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DeDe Willis with children in rural China.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—There is a Chinese legend that tells of an invisible red thread connecting all people who are destined to meet, regardless of time or place. The proverb holds that this red string may stretch, but never break. The legend has many meanings to Deanna “DeDe” Willis, M.D. (MBA ’99), associate professor of family medicine, vice chair of research and statewide director of Social and Community Context of Healthcare Competency at the IU School of Medicine.

“I think it’s a great concept that if people really are intended to be tied together, fate is going to keep them together, regardless of what happens or what circumstances occur,” she said.

Willis first heard of the proverb when she and her husband adopted two young girls from China, with red strings stretching halfway around the globe.

“It is really touching and changing a life in a special way,” she said of her children.

The Kelley Indianapolis alumna recently authored a variation of the Pride and Prejudice love story, titled Mr. Darcy’s Mistake, a book that rose to the top ten regency romance new releases on Amazon.com. Penned under her husband’s surname, Schamberger, Willis self-published her book on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback. The growing genre of variations on the Jane Austen book offers different perspectives of the tale in which two protagonists are continually pulled together by fate.

 “There are hundreds of books out there in that genre and hardly any of them actually separate the two characters,” said Willis. “It is such a powerful story that every author takes on the challenge of eventually pulling them back together.”

Proceeds from the sales of Willis’ book will go to a cause close to her heart: Chinese orphanages.

“We are in the process of organizing a group of medical students to go to orphanages in rural China every summer to work with the kids and caregivers to identify medical and developmental challenges and address those on an ongoing basis,” said Willis. “Even if we get donated a wheelchair that fits a certain child, we still have to get that wheelchair to the child in rural China, and that’s not inexpensive.”

In her work at the medical school, Willis instructs students and researches and designs activities for improving care delivery in the health system. After receiving her MBA from Kelley Indianapolis in 1999, Willis worked in private practice before becoming a faculty member at the IU School of Medicine.

“I use my MBA every day, whether it’s writing budgets or analyzing the impact of a pilot program,” she said. “Even understanding how to market my book on Amazon when I became a top 10 seller in regency romance. It comes from that conceptual ability to go in and understand how Amazon decides to promote your book to customers and what it takes to drive that and working to achieve those strategic actions. A lot of it is just designing a conceptual approach to how to address and solve issues and work towards strategic goals.”

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