Today, alongside six of my (new) closest friends, I walked across a stage and accepted my diploma as a graduate of the Executive Healthcare Management Masters of Business Administration program at Creighton’s Heider College of Business. Roughly eighteen months ago, or five hundred and fifty-five days (but who’s counting), seven strangers walked unsuspectingly into a program that would forever change the course of their careers, their lives, and their ability to impact their respective communities.
We hailed from diverse backgrounds both in life experience and hometowns. Three medical doctors, one pharmaceutical doctor, a neonatal/pediatric nurse, a rural family practice administrator and me, a former first responder, turned practice administrator now healthcare consultant and revenue cycle management addict. We were raised from coast-to-coast; we were both patient-facing and non, we followed different sports and radio stations, we were diverse.
With greater than half of our cohort having completed medical school, a quarter having served in the military, several being legislative leaders in their state and others being nationally sought-after experts in their field, it was absolutely true to say that the room was full of well-accomplished individuals who thrive when met with trials. On our first day some of us entered with confidence, others hoping to be inspired, others merely hoping to find challenge and growth.
A.P.J. Kalam once said, “climbing to the top demands strength, whether it is to the top of Mount Everest or to the top of your career”. In day one of the program, we met our instructors, we learned the scope and complexity of the program, we experienced the silence and reverence that comes at the base of a mountain which we had the great honor to begin climbing.
Feelings were mixed, some of us had immediate excitement to see a challenge, as though the road we’d been on had become too monotonous, too boring, as if seeing a cow on the side of the road would be great cause to stop and take note. Some of us were terrified, wanting to back out, convinced that we’d worn the wrong shoes for such a climb and that we hadn’t properly prepared. We were right to be excited, we were right to have a healthy dose of fear. We were right to feel awed by the path before us.
The thing that we didn’t know then, which we do know now is that we weren’t accepted on the quality of our hiking shoes, or the dreariness that we saw in our daily careers. We were chosen to go through this period of growth based upon the fortitude of who we were as individuals. Who we wanted to become was something we couldn’t succinctly verbalize ourselves but somehow it was something the program directors, Laurie Baedke and Neel Pathak, could not only visualize but had a plan to cultivate.
Healthcare leaders are critical to the success of our industry. Those who are enthusiastic about improvement in outcomes, reduction in cost, ushering satisfaction and community benefit beyond the benchmarks. Knowledge is out there in the world, in silos, in pieces but didactic programs focused on executive healthcare leadership are few. Those with the level of accreditation offered at Creighton… fewer still. An MBA program focused on healthcare leaders meant every course, policy, marketing, accounting, human resources… every course was specific to healthcare leaders.
Through our 555 days at Creighton, we hiked, and we were met with difficulty. This program challenged our perspectives, our thought processes, how we approach culture, and how well we use evidence to guide our decision-making. Potentially more important, this program challenged how we interact with diverse groups and how learn from one another as well.
The cohort-based learning style meant the seven of us were in it together. We linked arms virtually and throughout the program we knit closer and closer together. Laurie reflected this morning that the beauty of the tapestries we see hanging from the Creighton rafters are borne through woven fabric and we became interlaced with one another in very much the same way throughout this program.
I cannot put into words the camaraderie and support we provided one another through case studies, through career challenges, through text anxiety, or through personal trauma. Honestly, even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. It’s something every healthcare leader or aspiring leader should experience themselves. I refer to myself as an avid learner, I thirst for knowledge in all forms, and I believe that sharing knowledge is one of the greatest kindnesses one can bestow upon another human being. For this I will forever be indebted to this program, my cohort, and its instructors.
Never before have I encountered a program structured so precisely and executed so powerfully with such strict requirements for success. Further, never before have I encountered the level of individualized mentorship, support, and guidance I received in this program. In addition to facing the tribulations of a truly formidable educational road (45 masters level credits in eighteen short months) we faced personal challenges as well.
As a group we dealt with the deaths of loved ones, the birth of new loved ones, family challenges, patient heartache, innovative technology implementations, facility relocations, furloughs, illnesses, and a global pandemic. With each rock on the path, each wobbly bridge, every storm that hit, our capable leaders provided stability and compass bearing.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that this entire program and its leaders were also essential employees. On the front lines throughout this pandemic and risking their lives every day for the good of the community. When the world seemed to be hanging by a thread, we wove tighter together. We quickly became greater than the sum of our individual parts.
Throughout my life I’ve sought and achieved several degrees and certificates. I have participated in cohort-style education before as well as traditional learning environments. This experience stands alone, it is far beyond what is within my ability to express even now. This program is nothing short of a God-given gift to the healthcare industry. The format, support, and dedication to difficulty in search of excellence is what we should demand of all programs in all disciplines.
This morning our seven cohort members shared thoughts about the experience with one another and tears were shed by all because we didn’t want it to be over. For the first time, for all of us, at the end of an enormous challenge, we didn’t merely seek for calm waters. We genuinely mourned that it was over. In fact, we still are. We reached the summit of our Everest and the new view we have is so spectacular we don’t want to let it go.
I could speak for days on end about the benefits of the program, the quality of the education and our professors, the structure which built in strength so strategically and poignantly that it must’ve taken years to perfect. The truth is that there is magic in this program. Magic in that none of us have to leave Everest. This program gave us the apex of Everest forever, we carry it with us invigorated to build our own mountains now, to continue looking skyward and to always keep one arm back, one hand outreached to pull others up to the summit alongside us.
I will cherish every moment of this program forever, and I thank Creighton, Laurie, Neel and the Dean, for bringing us knowledge in spades, and for giving me six new best friends. We will blaze trails, we will keep the fire burning, we will stay cura, we will reach out into the community and drive powerful positive change and the ripple effects will reach further than any of us could’ve imagined. We walked into that room as individuals, we walked the stage as an educated community of leaders. Six feet apart but feeling arm-in-arm with smiles that beamed beyond the masks. Thank you, for showing us to Everest, for helping us climb, for forcing greatness where we couldn’t see it in ourselves, and for giving us the ability to take the view with us forever. We didn’t take steps beyond where we were when we started, we took leaps. This program is the moon landing for healthcare. It is disruptive, it is innovative, it is unprecedented, and I have a sneaking suspicion that for the cohorts blessed to participate in it, it will never truly be over.
With love and eternal gratitude, I am proud to be an empowered, fortified, newly forged Creighton EMBA graduate.