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Editor’s Note: Auburn’s Harbert College of Business recently contacted members of our Physicians Executive MBA (PEMBA) program to find out how health care delivery has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the following interview, three medical professionals discuss how a business education meshes with the medical challenges.
HCOB: How has your experience in Harbert’s PEMBA program enhanced your ability to manage the changes in your day-to-day responsibilities resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic?
Dr. Addison May, PEMBA Class of 2018
Chief, Acute Care Surgery for Atrium Health — UNC Charlotte
I’ve always had an interest in being able to perform at a high level across multiple systems. That’s one of the main reasons I enrolled in Harbert’s Physician Executive MBA program, to enhance that skill set. And that’s exactly what has happened. My experiences in the program have greatly enhanced my ability to lead through and respond to the tremendous challenges of this pandemic. In particular, the leadership, communication and managerial skills I acquired are being employed daily at both the local and regional levels.
The complexity of getting disparate groups to coordinate, communicate and achieve a uniform situational awareness—and to do so rapidly, effectively—is one of the most pressing challenges we face. It mandates that we have true strategic alignment across the entire organization. We need to execute disciplined, broad and transparent communications to keep everybody on the same page. At the same time, we need to be able to decentralize decision-making out to all the parties at the local level, because each location needs to respond somewhat differently based on their patient care demands and their personnel capacity at the time. The synergy of the PEMBA program—how each part builds upon the others—serves as a model for what I’m facing today.
Dr. Robert Page, PEMBA Class of 2015
President of American Group, Envision Physician Services
As I started growing as a leader, I felt like I needed to get a better education from a finance and accounting standpoint. That was really the driving force for entering the PEMBA program initially. But I also realized that I needed the leadership development training that an MBA would give me. So, I started looking around and talking to people that had been in these kinds of programs before.
I chose Auburn from word of mouth, from people that have been through the program,
and it's the best decision I ever made. And I've sent multiple doctors through the
program since I've finished it.
The PEMBA program at Harbert gave me the skill set that I need to do what I am called upon to do today. I don't think I could be in this position without having been through the program, and I certainly would not be able to handle the responsibilities presented by this pandemic nearly as well. For example, I spend a lot of my time now making sure that all of our people have the right equipment, which I've never really been involved with before, and a lot of my time calming fear. It's a very stressful time for our care providers. It takes a lot of careful communications and coaching, skills I wouldn’t have were it not for the PEMBA program.
Dr. Ian Hamilton, PEMBA Class of 2009
Medical Director, Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Tennessee
One of the results I got out of the PEMBA program was an improvement in my ability to utilize technology, especially remote communications technology. In this “new normal” where everybody—my clients and my team—are all working remotely. The program was largely a virtual program, not entirely, but largely a virtual program. That forced me to improve my technology skills simply in order to participate. Now that I'm working from home, it’s been a pretty easy transition.
Another area that has become beneficial during this pandemic has to do with our increased focus on changes in fiscal and monetary policy. We’re seeing a lot of activity in both spaces right now. I understand those concepts much better after the PEMBA program, especially in terms of risk management. These are concepts and disciplines in which I had very little prior experience. With so many aspects of our clients’ businesses in flux, the impacts of these policies—which are emerging at an increasing pace—need to be taken into account more than ever.
Next in the series: Strategy and communication in a pandemic.
Doctors in Harbert's PEMBA program gain enhanced business skills that prepare them to lead medical organizations.