Dan D’Orazio spent the school breaks and summers of his youth toiling in his father’s Philadelphia-area pasta factory.
After earning a degree in foreign service in Washington, he came to Baltimore and spent the first years of his professional career as a social worker, focusing on criminal defendants, prisoners and at-risk youths on probation.
He knows that this is not an obvious path to his current job running Sage Growth Partners LLC, a Baltimore-based health care research, strategy and marketing firm.
But working for the family business and with city kids reinforced his desire to help others. His father, a cheese maker pressed to operate the family pasta business after D’Orazio’s grandfather died, told him that he just needed to find what he was really passionate about building or improving.
At Sage, he said, he helps health care operations like hospitals and heath systems, as well as all of the firms that serve them, continue to grow in a purposeful way.
“All these organizations, whether big or small,” he said, “what we do for all of them is help them really understand who they are as business, what problems they solve and how to authentically position them in a world where everyone is starting to look and sound alike.”
D’Orazio had been working his way up the urban social services ranks and had moved into leadership development when he decided to go to business school at Johns Hopkins. He wanted to combine his skills to benefit organizations in some way, but outside of social work (and pasta making).
After earning his MBA, he was offered a job at a new operation called Sage, though he knew nothing about health care.
His father had taught him not only to follow his passions, but he advised D’Orazio to take risks if he wanted rewards. D’Orazio became Sage’s first employee in 2005, as director of corporate development, and started learning all he could about the industry.
He became president in 2016 and CEO this past September. He said that has allowed him to help other organizations, including local ones such as the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center and LifeBridge Health, and big firms such as Boston Scientific and GE Healthcare.
Sage now has 35 employees. The firm keeps revenues private but said last year, the marketing business grew by more than 60 percent and the strategy business grew by more than 30 percent. It added 16 new clients, many who rely on the firm on an ongoing basis.
It’s newest frontier is tele-medicine, a means of helping organizations and companies not only to provide more services, but allowing more people to gain access to health care. Sage already has four new clients.
“We are hyper-focused on providing value to these operations,” he said. “Some now are even outside the U.S. market.”
That’s a long way from running machinery in Philly.