May 27, 2020
Healthcare Leadership During the COVID-19 Pandemic
1. How long have you been with SUNY Empire?
I joined SUNY Empire in March 2009, so I just passed my 11th anniversary.
2. What courses are you currently teaching in the MBA in Healthcare Leadership program?
My background is in hospital leadership, and I teach a number of related courses on topics including management of healthcare systems, evidence-based decision making, governance and trusteeship, and strategic planning.
It’s important to acknowledge that it is a team effort. I am fortunate to work side by side with outstanding colleagues. Alan Belasen, with whom I partnered to develop the program, teaches courses on leadership and communication. Jeff Ritter has expertise in healthcare economics and marketing. Howard Zwickel teaches courses in ethics and legal and regulatory affairs. Betul Lus teaches quantitative methods and operations management. Sylwia Starnawska teaches healthcare finance. Magdy Roufaiel teaches healthcare accounting and quality control. And we have two physicians, Norman Angell and Tom Zimmerman, who focus on health policy and information systems, respectively. Both Norman and Tom earned their MBAs with us.
3. How is the MBA in Healthcare Leadership program addressing the COVID19 pandemic? How are your students responding?
Most of our students are on the front lines, delivering healthcare or supporting those who do in various administrative capacities. They face firsthand what most of us see on the news each day – shortages of equipment, supplies, and staff, considerable influxes of very sick patients, and anxiety about exposure to COVID-19 and the potential for putting their families at risk. We began linking course themes to the health crisis just as it began to unfold. For example, my course on evidence-based decision-making placed more emphasis on crisis management principles so students could evaluate the quality of their organization’s responses and, if possible, shape them. Course discussions also became opportunities for students to share ideas on what was working and not working in their organizations. While it is important to ensure that learning goals are achieved, it is also important to provide an atmosphere of support and understanding. For people on the front lines, working 10-12 hours a day, anything other than work and family – like schoolwork – can be burdensome. To soldier on in the program means they feel it is worth the time and effort. We have used students’ experience with the pandemic as an ongoing case study, one experienced in real time. I discovered, almost unexpectedly, that despite the enormity of work effort devoted to their jobs, engagement in courses did not waver. In fact, we are arranging periodic check-ins via Zoom for students who just completed our program.
4. What do you like best about SUNY Empire?
I am inspired every day by the students. It is a real privilege to work with people who have committed themselves to enhancing the corner of the healthcare world they each occupy. Our students represent diverse professions in the healthcare sector – hospital executives, physicians and nurses, directors of clinical and diagnostic programs, financial managers, medical practice administrators, insurance company managers, government agency supervisors, and many more. Serving the needs of patients is the great equalizer in our program. Ultimately, that’s what healthcare is all about, no matter the nature of the job. The key is to gain insight into how each of our roles can positively influence the larger whole. At the same time, this program provides students with an opportunity to define aspirations and gain the knowledge and skills to achieve them. A recent graduate is a chaplain in a Brooklyn medical center. His goal was to develop skills so he could return home to West Africa to build a small hospital to care for the poorest of the poor. Talk about inspiring!
5. What would you tell a prospective student looking to study this or related fields?
Health care management is a major growth field. Perhaps more importantly, it can be extraordinarily gratifying, providing the chance to directly make a positive difference in people’s lives. I worked in hospital administration for many years, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and Union Hospital in New Jersey, and I continue to work with hospitals, primarily on planning. A number of my faculty colleagues also have experience as healthcare professionals. Students joining our MBA in Healthcare Leadership have our commitment that they will learn about the field’s considerable and complex challenges and how to capably manage through it. In so doing, students become better equipped to broaden their contributions and take on additional responsibility. Much like they must see each patient as an individual human worthy of individual attention, we believe each student benefits from individualized attention.
SUNY Empire is an ideal place to earn an MBA in Healthcare Leadership. The mentoring ethic is deeply rooted in the college’s history and encourages us to care about each student and ensure that their studies are aligned with their professional goals, that the learning culture dignifies the perspective and experience of each student, that we engage our students with respect, and that we challenge them do their best.