 1998. Kelly began her career as a legislative clerk in the Iowa State Senate. IMS, the statewide professional association for Iowa M.D.s and D.O.s, has a long history of serving Iowa physicians and their patients. With nearly 5,300 members, the Iowa Medical Society’s mission is to advance medical science and promote fair medical laws and regulations in the state.

Did you envision yourself becoming a lobbyist?

I didn’t. It’s funny; I’m not someone who had a grand plan for a career. I just followed my passions, and if I was enjoying what I was doing, I just kept going. So I had this kind of wandering career path following what I enjoy, because if I have to get up in the morning and I don’t like what I’m doing, it’s not going to be a good day.

What was the most important lesson you’ve learned being a lobbyist?

It applies to any career, but having integrity and being true to yourself. Lobbyists get a bad rap, but the majority of them are hard-working and passionate about the causes they’re serving. They’re the experts on those issues, and the legislators need them because they can’t be experts on everything. So it’s about integrity and being true to yourself.

What do you feel your biggest accomplishment has been so far?

I think that in some small way, either direct or indirect, that my work had an impact on the life of a child. I think the success in garnering funding for graduate medical education in free-standing children’s hospitals ensured that we would have a continued stream of pediatricians and specialists for kids.

What prompted you to return to Iowa?

I was starting to get that itch to come back. It seemed like every time I would come back, whether for a family thing or Hawkeye football, it was harder and harder to get on the plane and go back to D.C. And the more I read about the great things that were happening back in the state, how Des Moines was growing and getting all kinds of accolades ... it just seemed like the timing was right.

How do you see your role with the IMS?

I’m fortunate to come into an organization that is already well-established and respected. I really see it as taking a great organization to the best organization that it can be.

How do you and the IMS view health-care reform?

It’s the law of the land, and regardless of what happens with the presidential election, reform at some level is moving and we have to be at the table. We really want it to be physician-driven, patient-driven, because we know the spending can’t be sustained. Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on much at all, but I think they all agree the rate of spending can’t continue, so we’ve got to be in that conversation.

What do you enjoy doing for fun?

Following all Hawkeye athletics; I’m a graduate of the University of Iowa and I’m a huge fan and a big supporter. I’m also enjoying getting into hot yoga ... it’s a really good workout.

What are some of your personal goals?

I’ve done two marathons, and I’ve wanted to buy a house ... I’m going to close on a house by my next birthday.

What was your first paying job?

Detasseling corn. I walked beans, too. And we did not ride on any machines. One time it was so muddy I got down to the end of my row and my foot got sucked in the mud. I just walked out of my shoe and kept going. Somewhere in the middle of a cornfield in Iowa is my ratty old shoe, with my name on it.