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In Praise of the Science of Love

In Praise of the Science of Love

By Vignetta Charles, PhD | February 14, 2018
Chief Executive Officer, ETR

How’s your love life? Today is Valentine’s Day, so no surprise if your thoughts turn to romantic relationships. But I’m actually talking about a different kind of love at the moment—love related to leadership, mission and work.

We know love is good for people. Much like gratitude, scientific research suggests a variety of health benefits from love and connection. Loneliness and social isolation have been identified as risk factors for early mortality.

Couples in happy relationships have more robust immune systems. Hugs and other types of physical touch release naturally occurring oxytocin into the body. This doesn’t just feel fantastic. It gives us a more positive outlook on our world, improves heart health and decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Science, Connection and Love

ETR brings science-based approaches to all of our research, services and products. Science matters to us. We strive to connect with and support our colleagues and partners as we all work to advance health equity. These are some of the reasons it’s exciting to reflect on the science of connectedness and love.

Even more important to me today is that we are an organization that leads with love. This is a tenet I learned from one of my mentors, Mark Ishaug, CEO of Thresholds. In the wonderful video below, he describes the research that shows the benefits of powering an organization with love. It’s good for employees (less absenteeism, higher job satisfaction, greater commitment to teamwork). It’s good for those you serve (better health outcomes). It’s good for organizations (offering the power to transform, resist, persist and defend, to create systems change and change hearts and minds).

Our entire Leadership Team at ETR is committed to leading with love. It’s a good style for us. But it is also an organization-wide value related to our mission-driven work. I believe our entire staff brings this value to their work every day. We endeavor to approach our work with compassion, gratitude, empathy and inclusion, and to ground it in love—for the outstanding opportunity to advance our mission and the extraordinary privilege of playing a role in this effort.

So, on this Valentine’s Day, my wish is that you are lucky enough to enjoy love for your work, your team and your mission.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Vignetta Charles, PhD, is Chief Executive Officer of ETR. Dr. Charles can be reached at


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