Conducted by Anton J. Johnson, MHA Candidate ’16, on February 13, 2015
Can you tell me a bit about your current position and how your career path led you to where you are now since graduating with your MHA?
I graduated from the MHA program in 2004, upon which I worked for OhioHealth as a project manager in their organizational development department. It was very similar to a fellowship in that I worked in the corporate office amongst executive leaders. My role was to help implement “Corporate University,” a virtual structure used to integrate learning opportunities with the strategies of the organization. I also led with the implementation of an e-learning system. These roles gave me a good 30,000 foot view of the organization and allowed me to develop good mentorship relationships with a few of the executives at OhioHealth.
My next position was at Johns Hopkins Medicine as a Division Administrator for the Division of Rheumatology, a role I held for about 3.5 years. This was my first exposure to faculty practice management, overseeing both the university and clinical operations. During my tenure with Johns Hopkins, I was selected to complete the Johns Hopkins Medicine Leadership development program, which proved very beneficial to my career back then and today.
I was recruited to Emory in 2010. My first position was in the Department of Internal Medicine, managing six specialties with a primary focus on clinical operations. I spent three years implementing new processes that allowed for greater standardization of the practices and financial stability. This led to a promotion into my current role as Clinical Department Administrator for the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. In this role, I once again assumed responsibility for the business, financial and strategic operations of both the university and clinical operations, including academic and research functions.
You’ve spent a good amount of your career in academic medical centers, and very reputable ones at that. What unique challenges and opportunities do you think Academic Medical Centers (AMC) present, and what advice would you give students who are interested in working in a university health system?
Although AMCs are often bureaucratic and sometimes political, there is definitely a notion of innovation, discovery, and energy that circulates making it a very unique operating and learning environment. There are different missions in an AMC, which can sometimes be in conflict with each other. The role of an AMC administrator is to try to understand the balance and to find synergies between those missions. It’s a very challenging place to work, but one that’s rewarding and allows you to have a bit more entrepreneurism in working directly with faculty to build programs.
AMCs are going to be challenged in the future because of the cost structures and silos that exist. Those that thrive in the future will figured out how to align missions and reduce cost such that they add value and lead in new models of education, research translation and clinical outcomes.
In general, what has been the most rewarding and challenging aspect about having a career as a healthcare administrator?
I think the challenges are the complexity of the environments and figuring out how to work with various groups, and, more importantly, how to get various groups to work with one another. Healthcare is a highly regulated environment and so we’re continuously scanning for compliance and safety risk that might arise in our operating environments.
The rewarding part of it is the flipside – the complexity and diversity of challenges that exists is what keeps the job interesting.
What do you know now that you wished you had known before you started career?
Personally, I wish I would have understood how challenging and different my path to success would have to be as an under-represented minority in the field. Despite the success I’ve achieved, it hasn’t been as clear-cut to navigate being an African-American, openly gay executive but it has allowed me to create a level of awareness and guidance for others, with similar diversity, seeking to advance in the field.
What are some of your most memorable moments at Ohio State and what does the university mean to you now?
The interaction between my classmates and the faculty during classes is extremely memorable. We all enjoyed our time together. Clearly learning was our goal, but enjoying each other along the way made our education that much more rewarding.
And when I think about The Ohio State University, I think about having pride in my alma mater, being loyal and giving back to a university that really invested in me.
Read the full interview here.