Featured News

Every day VCU Health Administration and College of Health Professions students, alumni, faculty and staff do extraordinary things. Read more about our latest achievements and Department news here.

VCU MSHA student wins scholarship for selfless service to others

By Malorie Burkett
VCU College of Health Professions

Jan. 17, 2023

Stephen Mosher
Stephen Mosher, VCU MSHA student, is the recipient of the Tim Campbell Scholarship for Selfless Service to Others and the Community by the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME).

Stephen Mosher, a Master of Science in Health Administration (MSHA) Student in Virginia Commonwealth University’s College of Health Professions Department of Health Administration, has earned the Tim Campbell Scholarship for Selfless Service to Others and the Community by the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME).

Students in CAHME accredited or certified programs are eligible to receive the scholarship, named in memory of Campbell, a CAHME board member who personified a commitment to service and volunteerism. Campbell believed in hard work and selfless service in his professional and personal life, and that true success is measured through relationships which help others reach their full potential.

A native of Omaha, Nebraska, Mosher attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, where he received a Bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering. He subsequently began to work for the Veterans Health Administration in Jackson, Miss. before coming to Richmond in 2015. In 2020, he was promoted to his current role of chief engineer at the Central Virginia VA Healthcare System. In this role, he oversees the hospital's day to day building maintenance operations and construction projects, among other things.

According to Mosher, when he first joined the Central Virginia VA Healthcare System, he immediately focused his efforts on promoting a positive culture. He enacted monthly, individual discussions with each employee he supervised to provide opportunities for direct feedback. As a result, the Biomedical Engineering department employee satisfaction scores were rated in the top 15 departments hospital-wide for the "Best Places to Work.”

“By offering expanded opportunities for communication, he was able to proactively address concerns that, if left unaddressed, could have detrimental impacts on employee morale,” said M. Paige Powell, Ph.D., associate professor of Health Administration and the MHA & MSHA program director. “Learning how to carry out a culture change was a motivator for him to enter the MSHA program, which pushed him to grow as a leader and provide guidance on developing his leadership abilities.”

Mosher says that being on the maintenance side in a government role is a different aspect of health care, and he wanted to further develop his leadership skills and knowledge of the healthcare industry in general.

“As a non-clinician, I can't directly impact patient care, but I can work to create an environment where our administrators and clinicians work together to provide the highest quality of clinical care,” he said. “In my current role, we have a lot of fires, we have a lot of problems that come up, and things that need to be solved. It’s empowering my staff to creatively solve those problems and work collaboratively with the clinicians to ensure they have everything they need to provide the best care for patients.”

Mosher lives in Richmond with his wife, Grace. Together they enjoy hiking in the Shenandoah Valley, visiting wineries, and traveling all over the world. In recent years they have visited Italy, Spain and South Africa. After graduation this May, they plan to travel to France and Denmark. 

“I am very humbled to be selected for this scholarship. I didn't get a chance to meet Tim Campbell, but it sounds like he was such a good person, who cared a lot about people,” said Mosher. “To be honored in his memory is humbling and very exciting. I’m kind of at a loss for words.”

For more information on the CAMHE awards programs, visit here.

The National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE) and the VCU Department of Health Administration Partner to Advance Inclusive Leadership Education Initiative

In August of 2022, Lisa Mallory, PhD, chief executive officer of the National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE), and Stephan Davis, DNP, MHSA, FACHE, FAAN, executive director of Inclusive Leadership Education for Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Health Administration, had a breakfast meeting where an idea was born – a webinar series offered in partnership between their two institutions. As 2023 begins, their idea has come to fruition with the official announcement of a three-part webinar series focused on the advancement of Black leaders in healthcare.

Lisa Mallory PhD CEO of National ASsociation of Health Services Executives and Stephan Davis DNP MSHA FACHE FAAN Executive Director, Inclusive Leadership Education VCU Department of Health Administration

The NAHSE-VCU webinar series kicks off on January 27 with a session featuring Davis entitled “Office Hours: Exploring Academic and Professional Paths to Success in Healthcare Leadership.” The second webinar will be held during Black History Month in February and the third will occur during women’s history month in March. The February and March webinars will feature panels of distinguished national healthcare leaders. 

“NAHSE is thrilled to be partnering with VCU’s leading department of health administration to advance our educational mission,” said Mallory. “Given that Dr. Davis is now joining NAHSE’s education committee, I am confident that this is only the beginning of our work together to advance diversity, inclusion, and belonging in the field.” 

NAHSE and the Department of Health Administration aim for the audience to include undergraduate students from all academic disciplines, as well as current master’s students, and clinicians and other members of the healthcare workforce who are interested in taking their careers to the next level. With VCU’s numerous academic offerings, including a bachelor’s in health services with both in-person and online modalities, as well as master’s and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees and graduate certificates in health administration, there are pathways available to both current and aspiring healthcare leaders at every phase of their career development. 

“I could not be more thrilled to partner with NAHSE and to showcase the myriad ways our department supports the professional development and career advancement of Black healthcare leaders throughout their leadership journeys,” said Paula Song, Ph.D., Richard M. Bracken chair and professor of health administration. “This investment in Black healthcare leaders is not limited to students and practitioners enrolled in our academic programs, which is why we are pleased to offer national webinars with NAHSE to expand our reach to current and aspiring healthcare leaders no matter where they are geographically.” 

As an approved provider of American College of Healthcare Executives qualified education credit, the VCU Department of Health Administration is pleased to offer one qualified ACHE education credit to participants who attend each of the webinars for the full hour (up to three qualified education credits total for the full series). Qualified education credits are one of the requirements to achieve and maintain the prestigious Fellow credential with ACHE. Increasing the diversity of healthcare leaders holding the Fellow credential is a strategic priority for both ACHE and NAHSE. 

“Whether you are a Black student, a current or aspiring healthcare leader, or a faculty member who teaches Black students, you will not want to miss these sessions,” said Davis. “We look forward to virtually welcoming Black students and our colleagues from academic programs across the nation to VCU for these important and timely discussions on advancing Black representation and inclusion in healthcare leadership.” 

Webinar Schedule:

  • Jan. 27: "Office Hours: Exploring Academic and Professional Paths to Success in Healthcare Leadership"
  • Feb. 24: "Black Excellence in Healthcare Leadership"
  • March 31: "Black Girl Magic – The Power of the Black Woman Executive"

All three webinars are from noon to 1p.m. Eastern. Register for the sessions here

About NAHSE: 

The National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE) is a non-profit association of Black health care executives founded in 1968 for the purpose of promoting the advancement and development of Black health care leaders and elevating the quality of health care services rendered to minority and underserved communities. NAHSE’s vision is to be recognized globally as the premier professional membership society for Black people in health care management. NAHSE strives to improve the health status, economic opportunities, and educational advancement of the communities they serve. NAHSE is committed to the Association goals by providing: Professional Programs, Workshops, Job Bank and Mentoring, Scholarships, Community Service Projects, Health Policy and Advocacy, and Entrepreneurship opportunities.

About the VCU Department of Health Administration and College of Health Professions:

The VCU Department of Health Administration is a premiere research department geared toward creating the most innovative, compassionate, and business-savvy leaders to reimagine healthcare. With access to the amenities of a large institution in a small and student-centric atmosphere, the Department of Health Administration teaches students the executive and technical skills needed to be well-rounded leaders The department's master's degree program, the residential Master of Health Administration and the online-hybrid Master of Science in Health Administration for experienced professionals, is rated in the top five among its peers in the country by U.S. News and World Report. Also offered by the department is the highly regarded PhD Program in Health Services Organization and Research. For more, visit VCU Health Administration's website.

The VCU College of Health Professions is a nationally recognized leader in the education of health providers and leaders, and cultivates an interprofessional approach to training. The College offers curricula at the baccalaureate, master's, post-graduate and doctoral levels designed to prepare health care professionals for roles in a variety of clinical, teaching, and community health and wellness settings. For more, visit VCU College of Health Professions' website.

Entering ’23 with Intentionality

Paige PowellM. Paige Powell, Ph.D., MHA 
MHA/MSHA Program Director and Associate Professor

If you look at VCU Health Administration class photos over the past decade, you will immediately notice a remarkable change. As the years go on, the faces become more diverse, and especially in recent years.

This change was intentional and strategic, the result of our vision to educate healthcare leaders who look like and share life experiences with the patient populations they leave VCU to go on and serve. 

Such intentionality is the theme I see as we look ahead into 2023.

Since I arrived at VCU from the University of Memphis in July, I’ve bore witness to the fresh vision that department chair Paula H. Song, Ph.D. has brought to our programs and people.

Our MHA and MSHA programs have been reshaped with intentionality. The new faces on our faculty, or the veterans here in new roles — those hires and shifts, too, done deliberately. The department’s two new certificate programs in health equity and financial management, and the existing certificate in aging studies, leverage our faculty’s expertise and our strategic priorities for educating not only MHA/MSHA students, but in expanding those options to students outside of the traditional programs.

None of this is to say the department was worse off before. No, these changes are about making an incredible, nationally ranked program even better.

In our MHA program, in a change that will take effect in late 2023, we’ve reduced credits for some foundational classes that did not require as much depth. In scaling back but keeping the overall credit requirement for graduation, we give students flexibility to pursue electives in their areas of interest. 

In particular, we want to guide them to pick up any of the certificates in health equity, financial management, or aging studies. They’ll be able to specialize in a particular field while still gaining the basic structure they need to be skilled leaders when they get out.

While all three certificates carry value, if the student isn’t as focused on finance or aging, I point them to health equity — a skill all leaders require. As healthcare organizations become responsible for both quality and the health status of their communities, they must pay closer attention to the diverse needs of their populations and find ways to improve care and make it more equitable for all. Our health equity certificate positions students to not only analyze those issues impacting health equity, but influence policy to advance these concepts in their communities. They take courses covering issues such as intersectionality and unconscious bias, and get to meet lobbyists and advocates with special interests who will show them how to look at policy objectively and successfully advocate in their communities.

On the MSHA side, a schedule and format overhaul will give current full-time clinicians and healthcare professionals, who attend the program remotely, more flexibility. There are now three, 3-day, face-to-face sessions per semester — two virtual, and one in-person — to cut back on the amount of time students must physically be in Richmond. Going forward, semesters will more closely follow a traditional academic year with summer and winter breaks; the program’s previous back-to-back six-month semesters offered little if any time to recharge. Our hope is that more flexibility and shorter face-to-face sessions, whether virtual or in person, are highly valuable.

Beyond our programs, we’ve restarted our Executive-in-Residence initiative, giving students a direct link to healthcare leaders who have committed a certain number of hours each month to students to complement their education. For 2023, this includes Howard Kern (MHA ’81), Chief Executive Officer Emeritus of Sentara Healthcare, as well as Sheronica (Barcliff) Burgess (MSHA ’13), an entrepreneur with expertise in healthcare quality. Both bring different experiences and pathways in healthcare leadership. We’ll continue to bring in exciting speakers, like entrepreneur and author Quint Studer, who spoke to students and held a workshop with leaders from a number of Virginia health systems in November.

We are actively involved in helping to revamp the Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE) and are looking forward to working closely with them to involve our students in more professional development opportunities. We are so thankful to continue our partnerships with the Central Virginia Healthcare Executives Group and Richmond Medical Group Management Association chapter. Their time and dedication to our students provides them with mentorship, guidance, and growth opportunities.

In March, 58 students from Taiwanese medical school Kaohsiung Medical University will return to the College of Health Professions and other sites in Virginia, for one week, for the first time since before COVID. They’ll learn about how the American healthcare system functions and visit healthcare facilities throughout Virginia. 

All these moves are done with purpose and intent in our mission to prepare practicing and aspiring leaders to reimagine healthcare across the nation and continuums of care. I hope you will follow our exciting progress in the coming year and I wish you all success in 2023.

VCU Health Administration Student Receives “We Believe in You Award” from NAHSE

Scholarship is awarded to exceptional graduate students striving to become a future health care leader

By Malorie Burkett
VCU College of Health Professions

Maya Perkins, a Virginia Commonwealth University Health Administration student, recently was named a winner of the “We Believe in You Award” from the National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE).

Maya Perkins (center), a VCU Health Administration student, recently was named a winner of the “We Believe in You Award” from the National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE).
Maya Perkins (center), a VCU Health Administration student, recently was named a winner of the “We Believe in You Award” from the National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE).
Photo courtesy of Maya Perkins

The award is given to an exceptional graduate student striving to become a future leader in health care management and NAHSE.  It also is one of four distinct scholarships developed by NAHSE to support and encourage minority students to pursue a career in healthcare leadership, or related field.

A native of Chesapeake, Perkins is a first-year student in the Masters in Health Administration program.

“As an African American woman striving to become a health care leader, I am committed to the journey of working to break health disparities,” she said.

Perkins says she was always interested in health care, and she started out as a nursing major at Hampton University. She knew that working to break barriers and health disparities in the community as a whole were important to her, and she was determined to make a difference for patients in a different way, especially among the minority population. As a result, Perkins changed her major to health sciences policy and administration.

“Maya exemplifies the passion, energy, and dedication the organization is looking for in aspiring healthcare leaders”, said Stephan Davis, DNP, FACHE, executive director of inclusive leadership education, assistant professor in the Department of Health Administration, and a member of NAHSE. “Only a few months into her studies at VCU, Maya is already demonstrating leadership in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. The faculty congratulate Maya and we look forward to celebrating future successes during her studies at VCU and in her career.”

Additionally, Perkins was elected DEI director for her cohort this fall. In this role, she will focus her efforts on being an advocate for her fellow classmates, encouraging and empowering students, and ensuring there are safe spaces with no barriers hindering success in the program.

“My cohort overall is very supportive of each other, and we're always encouraging one another,” said Perkins. “This is a great place to be. It's great energy and you feel like you want to succeed. You want everyone around you to succeed, and they give you those resources to do so, and are really preparing you to become the best health professional.”

Through Executive-in-Residence program, students gain access to visionary entrepreneur and veteran healthcare leader

Under VCU Health Administration’s new Executive-in-Residence (EIR) program, students and faculty gain a direct link to healthcare leaders who can complement their MHA and MSHA education.

Re-introduced by the department this year, the EIR program establishes a partnership with a healthcare leader who has an interest in assisting students in preparation for transition from an academic setting to a practice environment. The leaders mentor students virtually and are on-site at VCU at least once a year.

“What the executive does from there is really in their court, and based on their unique area of expertise,” says Paula Song, Ph.D., the Richard M. Bracken Chair and Professor of the department. “Students are able to access and be mentored by these professionals, who graciously give us their time, explain industry culture and practice, and help faculty evolve the departmental curriculum and programs to best prepare our students for leadership roles in the world of healthcare.”

Howard Kern and Sheronica Burgess

For 2023, the Executive-in-Residence (EIR) program engaged two VCU Health Administration alumni — each of whom has carved their own path in the field.

On the traditional track: Howard Kern, MHA ’81, Chief Executive Officer Emeritus of Sentara Healthcare

Howard Kern retired as President and CEO of Sentara Healthcare on September 1, but will consult with the Hampton Roads health system until his official retirement at the end of 2023.

He says the opportunity to serve as an Executive-in-Residence at VCU came at the perfect time.

“After 43 years as a practicing healthcare leader, I decided to transition from a full-time chief executive, but I feel that I still have much to contribute to improving healthcare and want to give back to current and aspiring healthcare leaders,” says Kern. “In a career as long as mine, you realize that many problems and challenges we face are cyclical in nature. I believe I can guide the next generation of healthcare leaders to learn from my past successes and learnings and share how I might approach certain challenges differently now.”

As the past CEO of the Norfolk-based, nationally ranked health system with $12 billion in revenue and 32,000 employees, guiding students on health leadership is a natural extension of my work with fellows and young executives in the field and a logical next step for serving in an EIR role. I believe I can give something to students that is really complementary to what the school already provides, which is a framework for how to apply what they're learning in a practice setting,” he says.

He wants to develop a seminar that prepares second-year MHA students to transition from an academic to practice, before their third-year administrative residency begins.

A quality expert and visionary: Sheronica (Barcliff) Burgess, MSHA ’13, Entrepreneur

Since graduating from VCU Health Administration nearly a decade ago, the time since has been “phenomenal, marked with great transition and seasons of harvest and sowing seeds,” says Sheronica Burgess.

She’s founder of The Barcliff Group (her maiden name), an Atlanta-based consultancy serving clients nationwide, focused on helping them improve health outcomes and “understand the connective tissue between corporate culture and making an impact in the community.”

She left a corporate job in Washington, D.C., knowing she wanted to become self-employed, “but I didn’t know exactly what I wanted my business ownership journey to look like.” She’d had no mentorship in the area of starting a business.

“Other industries are more open to the idea of entrepreneurship, but healthcare administration tends to be a more traditional track,” she said. “But there is opportunity for entrepreneurship in the healthcare industry.”

She looked to her wheelhouse: healthcare quality, not necessarily management. She founded her own firm to focus on National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) accreditation and regulatory compliance, plus management consulting, strategic planning, communications, and health tech. The Barcliff Group has served clients such as Kaiser Permanente and Imperial Health.

Burgess met VCU’s Song during the height of the pandemic as a panelist on a talk about healthcare advocacy in the Black community. From there, she mentored a student in the Health Administration Department’s mentorship program, and served on a panel for MHA students doing their oral comprehensive exams. She’s also helped with National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE) case competitions and counseling various students.

So the Executive-in-Residence program, for Burgess, is a natural extension of work she’s already doing.

“I will be more vocal about my journey to entrepreneurship so that the path can be accessible to others,” Burgess says. She notes some level of traditional experience is needed for an entrepreneur, but there is a growing chorus of healthcare leaders who dream of innovating the field and carving their own path. She wants to help steer VCU’s curriculum to more topics that explore entrepreneurship in collaboration with faculty.

And with equity as a focus of her consulting work, Burgess notes her role in the EIR is also to inspire students who are from backgrounds that are historically underrepresented or excluded in health administration. 

“When I see future leaders who are Black women, as well as students of color and others from backgrounds that have not always been welcomed in the C-suite, I want them to first see what is possible,” she says. “I want to model the entrepreneurial possibilities for us by sharing my knowledge and lessons learned. I want to impart those gems and treasures that were imparted to me and pay it forward.” 

She said she wants to show the rest of the healthcare world that “Black women, and others who might be underestimated based on bias, are competent, capable, and willing. We are here, we’re present, and we’re operating in leadership — both in corporate and as entrepreneurs,” Burgess says. “We’re here and ready to work.”

Quint Studer to VCU Health Administration: “Focus on positive, take care of yourself”

Healthcare leader Quint Studer says that when gets up in the morning, he prays that nothing gets in his way as he tries to be helpful.

“We all have replenishments,” Studer told an audience of more than 200 students, alumni, and faculty in person and via video who gathered to hear him speak at the VCU Department of Health Administration on Nov. 3. “My replenishment is helping others.”

Quint Studer PresentingStuder, an entrepreneur, best-selling author, and former president of Baptist Hospital in Pensacola, Fla., suspected those in the audience chose their profession because they also wanted to be there for other people.

“Your DNA calls for you to be helpful,” Studer said. “Your DNA probably brought you into healthcare.”

But Studer added that what’s also ingrained in many healthcare professionals is perfectionism and a focus on what’s wrong instead of what’s right. “Sometimes we’re so helpful to others, we don’t take care of ourselves,” Studer said.

“When we go home at night, we think about what we didn’t do instead of what we did,” he said. “We think of that one employee we couldn’t reach. If you’re a physician, you think about of the patient you wish you didn’t have to tell that news to. We bring home losses, but don’t enjoy the wins.”

But Studer urged the audience to take some moments to focus on the positive. 

Stephan Davis, Quint Studer and Paula SongStuder’s talk was the latest Paul A. Gross Landmarks in Leadership Lecture, entitled “Creating a Culture of Replenishment.” 

It came the day before he facilitated the department’s first executive leadership workshop. Focused on the “Human Capital Ecosystem,” about 70 C-suite leaders from UVA Health, VCU Health, Bon Secours Mercy Health, HCA Healthcare, Riverside Health System, Sentara Healthcare, and other state healthcare organizations attended the professional development event at the VCU College of Health Professions.

The Human Capital Ecosystem was developed by Studer and colleague Dan Collard with input from healthcare leaders. It focuses on six elements that foster engagement and the experience of belonging for the healthcare workforce. During Studer’s workshop, he mostly focused on two elements of the framework, “Skill Building and Career Development” and “Resources and Support.” 

The first component focused on what Studer calls “precision leadership development,” which utilizes an assessment to guide strategic opportunities for managers to enhance their performance. The Resources and Support piece addresses leaders focusing on mental health and well-being. Using batteries as a metaphor, Studer encouraged leaders to ask people how “charged” they were feeling that day – to create safe spaces for open dialogue about when we are in pain, fatigued, or experiencing anxiety.

Studer demonstrated courage and vulnerability in both talks, sharing that he was recently diagnosed with melanoma. His doctor looked him in the eye and told him: “We’re going to get through this together.”

“He reduced my anxiety,” Studer said. “You know what our job as leaders is? It’s to reduce anxiety.” 

“At a time when so many members of the healthcare workforce have been struggling emotionally while trying to keep our organizations afloat, Studer’s perspective was so important for our students, faculty, alums, and health system partners to hear,” said Paula Song, Ph.D., Richard M. Bracken Chair and Professor of the department. “I believe we all left inspired and more committed to investing in our most important asset – our people.”   

VCU Health Administration Award Recipients Talk Leadership, Challenge, and Opportunities Ahead

This month, VCU Health Administration recognized four alumni – technically, one of them honorary yet just as significant — for their contributions to the field and the department. The ceremony was held at the VCU College of Health Professions and streamed via video.

HA Alumni Award Receipients with their awards

Young Professional Award

Jessica Macalino, MSHA 2018
Associate Vice President of Operations, Riverside Regional Medical Center | Newport News

Acknowledges an alum who exemplifies the department’s core values in their career in service to their community and organization.

Mike Doucette, a Riverside administrator, introduced Macalino, crediting her with leading efforts to improve operations and add new service lines since joining the system in 2017. Macalino has also lead construction and development of a new hospital in Smithfield, which received its Certificate of Public Need earlier this year.

“She pretty much single-handedly shepherded the COPN process, and we awarded that in a highly competitive environment,” Doucette said. “We weren't sure we were going to get a COPN for that, but we did because of her efforts…she personally got involved in the community to make that happen.”

Macalino, a Hampton Roads native who earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, is a member of the American College of Health Executives and Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce.

“It means so much to me to be recognized for my work in this way, especially because I don't really look at what I do is work. I genuinely love what I do,” said Macalino, a mother of three and Smithfield resident. “I always say that it takes a village to raise us young professionals and I owe so much of my success and my career to the health administration department at VCU.”

Alumnus of the Year Award

Alan Keesee, FACHE, MHA 2009
Chief Executive Officer, HCA Florida Capital Hospital | Tallahassee, Fla.

Recognizes uncommon excellence in his or her health care career and his or her service to the community into the department

Paige Laughlin, chief operating officer at Florida Blake Hospital in Bradenton, Fla., introduced her former boss, Alan Keesee, FACHE, as Alumnus of the Year.

Laughlin described Keesee as an advocate for his community “by addressing disparities and basic necessities including access to health care, to housing and early development, stabilizing safety-net services, and development of educational needs for future employment.”

She recognized his leadership during “incredible times of uncertainty and unimaginable, unimaginable circumstances,” specifically the response to the 2017 Las Vegas shooting when he was serving as chief operating officer at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center. He also oversaw the receiving facility during a Category 5 hurricane in 2018 at HCA Florida Capital Hospital. “And he led his team through the unknown of the pandemic that we all faced together,” she said.

“We're all focused on caring for and improving human life. There is no higher call for us to pursue as leaders in healthcare,” said Keesee, a board member of the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce and president-elect for the United Way of the Big Bend in the Florida capital. “I'm super humbled by this award. I do not deserve it; my team is really what's upheld me all these years and many different hospitals.”

Keesee moved to Richmond for his wife, Jackie, who joined nursing school at VCU. And he stumbled across the health administration program. “I came to VCU for love,” he said, “and I left a leader.”

The immediate past president of the department’s Alumni Advisory Council issued a challenge to the room of students, faculty, and fellow alumni:

“Always raise the bar for your community, for your teams, yourself. Care like family for your doctors, your teams, your community, yourself. It really matters. Always keep that mission at heart no matter what, no matter what's going on, and show up,” he said. “Show up during shootings, show up during hurricanes, show up every day to care for your community.”

Lifetime Achievement & Service Award

Sheryl Garland, FACHE, MHA 1988
Chief of Health Impact, VCU Health and Executive Director, VCU Office of Health Equity | Richmond

Recognizes the alumni for a lifetime of strong dedication and contributions to the departments and faculty and students

Sheryl Garland joined the VCU Health System in 1988 after completing an administrative residency at MCV Hospitals. Prior to her current appointment as Chief of Health Impact, Garland held numerous positions at VCU.

She thanked her daughters and husband, Chris, before sharing a story. In 1984, she was laid off from her first full-time job as a quality-control technician at the now-defunct Famous Foods of Virginia. “That job in that cookie factory meant the world to me,” she said. “And I was devastated when I was laid off.”

Immediately after the layoff, she visited her grandparents, and her grandfather – “one of the wisest people I've ever known” — told her: “It’s not what you wanted to do with the rest of your life anyway. So why don't you go back to school and pursue your destiny?”

That started her on a journey to figure out what, exactly, that destiny was. At a career event, she met the late Jerry Norville, past chair and professor emeritus of VCU Health Administration. He introduced her to the master’s program at VCU and shared with her the benefits and value of a career in healthcare leadership.

“The rest is history,” she said. “I'm a living testament to something that my pastor often shares in his sermons: ‘A new door cannot open until an old door closes.’ So you just got to let the old stuff go.”

She said her healthcare journey taught her that “character is defined in the midst of a storm, not when everything is going well.” And she said a true leader “is not afraid to be vulnerable and accept guidance from the angels who've been placed along their path to ensure that they keep going in the right direction.”

She jokingly thanked “the people of Famous Foods of Virginia for laying me off,” then recognized the department for “giving me a chance and continuing to allow me to engage with the faculty and the students.”

Inaugural VCU Health Administration Honorary Alumni Award

J. Stephen Lindsey, FACHE
Principal, Ivy Ventures LLC | Richmond

The department also bestowed a new award to an honorary alumnus — someone who may not technically have a degree from the department, but is engaged and contributes “in extraordinary ways that support our students, faculty, and alumni,” said Paula Song, Ph.D., the Richard M. Bracken Chair and Professor of the department.

She listed off a number of ways the first Honorary Alumni Award recipient, Stephen Lindsey, has contributed to VCU — as a preceptor during his time as CEO of Henrico Doctors’ Hospital, as an instructor in the department’s executive skills course, as a counselor when serving as residency placement director, through his student scholarship, or simply as a LinkedIn connection and mentor to students and alums.

“You may be familiar with Steve because he's a legend in the department,” Song said. “The kind of person whose name comes up in every conversation because he's had such an impact on so many of us in this room and beyond. Steve has truly been steadfast in his commitment to the VCU Department of Health Administration and as an exemplar role model.”

In accepting the award, Lindsey said he had an idea when he first got into health administration: “If I can improve patient care every day, that will be good, and if I can help somebody every day, that will be good. And I can say, I still believe that today. That's my mission statement. And I hope I passed that onto a number of students over the years.”

2022 Graduates Utilize Their Education and Skills in New Positions Around the Country

Bailey MyersBailey Myers, MHA
Director of Operations at Bon Secours Mary Immaculate Hospital, Newport News, VA.

In my role as Director of Operations, I am responsible for Environmental Services, Safety, Security, Transport, Linen, Food/Nutrition, Case Management, and the Gift Shop. I also manage various administrative projects for the executive team, such as construction, length of stay, and business development initiatives. Each day looks a little different for me: I typically have project-focused meetings, attend huddles, spend time doing rounds, and help to support my teams to address different challenges that arise.

One project I have found especially exciting is around facility construction and renovation work. We are renovating our Birth Place and Emergency Department, and I am in charge of project managing this work – things like design, funding, contracting, phasing, and then prepping or helping to coordinate with the teams for go-live when we have to shut down rooms and change patient flow. I have also recently worked on a process improvement project to decrease the time it takes our ED providers to receive STAT radiology results, which involved mapping out current state, meeting with radiology techs, ED nurses, and providers to understand pain points and reasons for delays. I also helped implement some recommended changes that decreased overall turnaround times by 10%. I am also working on patient flow initiatives and strategy work aimed at enhancing our women’s services offering and improving patient satisfaction.

There are so many things that the VCU MHA program did to help prepare me for my current role. The curriculum itself was challenging and applicable to the work I now do on a day-to-day basis – from organizational behavior, to healthcare finance, to epidemiology. The professors at the VCU MHA program are some of the best in the country and taught me how to think critically when various situations arise in a hospital setting. VCU’s specific focus on leadership development has been one of the most tangible benefits of my education. I completed my residency within the Bon Secours Hampton Roads market, which was a truly amazing experience, and I am so thrilled that I have been able to continue my relationship with Bon Secours after graduation. I look forward to continuing to learn, work with great people, and make a difference in healthcare as I move forward in my career!

Amy SM PaulAmy SM Paul, M.D., MSHA

This past spring as I was completing the VCU MSHA program, I had an idea that I wanted to see if I could develop. So I joined the VCU Pre-Accelerator Program, and I took part in Demo Day at the da Vinci Center for Innovation where I practiced pitching my business. I won The Todd Allen Phillips Memorial Award because of my spirit of entrepreneurship, which was amazing. That experience taught me to not only believe in my ideas, but also my abilities to excel at projects I work hard on, even if they are not thought of as formally “medical” in nature. After this, I applied for the Activation Capital/Opportunity Hub business boot camp and was one of the finalists in that program as well. I was awarded a scholarship to the Startup Virginia high-growth business incubator and will begin my time working with them this September.

My company is called The Children’s Soap Company of Virginia, and its mission is to
develop handwashing tools specifically for the unique needs of children (especially those with allergies and various skin conditions). I am currently formulating and building the first product that's set for testing this fall.

My exposure to the world of design and innovation at the da Vinci Center has really opened up my creative mind and fueled my deep desire to dream big expansive dreams. I’m excited about merging this with my health administration education. The amount of growth, personal and professional, I have had between these two programs is exciting to me as I now have an abundance of paths my career can take. I feel adequately prepared for a career that leverages my knowledge of designing products and services with the end user in mind, building and scaling a high-growth business, and managing it. My time at VCU working clinically as a Geriatric House Calls Physician, in addition to my MSHA and my newfound love for innovation, has given me a unique skill set that I am so thrilled to utilize my career!

Thomas ThorupThomas Thorup, MHA
Administrator for the Red Rocks Surgery Center, HCA Healthcare, Golden, CO

As the only non-clinical operator at the Red Rocks Surgery Center, I am involved in every aspect of the center’s operations. Throughout the day, I work on issues related to staffing, finances, physician relations, regulations, strategy, and facilities. It’s a very holistic position that allows me to work on the micro and macro details and to interface with people in so many different areas of the center. My education in the Health Administration department at VCU was a vital step in my path into this role. During my course of study, I interned at VCU Health at the Hume-Lee Transplant Center. This experience, coupled with my didactic work, provided me the tools necessary to problem-solve issues quickly and effectively. These problem-solving skills have been invaluable during my time at Red Rocks Surgery Center, as the center has experienced some financial hardships due to several key physicians leaving the practice in 2020. Along with the Covid-related challenges that the entire field is facing (staffing, equipment/supply concerns, pharmaceutical issues), I’ve been able to take my VCU education and apply it firsthand in my work. At the moment, my highest priority project is to market the center to new prospective surgeons and grow our pool of physician investors. This project’s linchpin for success will be centered around governance restructuring and equity offerings. I’m looking forward to supporting the center during this crucial time of transition and growth.

Health Administration Faculty and Alumni Awards

Marilyn B. Tavenner receiving VCU Alumni Star award

Marilyn TavennerMarilyn B. Tavenner, BSN, MHA, is the College of Health Professions’ 2022 VCU Alumni Star award recipient. The honor recognizes graduates in the fields of art, business, education, service, and healthcare who shine a spotlight on problems and craft solutions, says the VCU Office of Alumni Relations that oversees the award.

Tavenner helped implement the Affordable Care Act as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. She also led the Virginia Department of Health and Human Services under then-Gov. Tim Kaine where she worked to boost funding for free clinics, expanded Medicaid eligibility for low-income pregnant women, and oversaw many other initiatives.

Tavenner received the Department of Health Administration’s Alumna of the Year award in 2006 and the Lifetime Service Award in 2015. Tavenner and other Alumni Stars award recipients are being honored at 6 p.m. on Sept. 29 at the Science Museum of Virginia’s Dewey Gottwald Center.

MCV Foundation honors executive director of the VCU Office of Health Equity

Sheryl GarlandSheryl Garland, MHA, FACHE, received the 2022 Jerome F. Stauss III Award in June in recognition of her decades-long effort to improve the Richmond Community’s access to health care.

Garland is described as the “moral center” of the VCU Health System where she is the chief of health impact and executive director of the VCU Office of Health Equity, the MCV Foundation says. The award was established in honor of the former VCU School of Medicine dean and given to a VCU administrator, faculty member, or staff member who demonstrates “extraordinary service” in furthering the MCV Foundation’s mission.

Garland also received the Department of Health Administration’s Alumna of the Year Award in 2016.

VCU Health Administration Ph.D. Program Director Receives Teaching Excellence Award from AOM and other honors

Laura McClelland presentingLaura McClelland, Ph.D., received the Teaching Excellence Award at the Academy of Management’s Health Care Management Division’s annual conference in Seattle this August. The award recognizes the innovative and outstanding teaching of a member of the Health Care Management Division. It’s chosen from a nomination pool that rolls over from the previous year, making this tremendous honor also an extremely competitive one. Dr. McClelland received the award in her first year of being nominated, which stands as a testament to her role as an educator and leader in our field.

“Teaching and mentoring truly bring me joy!” Dr. McClelland says. “As an educator, I begin each academic year with the hope that I can positively impact the lives of our students and alumni community. I am grateful for the recognition that reaffirms my commitment to helping others grow, and I am inspired to find more creative ways to improve the lives of our students, alumni, and the broader community of healthcare professionals through teaching.”

This is the third Excellence in Teaching award Dr. McClelland has received this summer. She also earned the Association for University Programs in Health Administration’s (AUPHA) Excellence in Teaching Award and the VCU Department of Health Administration’s 2022 Dolores Clement Teaching Award.

New VCU health administration faculty member receives AUPHA education award

Paige PowellPaige Powell, Ph.D., MHA, who recently became director of VCU Health Administration’s MHA and MSHA programs, is this year’s winner of the John D. Thompson Prize from the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA). Dr. Powell says she always wanted to be a teacher and enjoys looking for ways to use policy to help others.

The Thompson award honors faculty members for their contributions to the field of health administration education and is named after a health administration professor who set peerless standards for teaching, learning, research, and collegiality.

VCU Health Administration professor Daniel Lee, Ph.D., and department chair Paula Song, Ph.D., are past recipients of the Thompson prize.

VCU Health Administration leader receives nursing fellowship

Picture of Stephan DavisStephan Davis, DNP, MHSA, FACHE, FNAP, has been named one of the 2022 fellows for the

American Academy of Nursing. Davis is one of 250 distinguished leaders chosen for their efforts to advance public health, the academy says.

Davis, the executive director of inclusive leadership education for the Department of Health Administration, will be recognized along with other inductees for their contributions to the healthcare field at the academy’s annual Health Policy Conference that’s being held from Oct. 27-29 in Washington, D.C.  Earlier this year, Davis was inducted into the National Academies of Practice (NAP) Nursing Academy.

VCU Health Administration and School of Nursing alumnus Kenneth R. White, Ph.D., AGACNP-BC, ACHPN, FACHE, FAAN, is the president of the American Academy of Nursing’s board of directors. An emeriti faculty of VCU Health Administration, White served as director of the MHA program from 2001 to 2008 while holding the inaugural Charles P. Cardwell Jr. Professor of Health Administration.

Diversifying our Department’s Portfolio

There’s an old adage in finance: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

And as a finance person at the helm of an academic health administration department, I realized early that to grow and enhance our student and faculty experience, we must offer more than a single product.

Healthcare has changed over the last 20 years — in delivery, in access, in specializations, and in how we pay for all this — and so should the education that supports the field. Students today have high expectations and varied interests, and employers are searching for depth in the candidates they hire.

At VCU Health Administration, our goal is to produce students who are well-rounded and to supply them with the mechanisms they demand to pursue their own interests within the healthcare field throughout their career.

It’s why we’ve introduced three new certificate programs that dive deeper on issues around aging, health equity, and healthcare finance. While our primary MHA and MSHA curricula touch on aspects of these topics, the certificate programs go further and are open to anyone who meets the entry qualifications, not just our students. Read more about them in this newsletter and on our website.

We have placed a refreshed focus on research and are excited to see Adam Atherly, Ph.D., get to work as a new faculty member. He’s been part of groundbreaking and nationally-funded research around Medicare and private health insurance, and he will serve as a mentor to our faculty and help build our externally-funded research portfolio.

We’ve also restructured our MSHA program in a way that helps current full-time clinicians and healthcare professionals who attend the program on a part-time basis. What was once a largely non-stop semester from summer to the winter has taken on a more traditional semester format. There’s still an on-campus component, but we’ve reduced the time commitment in a way that offers more flexibility while maintaining the value of team building and networking in person.

You can also see the results of our efforts to make Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion a central tenet in our mission, knowing that leaders and clinicians who share backgrounds with their patients help reduce health disparities and improve the patient experience. Our MHA students are part of the most diverse class ever, which allows students to learn from one another’s perspectives.

To borrow another term in finance: By diversifying our portfolio of offerings, we’re adding to the foundation we have already built. Like any investment, there is risk, and we can’t assume everything we try will succeed. But that’s what an investment is: the pursuit of a payoff that, for us, creates value in the form of an enhanced student and faculty experience.

— Paula H Song, Ph.D | Richard M. Bracken Chair and Professor | VCU Department of Health Administration

Two faculty at CHP selected as American Academy of Nursing fellows

Four faculty members from Virginia Commonwealth University’s College of Health Professions and School of Nursing will receive one of the most prestigious honors in nursing this fall when they are inducted as fellows of the American Academy of Nursing.

The faculty members were among 250 nurse leaders selected to join the academy’s 2022 class of fellows. The inductees will be recognized for their significant contributions to health and health care at the academy’s annual Health Policy Conference, set for Oct. 27-29.

The VCU CHP faculty to be inducted this year are: 

  • Stephan Davis, DNP, the executive director of inclusive leadership education and assistant professor in the Department of Health Administration and assistant dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the College of Health Professions. Davis is a registered nurse, a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, fellow of the National Academies of Practice and a fellow of the Healthcare Financial Management Association.
  • Jiale (Gary) Hu, Ph.D., an assistant professor and director of research and global outreach in the Department of Nurse Anesthesia at the College of Health Professions. Hu is a registered nurse.

Read more about the four VCU faculty selected as fellows on VCU News.

VCU Health Administration Boosts Research Bench with Health Economist and Professor

Adam AtherlyThe addition of a new VCU Health Administration faculty member has bolstered the research capabilities of one of the nation’s leading academic health leadership programs.

To boil Adam Atherly, Ph.D.’s research into a single phrase: “Choice modeling,” he explains — specifically, how consumers make buying decisions around Medicare and private health insurance plans.

“That's the core of what I'm interested in,” says Atherly, who comes to Richmond after four years teaching and researching at the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine. “People think money drives everything. But it doesn’t. People make decisions for all kinds of reasons, and all of those reasons are completely valid. We make decisions based on culture, age, income, and millions of other factors.”

Atherly joined the VCU faculty on August 1 as a full professor. He will teach the U.S. Healthcare Systems course this fall in the MHA program. 

Over two decades, his work has spanned health insurance theory: how benefits packages are put together, how market forces impact offerings on consumers, scale development and psychometric analysis, and the effectiveness of community health teams on improving the quality and efficiency of care delivery. He’s part of an ongoing study identifying individual, community, and structural factors associated with lower COVID-19 testing rates in northern New England, with a focus on underserved and vulnerable populations.

Yet Atherly is perhaps best known for his work around Medicare Advantage plans. Known also as "Part C" or "MA Plans," Medicare Advantage is offered by Medicare-approved private companies that must follow rules set by the federal government. The plans may offer extra benefits and have lower out-of-pocket costs compared to Original Medicare.

The popularity of Medicare Advantage has grown over the years – nearly half of all Medicare recipients are on them. “Everybody knows the growth in Medicare Advantage is happening, but nobody knows why,” he says. He is working on projects to model and understand why the program dynamics are changing and how that will affect the future of the Medicare program.

To that end, Atherly’s work is often described as “the economics of aging,” he explains. “My work is really thinking about older populations, and what’s necessary economically to help them be successful in managing their healthcare.”

Paula H. Song, Ph.D., the Richard M. Bracken Chair and Professor at VCU Health Administration, said the department was interested in finding a faculty member who could contribute to its research portfolio.

“It's important for our students to understand how research drives practice and policy,” she says. “Adam's focus around Medicare and health insurance market choice is highly relevant given the way the industry functions and the how vast majority of health services is financed by Medicare and health plans.”

Song also said Atherly had demonstrated an ability to collaborate across a number of disciplines, “which is important for a department like ours” in the VCU College of Health Professions. Health Administration is one of nine key health career fields housed under a single roof, and students and faculty often work with one another.

“My skills are very complementary to what the department wants to do,” Atherly says. “I have the opportunity, being there, to really focus on the areas of my research that I'm most interested in.”

An Oregon native, Atherly has lived in various parts of the country and is looking forward to finding new outdoor activities to pursue in Richmond and Virginia. He moves here with his wife, Tricia. Their two children, a son and daughter, are in college at the University of Vermont.

VCU Health Administration Faculty Member Earns Fellowship Designation from Healthcare Financial Management Association

Stephan Davis standing at the bottom of the College of Health Professions stairway.Stephan Davis, DNP, MHSA, FACHE, FNAP, FHFMA, executive director of inclusive leadership education and assistant professor in VCU’s Department of Health Administration and assistant dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion for the College of Health Professions, has been named a fellow of the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA).

“Finance is one of the pillars of excellence for the department of health administration at VCU” said Paula Song, PhD., Richard M. Bracken chair and professor of Health Administration. “With three healthcare finance researchers in our department, Drs. Nathan Carroll, Saleema Karim and myself, combined with Dr. Davis’ leadership experience overseeing utilization and his achievement of this important professional distinction, we are uniquely positioned to expose our students to both the theory and application of healthcare finance and how business decisions impact care coordination and patient outcomes. We are thrilled to congratulate Dr. Davis on his third national fellowship and look forward to his continued work to guide our students and alums in pursuit of board certifications and national fellowships.” 

To be awarded the FHFMA distinction, applicants must be credentialed as a Certified Healthcare Financial Professional (CHFP); be an HFMA member for at least five years; meet academic and continuing education requirements; be recommended by an HFMA fellow or healthcare association leader; and demonstrate substantive contributions to HFMA and the field of healthcare management. More than 1,700 HFMA members nationwide have achieved this accomplishment in the organization’s 75-year history.

While many know Davis for his current work to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion, the beginning of his healthcare leadership journey included more than a half-decade overseeing utilization management and case management for health insurance companies and a safety-net hospital in New York City. These areas are key to revenue cycle and value-based purchasing.  

“Leading nurses, physician advisors, physical therapists, social workers, and other clinical professionals and support staff in the coordination of healthcare services – ensuring access to high quality medically necessary care while also promoting efficiency and reducing costs, was such an important part of my development as a healthcare executive” Davis said. “I tell our MHA students that no matter what area of healthcare leadership they choose to pursue, a solid foundation in quality and revenue cycle is so important for all aspiring executives.” 

In addition to being a fellow of HFMA, Davis was named a distinguished scholar and fellow of the National Academies of Practice earlier this year. He is also a fellow and national faculty member with the American College of Healthcare Executives. Beyond fellowships, he holds several board certifications including Nurse Executive, Advanced-Board Certified (NEA-BC) through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, Certified in Executive Nursing Practice (CENP) through the American Organization for Nursing Leadership, Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ) through the National Association for Healthcare Quality, and Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) through the National League for Nursing. He is a passionate champion for increasing the numbers of healthcare leaders from historically underrepresented and excluded backgrounds holding national fellowships, prestigious awards, and advanced academic and professional credentials. 

The VCU Department of Health Administration is a premiere research department geared toward creating the most innovative, compassionate, and business-savvy leaders to reimagine healthcare. For more, visit here.

About HFMA

The Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) equips its more than 83,000 members nationwide to navigate a complex healthcare landscape. Finance professionals in the full range of work settings, including hospitals, health systems, physician practices and health plans, trust HFMA to provide the guidance and tools to help them lead their organizations, and the industry, forward. HFMA is a not-for-profit, nonpartisan organization that advances healthcare by collaborating with other key stakeholders to address industry challenges and providing guidance, education, practical tools and solutions, and thought leadership.

Remembering Dr. Ann Johnston, MHA ’90 and VCU faculty member

By Jeff Kelley

For the faculty and staff holiday door-decorating contest at VCU Health Administration’s old offices in the historic Grant House, Ann Johnston, Ed.D., MHA and Laura McClelland, Ph.D. hatched a grand plan.

Instead of casing their office doors with Santas, snowy scenes, and gift wrapping, the pair uploaded faculty headshots onto the popular JibJab website, and placed the heads on the bodies of cartoon dancing elves. Then they rigged up a computer and projector from McClelland’s office to shine onto Johnston’s door, where elves danced a jig in a hallway filled year-round, McClelland says, with “laughter and energy.”

“We laughed so hard,” she recalls. Their efforts didn’t win the contest, and as Johnston would note: “We were robbed.”

It was one of several stories McClelland told of her former VCU colleague, decade-long friend, and mentor to many students and faculty members. Johnston passed away last week after a brief illness. She was 69.

Johnston was among the first women to attend the University of Virginia, earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology in the mid-1970s (the university opened to coeducation in 1970). In the 1980s, she ran preschools and raised kids in the Richmond area, but, feeling something was missing, decided to go back to school. Then a mom of three, she gained her master’s degree in health administration from VCU in 1990 — and, after returning as a faculty member 21 years later (then in her early 60s), earned her Doctor of Education in leadership there, too.

“I always said she was a lover of new beginnings,” says Becca Taubel, Johnston’s daughter. “She is someone who never thought it was too late in life to start something new, or start a new adventure.”

After earning her MHA, Johnston spent 22 years in healthcare leadership in both proprietary and not-for-profit healthcare systems. She served as vice president of High Point Regional Health System in High Point, N.C., and was chief operating officer at both Columbus Regional Healthcare System in Whiteville, N.C, and HCA Lanier Park Hospital in Gainesville, Ga. She also founded her own consulting practice, guiding healthcare systems on strategic planning and new business development.

It was those two-plus decades of experience she brought back to her alma mater when she joined the VCU Health Administration faculty in August 2011. Her journey to Richmond came at the request of emerita professor Dolores Clement, Dr. P.H., M.S., M.A., who asked her to direct the department’s professional development and continuing education programs. It was also the right time to come back to Virginia for Johnston, whose mother was in a Northern Neck retirement community.

“She just wanted to make a difference. She just wanted to help,” recalls McClelland, then a rookie who’d just finished her Ph.D. and joined the faculty a month prior to Johnston. The co-workers fast became friends.

While at VCU, Johnston also led the Executive MBA program’s health care management concentration. She created a nine-credit curriculum focused on national, employer, and industry perspectives surrounding health care.

“Ann was truly the architect of the program. And she loved it,” says McClelland, an associate professor and director of the department’s Doctoral Program in Health Services Organization & Research. “She would describe it as another ‘new, fun energetic group of students.’”

A fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), Johnston left VCU in 2016 to become MHA program director at Indiana University at Indianapolis. There, she presided over the program's 50th anniversary celebration. Under her leadership, the program overhauled the recruitment process, added new scholarships, successfully obtained re-accreditation, and launched an executive MHA track.

“Moreover, Dr. Johnston was an exemplar advocate and mentor to students and is credited with greatly increasing the number of MHA students who pursued administrative fellowships,” says Nir Menachemi, Ph.D., MPH, Indiana’s Health Policy and Management department chair.

Johnston retired last fall, returned to Virginia and, this spring, taught human resources in the department’s residential master’s program.

“Ann had a gift for mentoring and teaching,” says McClelland. “She was just so talented and gifted with the students, and provided so much one-on-one direct coaching. She was committed to their personal growth and development.”

And through dry wit, she could also give them tough love. “She had a way of straight talk, and she would give you praise, but would have some really tough conversations with students,” McClelland says. “And it was really about helping to bring out the best in them — it was always from a good place. She just knew how to do it in a way that they could hear it.”

Will Maixner described Johnston as “one of my biggest cheerleaders” who helped him through a challenging moment early in his career. The 2010 MHA graduate met Johnston when he interviewed at her health system for the MHA program’s third-year administrative residency position. He ultimately decided on a different position, which was later cut during the recession.

“Ann encouraged me throughout and did everything in her power to help me find the right place after most sites had already selected candidates,” Maixner recalled in a LinkedIn post. “I hope we can all emulate Ann’s dedication to helping others, especially students. She worked tirelessly and selflessly to ensure her students and team had a foundation to be successful.”

In her personal life, Johnston “blew through novels,” recalled Taubel. She loved musicals and live theater. “And if you had ever been to my mom’s house, you’d see beachwear everywhere. The woman loved the beach,” her daughter said. “If she could get there, she would.” She loved gardening, flowers, “and I come by it honestly,” Taubel says smiling, “she did love a good wine.”

In addition to Taubel, Johnston is survived by her middle son, Eric and oldest son Wesley, along with his wife Jenny and their three daughters. Becca, the youngest, says it is their mom’s independence and determination to succeed no matter the circumstances that will stand as her legacy.

“My mom loved her kids, but also showed us that a career and passion are important. She came from a generation where women weren't always allowed to dream of a career. And she not only dreamed of it — she did it,” Taubel says. “She was a shining testament that it’s never too late.”

A service for Dr. Ann Johnston will be held Saturday, June 18 at 2 p.m.
Historic Christ Church
420 Christ Church Rd.
Weems, Virginia 22576

2:30 p.m.-5 p.m.  
Kilmarnock Inn
34 E. Church St.
Kilmarnock, Virginia 22482

> Ann has asked that gifts be made to VCU Health Administration in her honor. Giving will provide financial assistance for travel to professional association conferences to the MHA, MHA/JD and MHA/MD students enrolled in the MHA Program. To do so, visit our Giving page and select "MHA Professional Development Fund (Endowment gift of MHA Class of 2008 and 2010)."

> Photos: 1st- Johnston receiving her Doctor of Education degree in 2015, and 2nd -Johnston and McClelland on vacation at the beach.

Student Consulting Group Offers Pro Bono Work in Exchange for Real-World Experience

RAM Handz co-founders, (l. to r.) Kyle Santillan ‘23, Delaney Mayette ‘23, and Michael Philippone ‘23, celebrating the launch of their first project at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.When the MHA Class of 2023 entered as first-year students in the fall of 2020, they were already well aware of the many changes that the pandemic had brought to their lives inside and outside of the classroom.

Of particular interest to these students was how to supplement their in-class learning with real-life applications, a need that had previously been fulfilled by internships, volunteer work, and connections made face-to-face. That’s when a group of students, led by Delaney Mayette, Michael Phillppone and Kyle Santillan, dreamt up Ram Handz Healthcare Consulting, a fully student-led organization that provides pro bono consulting services for healthcare systems around the country. 

After reaching out to mentors, previous preceptors, and alumni, Ram Handz took on a slate for projects in their first year of operation, working with Sentara Healthcare, HCA Healthcare, and more.

The areas of focus for each project has run the gamut from a patient education portal to marketing materials to a gap analysis study, and this diverse range of consulting work has allowed the students to focus in on their interests and the different avenues that they may be considering for their careers. 

The work of Ram Handz Healthcare Consulting has had immediate benefit for the students involved, with many of them securing internships and later fellowships with the health systems with which they had made these valuable connections.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” said Mayette. “Through our consulting work with Ram Handz, these organizations saw what we could do and were excited to bring us on.”

Each project has been supported by faculty in the Department of Health Administration, providing the Ram Handz team with an opportunity to deepen and strengthen the knowledge base that they had gained in the classroom. 

With the founding members of Ram Handz getting ready to start their third-year residency placements in the fall, the organization is looking forward to the future. Ram Handz is in the process of applying to be an official VCU student organization, and they are also seeking out new connections in the industry and with alumni to pave the way for future opportunities to provide consulting services.

“Everything we do is building on what we’re learning in the classroom,” Mayette added, “and we’re excited to take that knowledge and make a difference out in the world.”

(Pictured (l. to r.) Kyle Santillan ‘23, Delaney Mayette ‘23, and Michael Philippone ‘23, celebrating the launch of their first project at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.)

Check Out the Latest Cardwell Comments

Click the cover to read the latest newsletter.

Our spring semester has come to a close, and we want to congratulate the class of 2022! We applaud our MHA and MSHA graduates and welcome them to the next chapter of their careers.

You can see every graduate, and check out what the other students and faculty of VCU Health Administration have been up to over the past five months, in the latest issue of Cardwell Comments. It’s available now for download (if you’re close to our offices in Richmond, print editions are available if you’d like to stop by). 

Also in this issue:

And more! Enjoy the latest issue.


MHA graduating class:
Back row from left: Hunter Stone, Thomas Thorup, Davis Roche, John Tennant, Jacob Williams, Taylor Woolley.

Middle row from left: Heather Boswell, Tamela Brandenburg, Jennifer Harter, Mary Claire Jenkins.

Front row from left: Kaylyn Conklin, Emilee Strausburg, Jeff Renner, Morgan Gossman, Devynn Woolley


MSHA graduating class:
First row from left: Monica Bregman, Amy Paul, Jinhyun Jung.

Second row from left: Nicole Carter-Loebig, Juellisa Secosky, Andrea Nguyen, Rachel Sheldon, Ginae Bluitt.

Third row from left: Anthony Shero, Mark Davis, Kevin Fekete.

Fourth row from left: David Derrickson, Tanza Westry, Chase Shieder.

MHA Students Rise to the Challenge with Case Competitions

This year brought outstanding participation from Health Administration students in case competitions around the country.

Students are given the opportunity to apply their classroom learning to real-world issues as part of a simulation, developing comprehensive strategic business plans to present to a judging panel of healthcare executives.

Due to an outpouring of interest, the department has sent teams of first- and second-year students to a record number of competitions over the last year, including: National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE), University of Alabama at Birmingham, Cleveland Clinic, and Cornell Sloan, where the VCU team placed third overall.

At the National CLARION Case Competition, MHA student Lance Mendoza participated with an interdisciplinary group of students from VCU, taking first place in the prestigious competition, in addition to winning the DEI Award.

First year MHA students Jared Dawson, Emma Creech, and Mendoza won third place in the Cornell Sloan case competition, sponsored by Centra Health in Denver, Colo.

“The growing interest of VCU students in case competitions stems from the recent success of our students who participated in the NAHSE 2020 case competition, where they placed fifth overall,” said department chair Paula H. Song. “Our students are eager to have applied experiential learning opportunities. It also provides a wonderful opportunity to hone their strategic thinking and presentation skills.”

Thanks to the support of alumni who aid in case competition preparation, students are also making valuable connections to bring with them as they prepare for their third-year residencies and future careers.

“I think we will see students’ participation in case competitions continue to grow during the next several years,” added Song. “Their work this year has been outstanding, and an inspiration to future cohorts.” 

In Denver, first-year MHA students Lance Mendoza, Emma Creech, and Jared Dawson placed third in the Cornell Sloan Case Competition sponsored by Centura Health. 

Josephine Gresko, Lance Mendoza, Gruhi Patel, and Kush Savsani teamed to win a national title. (Tom Kojcsich, University Marketing)

The VCU Team at NAHSE. Left to right: Manneja Cordray, Quetel Sellers, Malea Riley.

Health Administration students at the UAB Case Competition. Left to right: Tanner Young, Delaney Mayette, Kyle Santillan.

MHA students Victor Melo, Alex Ritchie, William Keyt compete at the Ohio State Case competition.

MSNBC/NBC News Journalist Lui Encourages College of Health Professions Students to Lead with Eyes on Inclusivity, Compassion

Richard Lui presenting Sky BlossomRichard Lui has been on national TV for 15 years. And it took him a while to get comfortable with that.

Perhaps it is due to the fact viewers paid more attention to the color of his skin, or the way he looked: He’s the first Asian American man to anchor a daily national cable news program.

For a long time, Lui second-guessed himself: “Am I smart enough? Am I doing the right thing? Is it what I’m wearing?” Maybe he’d change his voice to sound more like previous generations of older white anchors.

“I was questioning everything at the beginning of my career 15 years ago. And I felt I was always behind because of that,” he told a group of about 100 students and faculty in April at the VCU College of Health Professions.  The news industry, he said, wasn’t looking for Asian Americans when he started in the business. “There is no call from the corner offices of the network saying, ‘Hey, you know, we really need [an Asian American person on our channel].’ And that is why I've depended on not waiting for that call, but instead, I know I have to make that call myself. I've got to do it. We must all make that call together.”

It was that message — advocating for equality and inclusivity not only in the news business, but in healthcare and in society at large — that Lui, an award-winning journalist for MSNBC and NBC News, shared with students and faculty mostly from the College’s Department of Health Administration.  

In a series of examples, Lui encouraged the nation’s future healthcare leaders to build teams with clinical providers and leaders who look like and share similar lived experiences as the people in the communities they serve, and develop creative ways to ensure care is equitable to all by reaching out to patients. Compared to the overall U.S. population, healthcare providers who identify as Black, Asian, or Hispanic represent a small portion of the doctors, nurses, and leaders in clinical settings. It’s widely accepted that leaders and clinicians who share experiences and backgrounds with their patients play an essential role in reducing health disparities and improving the patient experience.

“Closing that gap is a collective effort across all of our communities,” Lui said. “We know that outcomes are improved when we increase [the diversity of] the faces in healthcare.”

Lui’s talk comes as the Department of Health Administration has placed a top priority on incorporating inclusive leadership into its programs and curricula.

Lui recalled a story of the HIV/AIDS crisis in San Francisco. In 1983, the overwhelmed San Francisco General Hospital set up ward 5B for AIDS patients — mostly gay men, many of whom had been ostracized from their families. They were sick, dying, and alone.

But nurses of many backgrounds, and many of them also in the LGBTQ community, stepped in to help and provide patients with compassionate care — even if it meant risking their own lives, as no one fully understood how the sexually transmitted virus spread at that time.

“Those caregivers in 5B had a different perspective on how to care for people. They knew they weren’t there to bring patients back to health or to life,” Lui said. So the nurses broke protocol: They held patients’ hands without gloves, rubbed the patients’ foreheads, even crawled into beds to give them comfort.”

Lui noted the media failed at accurately telling the story of AIDS in the early years of the epidemic, in particular by not getting close enough to the community suffering from the virus due to fear or gay stereotypes at the time.

“That story is a story of failure to me, because we didn't get it right as journalists. So those healthcare workers were the ones who were telling the stories of those ignored groups,” Lui said. “And they were of all different backgrounds…of color, of different gender identities, of different orientations.”

Lui also drew a comparison of journalism to healthcare and showed why having reporters — or healthcare providers and leaders — with backgrounds that reflect the communities they serve is so important. On March 16, 2021, a shooter killed eight people, including six Asian women, at spa parlors in Atlanta. Lui called it “a dark day” for the Asian American Pacific islander (AAPI) community.

Lui covered the spa shootings, which came after a year of thousands of AAPI hate and harassment incidents as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a breathless moment. The [AAPI] community, me included, felt like we weren't human for that moment,” he told the diverse room of students at VCU. “And perhaps many of you had those moments before. It's not a fun moment.”

Typically journalists do not get involved in the story, he said, and simply report on what they see. But nearly immediately following the event, the Asian American Journalists Association broke rank and put out guidance to newsrooms nationwide to ensure reporters and editors got the story right and respected the victims. They explained how full names of the victims should be printed and pronounced, worked to make sure newsrooms did not perpetuate Asian stereotypes, and offered insights into the hyper-sexualization of AAPI women.

“If it weren't for [the AAPI community] being there to tell the story, to bring it home and say, ‘This is wrong,’ then we may not know about it,” he said. “When we think about inclusion, and the dynamics around it, it does count that we have workers who look like those who we serve. It works.”

Lui’s late father, Stephen, died in December after an eight-year struggle against Alzheimer’s disease. Richard has spoken publicly about setting aside his career to care for his father and family and recently published a book, Enough About Me, that documents his time as a caregiver and offers tools to find meaning and compassion in everyday choices.

Paula Song, Richard Lui, Amy Armstrong, Stephan DavisThat same month, Lui interviewed U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, and was able to connect with him not only as a journalist, but as a fellow caregiver — both are one of 53 million people who serve as caregivers (in Becerra’s case, both his mother and father). Becerra and Lui shared their personal stories as they discussed nation’s plan to address Alzheimer’s and dementia care.

“I am grateful for the Secretary to come forward to share that, because I think he probably helped two or three caregivers across the country say, ‘I gotta take care of myself. This isn’t easy. It’s okay. I can say that word: I am a caregiver.’”

As his dad’s caregiver, Lui noted that while he is not a healthcare provider, “I am an expert in my father.” Whenever they visited a doctor or ER, Lui and his family could clearly explain to providers what was happening with his dad.

And it’s important to advocate for yourself or others who cannot speak for themselves, he said, because “I cannot expect any healthcare professional will be a walking encyclopedia.” That’s especially true, Lui said, in advocating for patients of color. “We’re all leaning in to understand these layers of what it means to be a person of color — as a journalist, as well as in healthcare,” he said.

Finally, he encouraged students to go to “No Go Zones” — whether those communities are figurative or literal, but places where society believes one should not visit or discuss.

“I must continue in my work to go to No Go Zones. And all of us need to do that. We must always go towards what we think might be No Go: either an idea, a physicality, or an appearance,” he said. And when a person goes to a No Go Zone and experiences another person’s story, “you are now smarter for it, and you can tell their stories better, you can see other people's stories better.”

View the Q&A portion of Richard Lui’s talk with VCU College of Health Professions students.

Kaiser Permanente Northern California Regional President talks environmental sustainability in health care

Owen Plietz, MHA '00 speaks with Health Administration students

Do No Harm.

Like the promise doctors make to their patients, health care systems must do the same for their communities when it comes to environmental sustainability.

That was the message delivered to VCU Health Administration students by Carrie Owen Plietz, FACHE, a 2000 MHA graduate who serves as the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Regional President.

“We need to expand this concept of ‘Zero Harm’ from patient care to our community,” said Owen Plietz, the Paul A. Gross Landmarks in Leadership Lecturer. “We have a moral obligation here to do something different.”

As a kick-off to April’s reunion weekend at the VCU College of Health Professions, Owen Plietz cited statistics from the organization Health Care Without Harm that show health care’s climate footprint is responsible for 4.4% of total global emissions — and the U.S. contributes to a quarter of that total.

The focus on environmental sustainability is part of what Kaiser Permanente calls “Total Health” — treating patients holistically with an eye on investing in and improving the social determinants of health. And it’s a mission taken seriously by the organization. Owen Plietz described Kaiser Permanente as a unique “magic unicorn” of an integrated health system and not-for-profit health plan. The organization provides care to more than 4.5 million members through 21 hospitals and more than 250 medical offices in Northern California.

“We’re fully incented and aligned on keeping you healthy,” she said. “Every day, the people in our organization are mission driven to keep people healthy, at home and living their best lives. It is so cool.”

When it comes to impacting the environment, Kaiser Permanente was the first health care system to achieve carbon neutrality in 2020. It improved energy-use efficiency 8 percent since 2013, saving $19.6 million annually, and decreased water-use intensity 15.3 percent, saving $2.8 million annually. Through offsets, policies, and updated or new infrastructure, the organization’s hospitals and medical buildings no longer have a carbon footprint — equivalent to taking 175,000 cars off the road.

Owen Plietz walked through Kaiser Permanente’s “Carbon Neutral Protocol,” a three-phased approach to removing as much pollution from the atmosphere as possible. It has achieved two of its three “scopes,” which include goals for reducing emissions from fleet vehicles, anesthetic gas, and refrigerants.

The second scope includes emissions targets for all the system’s buildings, which require electricity and steam to operate Kaiser Permanente. The organization has long-term purchasing agreements for 335 megawatts of utility-scale electricity from renewable sources, has installed more than 60 megawatts of on-site solar arrays (enough to power 9,600 homes for a year), and has bought carbon offsets to mitigate unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions.

Like other California-based health systems and hospitals, under a 1994 state law, Kaiser Permanente had to retrofit old buildings and design new hospitals to standards that would require them to remain functional after a major earthquake. In doing so, the company also committed to constructing with sustainability in mind — adding solar panels or using greener building methods. Today the organization has several LEED-certified green hospitals and buildings, including the San Diego Medical Center, the world’s first double LEED-Platinum hospital.

Kaiser Permanente employs an entire sustainability team, including an Executive Director of Environmental Stewardship and a Chief Energy Officer, all of whom are held accountable for achieving key sustainability metrics.

“It's been iterative. It's been adaptive. We're not where we want to be yet,” Owen Plietz said. “With any type of zero harm, it is continuous improvement, right? You're never there because you're always trying to get better.”

She encouraged VCU Health Administration students entering third-year administrative residencies with health care organizations to, should they work on construction projects, ask questions about sustainability initiatives.  Initiatives such as incorporating solar power, whether carbon credits will be purchased to offset on-site boilers, or if buildings will be constructed to zero-carbon standards.

“You’re going to bring something new and creative and fresh to the conversation,” she said. “Wouldn’t it be amazing if all of us in health care thought about Zero Harm for our patients, our community, and the environment, and had a more holistic view of Total Health? It’s a great way for VCU to stand out.”

In another example, she explained how Kaiser Permanente questioned how they bought food and wondered if they could buy more local fruits, vegetables, and meats, which were raised using more sustainable practices.

“The immediate response was, ‘[buying local food] is going to be more expensive,’” Owen Plietz said. “It actually ended up being less expensive.”

Her lesson: “Sometimes, when we're talking about sustainability, we think it's going to be more expensive. But all of you are smart enough to know to dig a little bit deeper, because the story is much broader. Challenge the status quo. It is the right thing to do.”

Professor with passion for policy and teaching to lead MHA/MSHA programs

2022 AUPHA honoree joins VCU Health Administration faculty July 1

Paige PowellThis summer, The University of Memphis’ Paige Powell, Ph.D., MHA will move east to join VCU Health Administration as associate professor and program director of the MHA and MSHA programs.

It’s a move that takes Powell, whose healthcare leadership journey began during the Clinton-era reforms of the nation’s healthcare system, from Tennessee to Richmond. Beyond leading the nationally ranked MHA and MSHA programs, Powell’s vision at VCU is to give students greater exposure to extracurricular opportunities, work hand-in-hand with department leaders to improve DEI initiatives, and maintain the university’s prominence in health administration education.

“I've always loved learning. And I think I always knew in some way that I wanted to be a teacher,” says Powell, who also obtained both her undergraduate and master’s degrees in health administration at UofM before earning her Ph.D. in health policy and administration from Penn State. “I’ve always liked looking at ways to help people through policy, whether it's expanding access to care, or looking at how to make healthcare more patient centered. That’s the approach I want to pass on to students.”

She has served on the faculty at UofM’s School of Public Health since 2013, and was named MHA program director there in 2018. During her time in Memphis, the MHA program was reaccredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME), and Powell also helped launch an online-only executive MHA degree, designed for the mid-careerist.

For her contributions to the field, Powell was awarded the John D. Thompson Prize from the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA) this year. The prizes honors faculty based on their overall contributions to the field of health administration (she will be recognized on June 9 at the AUPHA Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City). VCU Health Administration professor Daniel Lee, Ph.D and department chair Paula Song, Ph.D are previous recipients of the John D. Thompson Prize.

Powell has a passion for student case competitions, particularly the national ones hosted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the National Association of Health Services Executives. In a case competition, students from competing MHA programs receive the same case study and develop a strategic and financial solution based on a set of deliverables. “That's something I've done here at Memphis that's really increased our visibility and something I look forward to continuing at VCU,” she says.

Memphis MHA teams have placed in the semi-finals in national case competitions three times in recent years. “We were seen as coming out of nowhere to perform well, so I know the caliber of students that VCU recruits would be excellent contenders,” she says. “VCU does participate in case competitions, and I’d like to ramp it up even more.” (In the UAB’s inaugural 2007 competition, VCU placed first and has been a semi-finalist and received honorable mentions in subsequent competitions. In 2020, VCU students advanced to the final round of the NAHSE student case competition).

She notes that Memphis, like Richmond, is a diverse city, with a majority of the population from underrepresented groups who face issues with access to quality healthcare. It’s a reason she says addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion is so critical at the leadership level.

“The entire VCU College of Health Professions, and especially the Department of Health Administration, is really putting a concerted effort into increasing DEI,” she says. “We need more leaders who understand that the value of diversity and inclusion can both address workforce shortages and reduce health disparities and improve the patient experience.”

Paula H. Song, Ph.D, the Richard M. Bracken Chair and Professor of VCU Health Administration, said Powell’s experience and passion for health policy and leadership made her a standout candidate for the MHA/MSHA program director role.

“Dr. Powell is joining VCU at such a critical time for healthcare and our program as we make DEI a priority both in our academic culture and within the industry,” she says. “We know her talents and experience will help continue strengthening our masters programs and support our students to be inclusive healthcare leaders who are ready to address and support the healthcare needs of the communities they serve.”

And Powell — whose move also brings her closer to her parents and family in Raleigh, N.C. — is honored to step into the role.

“I feel really proud of how I've helped Memphis to grow,” she says. “And I believe that I can bring a lot of those same skills and initiatives to VCU to help them be even better.”

Students triumph at prestigious interprofessional case competition

CLARION Case Competition focused on diversity, equity and inclusion in health care.

A group of Virginia Commonwealth University undergraduate and graduate students have won the prestigious CLARION Case Competition, designed to improve interdisciplinary communications within health care.

Josephine Gresko, Lance Mendoza, Gruhi Patel, and Kush Savsani teamed to win a national title. (Tom Kojcsich, University Marketing)Josephine Gresko, a first-year student in the School of Pharmacy; Lance Mendoza, a graduate health administration student in the College of Health Professions; Gruhi Patel, a senior biomedical engineering major in the College of Engineering; and Kush Savsani, a sophomore biology major in the College of Humanities and Sciences, won $7,500 and are the first VCU team to win the competition, beating out 16 other teams from across the country. The team also won this year’s $1,000 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award with their presentation.

Read more about the CLARION competition on VCU News.

Class of 2022: Surviving childhood cancer inspired Jeff Renner to innovate pediatric health care

Jeff Renner's administrative residency at Children’s Hospital of Richmond has reinforced his belief that he is on the right path. (Kevin Morley, University Marketing)Pursuing a master’s in health administration, Renner wants to make compassionate leadership and equal access to high-quality care the standard in pediatric health care.

Renner started as an engineering major, but made the switch to health professions. Intrigued by the VCU College of Health Professions’ affiliation to Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, Renner enrolled in the health administration program. “It was a perfect fit. The health administration track has an emphasis on compassionate leadership and I found mentors to help me launch a career in pediatrics,” he said.

Read more about Jeff Renner's journey on VCU News.

Michael Elliott named first COO of VCU Health System

Michael ElliottAfter an extensive national search, Michael Elliott, Pharm.D., MSHA, FACHE, has been selected as the inaugural chief operations officer of VCU Health System, effective May 15. The new position is responsible for integrating the academic health system’s organizational strategic plan with its operations. Elliottt holds a doctorate in pharmacy and master’s degree in health administration from VCU.

Read more about Michael Elliott being named the first COO of VCU Health System on VCU Health news.

NBC/MSNBC Journalist Lui to visit VCU College of Health Professions

NBC/MSNBC Journalist Lui to visit VCU College of Health Professions

Richard Lui, an anchor and journalist with NBC News and MSNBC, will visit the VCU College of Health Professions on April 7. The first-generation Chinese and Polynesian American will spend a day in Richmond and share his personal and professional journey while discussing the importance of investing in diverse communities in order to improve population health.

Lui was invited to VCU by the Department of Health Administration as part of its new inclusive leadership education initiative. 

Lui is an award-winning journalist and author with more than 30 years in television, film, technology, and business. Prior to anchoring for MSNBC and NBC News, he was with CNN Worldwide and became the first Asian American man to anchor a daily national cable news program. He regularly speaks to his on-the-ground experience on the complex topic of race, driven by his journalistic expertise.

“We are so excited that Richard Lui is able to join us and meet with our students and faculty to share his story and his vision for investing in diverse communities,” says Stephan Davis, DNP, MHSA, FACHE, FNAP, assistant dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at the VCU College of Health Professions (CHP) and executive director of inclusive leadership education for the Department of Health Administration. “After years of watching Richard on the news, I was elated to have the opportunity to speak with him one-on-one at the end of 2021. I knew from our conversation, which ranged from healthcare to the challenges minorities often face in professional environments, that VCU students would benefit from learning about his personal and professional journey and his mission-driven work on caregiving and mental health.”

"I am thrilled to join the VCU College of Health Professions and the Department of Health Administration as they commemorate National Minority Health Month,” Lui said.  “When I met with Dr. Davis, I was impressed with his leadership and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the College's investment in this important work. Given my personal experience with and films related to caregiving, I am most excited to meet with students who will be the next generation of healthcare providers and health system leaders."

Lui is the author of the bestselling and award-winning book Enough About Me: The Unexpected Power of Selflessness. He is also the director and producer of two feature documentary films including his directorial debut, Sky Blossom: Diaries of the Next Greatest Generation, which covers children caring for military veteran parents and grandparents with disabilities. His second film, Hidden Wounds, profiles three families at the intersection of mental health and caregiving. 

April is National Minority Health Month, and Lui’s talk on the Month’s theme, Give Your Community a Boost, will focus on the ways that investing in diverse communities can help to eradicate health disparities. The day will include a keynote address for 150 guests and a screening of Lui’s award-winning film on caregiving, Sky Blossom, followed by an exclusive Q&A session.

Links to register are below. Space is limited.

VCU Health Administration Leader inducted into National Academies of Practice (NAP) Nursing Academy

Stephan Davis smilingStephan Davis, DNP, MHSA, FACHE, has been inducted as a distinguished scholar and fellow to the National Academies of Practice (NAP) Nursing Academy. The induction comes in advance of Davis’ presentation on nursing leadership and workforce development at the American College of Healthcare Executives Congress on Healthcare Leadership on March 28 in Chicago. Two nurse executives from Wellstar Health System will present alongside Davis.

“I congratulate Dr. Davis on his induction as a fellow of the National Academies of Practice Nursing Academy. He is absolutely deserving of this recognition. His commitment to transforming health care to be respectful and effective for underserved and underrepresented populations is simply unparalleled. His efforts and his impact extend far beyond our community,” said Susan L. Parish, PhD, MSW, dean of the VCU College of Health Professions. “This honor is a tribute to his leadership in interprofessional collaboration.”

Davis joined the VCU Department of Health Administration in January and serves as executive director of inclusive leadership education. He is also the assistant dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the VCU College of Health Professions, a nationally recognized leader in the education of healthcare providers and leaders, cultivating an interprofessional approach to training across 9 disciplines.

"His commitment to transforming health care to be respectful and effective for underserved and underrepresented populations is simply unparalleled."

Susan Parish, Dean of the VCU College of Health Professions

The National Academies of Practice is a non-profit organization that advises governmental bodies on the healthcare system. Practitioners and scholars are elected by peers from various health professions disciplines to join the group dedicated to supporting affordable, accessible, and coordinated quality healthcare for all.

“VCU and the National Academies of Practice are both focused on transforming healthcare through interprofessional collaboration while improving quality, increasing access, and reducing costs,” Davis says. “I am honored that a respected national organization like NAP has recognized my work to guide healthcare organizations to become designated leaders in LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality, as well as my efforts to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in healthcare and academic settings.”

One of the key elements of his interprofessional leadership cited in his nomination was his work with the Josiah Macy Foundation. Davis served as an invited conferee at the 2020 Macy Foundation conference on Addressing Harmful Bias and Eliminating Discrimination in Health Professions Learning Environments. It culminated in a report of recommendations and action steps to advance diversity and inclusion in those settings. Subsequently, Davis has been instrumental in disseminating the report recommendations in collaboration with the Foundation through multiple channels, including webinars, blogs, and podcasts.

Davis will present “21X—From RN to Chief Nursing Officer: Journeys of Leadership and Resiliency Amid Unprecedented Change” on March 28 from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the ACHE Congress in Chicago. He will be joined by Wellstar’s Jill Case-Wirth, RN, FAAN, Senior Vice President and Chief Nurse Executive, as well as LeeAnna Spiva, Ph.D, RN, System Assistant Vice President of Nursing Operations and Practice. Learn more and add the session to your calendar.

Taking action to achieve an equitable and inclusive healthcare workforce

Whether educating future executives or clinicians, as healthcare professionals in academia, we have a responsibility to make sure tomorrow’s workforce is representative of the patients and communities they serve. 

Truly committing to diversity, equity, and inclusion takes intent, and hard work, to attract and retain students from underrepresented communities. And it means curating an academic culture where people feel they belong, have a voice, and the support they need to thrive.

One of the most compelling arguments for making DEI a priority in healthcare is to meet workforce challenges head-on. To address the shortage of nurses, physicians, and leaders requires uncovering talent from all corners of society, and we believe we can find great minds in communities that have largely been underrepresented in the healthcare field. 

More importantly, it’s evident that leaders and clinicians who share experiences and backgrounds with their patients play an essential role in reducing health disparities and improving the patient experience.  “Representation matters when it comes to making minority patients and community members feel seen and heard,” the authors of Leading While Black: Addressing Social Justice and Health Disparities write. I encourage you to read this 2021 report from the National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE) and The Chartis Group. It offers fresh recommendations on how healthcare organizations can move the social justice arc and put more Black and minority leaders into executive positions.

Industrywide, we should all recognize that there’s a long way to go.

Today, 5% of physicians are Black, and 5.8% are Hispanic (compared to about 14% and 19% of the total American population, respectively). The registered nurse workforce is 6.2% Black and 5.3% Hispanic. When it comes to faces in the C-suite, ACHE gives us a glimpse of its 47,000 members: 10.4% Black, 5.6% Hispanic, and 7.3 percent Asian.  

From a program standpoint, we have made progress to establish a more diverse faculty in the VCU Department of Health Administration. When it comes to the student body, however, our performance has been inconsistent. Across the history of our MHA, MSHA, and Ph.D. programs, Black graduates represent just 6 percent of total alumni. The good news is that many of our students have had the fortune of going on to build high-visibility, high-impact careers and blazed trails for others like them.

But we are going to do better. We have to do more to increase enrollment and development of people from communities that have been marginalized if VCU wants to impact their representation in the C-suite. 

To borrow a phrase from the American Association of Colleges & Universities related to our “active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity,” we took an important step forward this year in hiring our first full-time Black faculty member, Dr. Stephan Davis. As an assistant professor, he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in health administration. But he also serves as Executive Director of Inclusive Leadership Education for our Department and is an assistant dean of DEI for the VCU College of Health Professions. (Read more about his “Black and Golden” national webinar below and register for it here).

Dr. Davis is also starting discussions around how to establish meaningful partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities, to potentially share faculty and create pathways for undergraduates with interest in health administration to join us in Richmond.

There is more coming. As a department and program, we are committed to developing diverse and inclusive healthcare leaders who reflect the voices and experiences of the communities they serve. DEI is a top priority for our team because a diverse and inclusive workforce is critical to effectively address the healthcare needs of all people.

— Paula H Song, Ph.D | Richard M. Bracken Chair and Professor | VCU Department of Health Administration

  • As part of Black History Month, Beth Williamson Ayers, Director of Outreach and Professional Affairs in the VCU College of Health Professions, compiled a list of all Black alumni across our combined programs. Reviewing our department's Black history has given us an opportunity to reflect on where we started, where we are, and importantly, the history we want to create. You can read about these past and new alums here.
  • On Friday, Feb. 25, Dr. Davis will launch VCU's Inclusive Leadership Education Program by hosting and moderating a national webinar titled "Black and Golden: Leveraging Black Identity as an Asset in Healthcare Leadership," featuring prominent Black healthcare leaders, including VCU alumna Kim Bell. Register here.
  • The second inclusive leadership education program will be held in March to commemorate Women's History Month. The webinar, "Women's (Her)story in Healthcare Leadership: Reflecting on Our Past, Reshaping the Future" will take place on March 22 at 12 p.m. Eastern. If you are interested in attending, you can register here.

A Look Back as We Move Forward: Recognizing the legacy of Black alumni in the Department of Health Administration

February is Black History month, which recognizes and honors the achievements of Black Americans. Alongside the many exciting and interesting activities & events celebrating Black History Month around Richmond and on campus, we have taken this opportunity in the Department of Health Administration to explore our department’s own Black history.

Phillip D. Brooks (MHA ‘71), Brenda Williams MHA ‘76 (pictured with William Clinton, MHA '15, and Ciara Jones MHA '19, during a November 2018 panel), and Dr. Michael Pyles (HSOR PhD ‘90)
Photo caption: A few of the firsts: Phillip D. Brooks (MHA ‘71), Brenda Williams MHA ‘76 (pictured with William Clinton, MHA '15, and Ciara Jones MHA '19, during a November 2018 panel), and Dr. Michael Pyles (HSOR PhD ‘90). Not pictured are Dr. James A. Rollins (MSHA ’92 , HSOR PhD ‘02) and Judy Hartman (MHSA ‘02).

The contributions of our Black students to both the department and the field are numerous. As a way of history, the VCU MHA program started in 1949, the MSHA program started in 1988, and HSOR PhD program was established in 1982.  There are 2,109 MHA, MSHA, & PhD graduates listed in the department records, and of these,129 are Black graduates, representing 6% of all HAD alumni. Sixty-three percent of our Black alumni are women. The many achievements of our Black alumni rest on the shoulders of the students who came first in their programs, and their groundbreaking accomplishments:

  • The first Black male MHA student was Phillip Brooks. He started the program in 1968 and graduated in 1971. Mr. Brooks is currently the President of Norfolk Community Health Center. 
  • The first Black female MHA student was Brenda Williams. She started the program in 1973 and graduated in 1976. Ms. Williams spent the vast majority of her career at Orangeburg Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg, SC, her last formal role was VP of Strategy and Compliance at the Regional Medical Center of Orangeburg and Calhoun counties.  Ms. Williams passed away in 2021.
  • The first Black male MSHA student was James A. Rollins. He started the program in 1990 and graduated in 1992. Dr. Rollins went on to complete his PhD in HSOR in 2002. Dr. Rollins held several roles within CMS as a director and medical officer. 
  • The first Black female MSHA student was Judy Hartman. She started the program in 2000 and graduated in 2002. Ms. Hartman served as a Nursing Supervisor at Henrico Doctors' Hospital, and the Director of Emergency Service and OT at Retreat Hospital (HCA) in Richmond.
  • The first Black PhD student was Michael Pyles. He started the program in 1985 and graduated in 1990. Dr. Pyles is a teaching assistant professor at VCU in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences.

Many of our VCU Black alumni are in C-suite and senior executive positions making positive and important contributions in their organizations and communities. Some examples include:

  • Denise Williams, MHA ’77. Retired Hospital executive
  • Phyllis Wingate-Jones, MHA ’81 Retired Division President, Carolinas Healthcare, NC
  • Sheryl Garland, MHA ’88, Chief of Health Impact-VCU Health, Richmond, VA
  • Clifton Porter II, BS '89. Sr VP of Government Relations, American Health Care Association. Washington, DC.
  • Abraham Segres, MHA ’91, VP Quality & Patient Safety, VHHA, Richmond, VA
  • Georgia Harrington, MSHA ’99   COO, Centra Health, Lynchburg, VA>
  • Kim Bell, MHA ’00 Exec. Director of Enterprise Operations, Piedmont Healthcare, Atlanta, GA
  • Verlon Salley, MHA ’02, VP, Community Health Equity, UAB, Birmingham, AL
  • Carlos Brown, MHSA ’02, Executive Director of Support Services, VCU Health, Richmond, VA
  • Dr. Robert S.D. Higgins, MSHA’ 05   President of Brigham and Women’s Hospital-Boston, MA
  • Michael Elliott, MSHA ’07 Senior VP, Centra Health Lynchburg, VA
  • AJ Brooks, MHA ’09 Asst VP Operations, Wellstar Health System, Atlanta, GA
  • Roberta Tinch, MHA ’09, President, Inova Mt. Vernon Hospital, Alexandria, VA
  • Andrea Gwyn, MHA ‘10, President, Bon Secours Perrysburg Hospital, Perrysburg, OH
  • Dr. Joe Wilkins, MSHA, ‘11 President, Bon Secours St. Francis Medical Center, Richmond, VA (also an alumni of VCU School of Physical Therapy) 
  • Chernelle Hill, MHA ’12, VP Operations (eff. 3/1/22) Sentara Obici Hospital, Suffolk, VA
  • Sheronica Barcliff, MSHA ’13 Founder and CEO, The Barcliff Group, Consulting, Atlanta, GA
  • Dr. Algin Garrett, MSHA, ‘13 Retired Chair of Dermatology, VCU Health Richmond, VA
  • Will Clinton, MHA ’15, Executive Director, Ortho Virginia, Richmond, VA
  • Dr. K.C. Ogbonna, MSHA ’17, Associate Dean, VCU School of Pharmacy
  • Antoine Ransom, MHA ’18, COO, Community Health System, Sarasota, FL

Another first in the department is our first full-time Black faculty member, Dr. Stephan Davis. Dr. Davis is an assistant professor teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses in health administration and serving as Executive Director of Inclusive Leadership Education for HAD and Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the College of Health Professions.  On Feb. 25th, Dr. Stephan Davis will launch VCU's Inclusive Leadership Education Program by hosting and moderating a national webinar titled “Black and Golden: Leveraging Black Identity as an Asset in Healthcare Leadership,” featuring prominent Black healthcare leaders, including VCU alumna Kim Bell. All are invited to attend this virtual event, and can register here.

The accomplishments mentioned above are truly impressive, however, we still have much work to do in increasing Black representation at the highest levels of the organization. As a department and program, we are committed to developing diverse and inclusive healthcare leaders who reflect the voices and experiences of the communities they serve. This is a top priority for our department as a diverse and inclusive workforce is critical to effectively addressing the healthcare needs of all. Reviewing our department's Black history has given us an opportunity to reflect on where we started, where we are, and importantly, the history we want to create.

Being the change

New Health Administration faculty leader aims to produce graduates who cultivate an environment of belonging for all people

By Malorie Burkett
VCU College of Health Professions

January 24, 2022

Virginia Commonwealth University’s College of Health Professions is known for attracting the highest level of faculty who are influential thought leaders and experts in their respective disciplines. And this month, the College welcomes Stephan Davis, DNP, MHSA, FACHE, an award-winning healthcare leader and educator, as the new assistant dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion; and executive director of inclusive leadership education in the Department of Health Administration.

Stephan Davis standing at the bottom of the College of Health Professions stairway.

Stephan Davis, DNP, MHSA, FACHE, is the new assistant dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion; and executive director of inclusive leadership education in the Department of Health Administration.

Davis’ passion for and work related to diversity, equity, and inclusion has been informed by many of his lived experiences. The son of Black parents who were raised in the civil rights era, he grew up learning about racial injustice. As a teenager in St. Louis, Missouri, he also learned through painful experiences that he would face challenges in navigating the world both due to race and as a member of the gender and sexual minority community. At 17, Davis left the Midwest to study jazz performance in New York City. After a year in New York that was filled with profound and affirming experiences, as well as moments that made clear the work toward social justice that still needed to be done, Davis was convinced that while he would always continue to play saxophone and write music, his academic focus would shift to areas where he could make a greater impact to improve health and alleviate human suffering.

Davis went on to study nursing at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. During his time in nursing school, he worked as a student nurse extern in the pediatric intensive care unit at University of Maryland Medical Center – the same institution where Bill Flanigan and Robert Daniel, a gay couple, had been discriminated against when Daniel was at the end of life. Despite their domestic partnership in the state of California, and Flanigan holding durable power of attorney - enabling him to make end of life decisions for Daniel, the hospital staff denied Flanigan the right to see Daniel or make decisions in accordance with his partner’s wishes.

"Cases such as these, moved me to pursue healthcare leadership, so that I could be a part of the change that is so desperately needed for our field,” said Davis.

Upon graduation from nursing school, Davis began working clinically in the post anesthesia care unit at Washington Hospital Center while also pursuing a master’s degree in health systems administration at Georgetown University. In less than a year, he entered his first leadership role as director of the health workforce innovation project, a $500,000 grant as a result of a unique partnership between the D.C. department of employment services, MedStar Georgetown Hospital, and Georgetown University to prepare unemployed D.C. residents for entry-level roles that typically had high turnover. Davis says this project, at the intersection of government programs, healthcare delivery, and academia, was impactful for his leadership trajectory.

Davis spent more than a decade in progressively responsible leadership positions, overseeing quality functions such as utilization management, case management, disease management, accreditation readiness, clinical and process improvement, as well as workforce-development areas such as organizational learning and academic-practice partnerships.

Stephan Davis wearing a College of Health Professions shirtThroughout his career, he has been a champion for advancing DEI and improving healthcare quality and access for the underserved. From volunteering as a registered nurse for an LGBTQ+ clinic at the beginning of his career, to serving on the board of directors for a Federally Qualified Health Center that primarily served people living with HIV/AIDS, to leading organizations to achieve designation for LGBTQ healthcare equality with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), much of Davis’ work has been dedicated to making healthcare more inclusive for some of the people and populations who need care the most, but who can rightly be fearful to seek services due to stigma and discrimination.

Despite numerous past examples of discrimination in care delivery settings, Davis believes that all institutions regardless of their history can make meaningful progress toward inclusion. For instance, University of Maryland Medical Center, an institution highlighted for same-sex partner discrimination at the turn of the century, subsequently became recognized as a leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality with HRC – a testament to the powerful change that can occur when inclusive leaders are guiding health systems to advance DEI. “This is exactly what inclusive leadership education is all about”, said Davis.

Being able to focus on contributing to department and College related efforts to produce graduates who embody principles of inclusive leadership and who are empowered advocates for meaningful change is part of what led him to VCU.

“When I first met Dean Susan Parish, and she shared her vision for the College, it was really refreshing to hear that DEI is among her top priorities,” said Davis. “Also, having known Dr. Paula Song, chair of the Department of Health Administration, through the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA), I was convinced long before my interview at VCU that she shared a deep, meaningful and action-oriented commitment to advancing DEI in healthcare leadership.”

“Stephan brings a truly exceptional mix of clinical, executive, and academic experiences to this role,” said Paula Song, Ph.D., Richard M. Bracken chair and professor in the Department of Health Administration. “I’m confident that his firm commitment to DEI and inclusive leadership education will help the department develop leaders that reflect the diversity and voices of the communities they serve.”

With regard to his role as the department’s very first executive director of inclusive leadership education, Davis believes in producing leaders who cultivate environments where all people can experience belonging and thrive.

When asked what this new area of focus for the department would entail, Davis explained “as we look at inclusive leadership education, all stakeholders within our health administration learning community will be engaged to establish a co-created vision and philosophy that describes our *’active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity’ as we continue to pursue inclusive excellence. In addition to designing meaningful educational experiences related to DEI for all health administration students, there will be particular focus on supporting students from historically underrepresented and excluded backgrounds in navigating systems and institutions that have not always been created with us in mind.”

Davis has hit the ground running with regard to this type of educational programming. On Feb. 25 at noon (EST), he will be hosting and moderating a Black History Month webinar featuring prominent Black healthcare leaders entitled “Black and Golden: Leveraging Black Identity as an Asset in Healthcare Leadership.”

Related to his role as assistant dean, he looks forward to working with Dr. Angela Duncan, associate dean, to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion for the College. “When I met Dr. Duncan, I immediately felt connected to her energy, passion, and drive to make meaningful change for the College and university,” said Davis.

“When I saw Dr. Davis’ interview presentation on simulating patient bias in care delivery settings, which featured a case of racial discrimination against a clinician and the moral, ethical, and legal implications, I knew that he was someone we needed on our team” said Angela Duncan, Ph.D., associate dean for diversity equity, and inclusion for the College. “The College has been working to provide an infrastructure to do the work of DEI, and I am excited that Dr. Davis is here to help push this work even further. I look forward to working alongside him as we continue to champion transformational change and create new opportunities for everyone.”

Prior to coming to VCU, Davis served as director of the Master of Health Administration program, assistant professor of health administration, and chair of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, School of Public Health in Ft. Worth, Tex. A fellow and national faculty member for the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), he is the immediate past chair of the ACHE LGBTQ Healthcare Leaders Community and has served as an ACHE Regent-at-Large, a role created to foster diversity in the governance of ACHE. In addition, he serves as chair of the Quality and Safety Faculty Forum for the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA). His DEI-related work in academia includes serving as an invited conferee for the Macy Foundation conference on Addressing Harmful Bias and Eliminating Discrimination in Health Professions Learning Environments, which culminated in a report of recommendations released in September of 2020.

Davis holds numerous board certifications, including credentials in healthcare quality, finance, strengths-based coaching, nursing leadership, and academic nursing education. He received his Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Maryland; a Master of Science in Health Systems Administration from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.; and his Doctor of Nursing Practice in Healthcare Leadership, Systems and Policy from Yale University in New Haven, CT.

*Reference – Clayton-Pederson, A., Clayton-Pederson, S. (2012). “Making excellence inclusive” in education and beyond. Pepperdine Law Review. 35 (3), 611-648.

A season of gratitude

Alumni stories, department updates: Our fall newsletter has arrived.

A note from Paula H. Song, PhD, MHSA, MA | Richard M. Bracken Chair and Professor

When education is part of your life — whether that be as a parent, a student, or an instructor — autumn always feels like a fresh start. If that sense of new beginnings was missing last year, it’s definitely back this fall. At the VCU College of Health Professions, there is an unmistakable renewed energy: a new building, new faces, and new realities. As we embarked on our first in-person semester in 18 months, I continue to be simply thankful for the sense of hope and possibility that fills our halls.

With a near-record candidate pool for our MHA and MSHA cohorts, our students enter the field at an exciting and demanding time. It gave me a renewed sense of hope to welcome new and returning students back to campus, and watch as our third-years — whose first was interrupted, and second was virtual — begin residency placements in-person around the nation.

Our students represent the changing face of health administration. In addition to one of our largest cohorts, this is also our most diverse. Healthcare management is a holistic concern, and students enter our classrooms knowing their work makes a difference every day in the lives of patients and their families. Healthcare organizations serve an essential role in local communities, and there is a critical need for healthcare leaders who reflect the diversity and voices of the communities they serve.

The work of health administrators affects people during some of the most challenging and stressful moments of their lives. The pandemic has taught us how important compassionate leadership is during times of crisis. In an environment like healthcare, where change is happening at a breakneck pace, our students have already learned lessons of quality leadership and adaptability. Many of our students cite the impressive alumni roster as a main factor in choosing VCU. As you’ll see in the coming pages, it’s obvious why: our alumni are engaging in some of the most critical and creative work in our industry.

It can’t be overlooked that our industry is a people and service-oriented one. As we head into this holiday season, I feel such profound gratitude for all the members of this community, from the students I see each day, to our amazing faculty, to our alumni and colleagues working across the globe. As we continue to move forward in this “new normal,” I’m thankful to be working alongside so many gifted minds that have called VCU (in the past, present, or future) home.

Download and Read Full Newsletter

Alumni story links:

Yousuf (MHA ’02) leads Bon Secours in Richmond region

Although COVID-19 has had its share of tragedies and challenges, Faraaz Yousuf, President of Bon Secours Richmond, (MHA ’02) notes, “there also were great, defining moments for the healthcare community.”  

“Early on, when we were faced with a highly infectious, novel disease, supply chain unknowns, and a fragile economy, we put aside competition with leaders at VCU Health and HCA Virginia, and collaborated,” he says. The shared goal was to do what was best for the community and stay in front of this pandemic. “We said we needed to work together to ensure our policies and procedures surrounding supply chain, patient care, and associate safety are in sync,” Yousuf recalls. “It was a great moment of understanding between leaders of competing organizations.”

Today, under Yousuf’s leadership, the faith-based health system is expanding across Virginia, covering a geographic footprint the size of New Jersey. In Central Virginia, the “crown jewel” region of Bon Secours Mercy Health, Yousuf is overseeing expansions of hospitals and ambulatory care centers, increasing access to the greater community.

The healthcare landscape is rapidly changing, as more companies allow for hybrid work models. Quality and accessibility are key to new growth. And telehealth has the potential to serve more remote localities with the same level of care patients receive in more urban areas.  

“We are constantly working to give our patients the accessibility they want without compromising the quality healthcare that they are accustomed to at Bon Secours,” he says. But broadband issues and patient access to digital media can sometimes work against this growth. That’s why Yousuf believes in strong relationships with government leaders. “We work very closely with our municipal leadership, and they too are invested in making sure that healthcare services in our community are robust,” he says. 

Growth does not always mean physical buildings and expansions. Though not new, telehealth’s use skyrocketed during the pandemic. “It forced leaders to explore how we evolve the healthcare landscape by providing consumers with what they want, where they want it, and when they need it,” Yousuf says.

He believes the focus should not only be on delivery and cost of healthcare, but also the social determinants of health. “We need to be sure we are investing in job creation, food access, education, and affordable housing,” Yousuf says.

In Richmond’s East End, for example, Bon Secours has deployed grants to small businesses and encourages associates to use them. “Building partnerships with local businesses and committing to shop local is another important step in helping to improve the overall health of our communities,” Yousuf says. “That should be our goal as healthcare leaders.”

On his career choice:

Yousuf grew up in a family of care providers. “I knew I didn’t want to be a physician,” he says. As a high schooler, he volunteered at Inova Fairfax Hospital, cleaning common areas and delivering newspapers and magazines to patients. “I had to go up into the ICU, and although I struggled with seeing patient grief and suffering, I knew I still wanted to be in that healthcare space and make a difference,” he says. The highly respected Ken White, RN, Ph.D., FACHE, who led VCU Health Administration for 14 years, helped the young Yousuf build a compelling vision for his future: “How do you create value? How do you serve the patient from the seat of healthcare leadership?”

On the MHA program:

Yousuf credits both the third-year structured residency and the alumni network for his success. “We have a lot of illustrious alumni that have graduated from the program,” he says. “If a young student ever reaches out, we're always willing to connect, to pick up the phone, and to help guide people through their journey.”

The journey that began at VCU took him to the C-suite, he notes, but may lead elsewhere for other grads. “Be open minded and explore opportunities. The healthcare landscape is evolving,” he says. “The idea used to be that health administration only consisted of hospital presidents and CEOs. But that’s not the case anymore. There's so much diversity and opportunity in healthcare.”

Though, to be sure, he’s thrilled he landed where he did.

“To be in this role, and leading a team in this organization, it’s one of those things as a young administrator that I could only hope for,” he said. “Even through the challenges of the past couple of years, I am grateful daily for this job.”

Removing barriers to care at home and abroad in Haiti

Since graduating from the MHA program in 1984, Terrie Edwards has held leadership posts across various Virginia healthcare organizations. She began her leadership healthcare career with HCA Virginia (Henrico Doctors’ Hospital) and has experience in several non-profit health systems (Centra and Bon Secours), as well as independent hospitals. She planned and opened Bon Secours St. Francis Medical Center in Richmond, and has medical practice background as administrator for a large cardiothoracic surgery specialty group. 

For the past 13 years, she has been a leader at Sentara in Hampton Roads, first as the president of Sentara Leigh Hospital, then as the president of the Peninsula region, to her current role as president of the Southside (VA) and North Eastern North Carolina. The common thread with all of them: She’s stayed in Virginia the entire time — a fact of which she’s proud.

“I have worked to give my very best in each organization and have left while maintaining strong professional relationships,” says Edwards. “I keep in touch and seek wise counsel from my former bosses, which I value greatly.”

Over the years, Edwards’ spiritual calling and passion for helping others has guided her on mission trips to Haiti, one of the world’s poorest countries with most of the population at extreme health risk. There, she has coordinated and supported medical missions and summer camps. She’s helped set up a primary care clinic in a remote village, worked with a team delivering orthopedic surgery in an acute care hospital, been part of a mobile OB/GYN clinic, and assisted local hospital and nursing administrators on areas of need. She has also been part of summer camps in conjunction with Nelly’s House, an organization that feeds children in about 20 schools in remote villages. 

“The people of Haiti have needs and we are able to share our talents and resources to make their life better,” she says. “They are a joy to know. Being part of the Haiti family has also enriched my world view and my life as well.”

During a jam-packed day, Edwards gave us a few minutes to talk healthcare leadership in a post-COVID world, the importance of her mission trips, and her thoughts on the Health Administration Department at VCU.

Obviously, the cliché is the student with plans to become a doctor who decides administration is the better path. But what led you to the field?

I thought I wanted to be a city manager, but when I completed an internship at James Madison University with a long-term care facility and a project at the local hospital, I realized healthcare leadership is very similar to leading a city. You have the opportunity to impact the lives of all you care for in the process. 

What is your advice to students considering an MHA?

Whatever your career choice is, choose a career that gives you a purpose in your life, and ignites your passion — then give it your best to make a positive difference every day and be hungry to never stop learning and growing.   

How has the role of a healthcare administrator changed over the course of the pandemic? 

It’s been a unifying experience to have caregivers from all different parts of the system work together for solutions that not only benefit COVID patients but our staff and the population as a whole. Sentara also is focused on disparities of healthcare and narrowing the gaps in access. We're also evaluating and improving access to care and seeing the least restrictive environment to care for patients. 

For students who may be interested in healthcare, this is an incredible opportunity to make a difference in lives – and it is coupled with incredible responsibility. We need leaders who genuinely care.  

Administrative burdens are consistently named as a top challenge for clinicians. So how do you ease that burden and help them focus on quality care?

The physician and clinicians have the responsibility of advising, making clinical decisions and coordinating care to keep people healthy. The administrative leaders have the responsibility of strategically planning and designing services, ensuring that the workforce is skilled, and leading the organization to be effective.

For me, I really enjoy thinking about “what could be” in five or 10 years and then designing and implementing plans to reach the goals we set forth. 

My joy is being able to say to that physician or clinician, “I can help you think through how to redesign your services to be more efficient and provide an environment that allows you to do your very best for your patient.”

Our goal as leaders is to remove barriers for all people we work with in order to create a better environment that yields a better outcome for patients. I sincerely have tried to be a servant leader throughout my career — sometimes as a leader, sometimes as a team member, and sometimes as an “encourager” to another team. 

What are the biggest opportunities for healthcare leaders to drive change?

  • Rethinking care delivery: Care and focusing on health as opposed to sickness.
  • Workforce development: As people have other career options, we need to be creative in attracting talented people to enter healthcare and provide pathways to advance their career.


  • Assuring health equity: Creating environments that provide the same outcomes in every diverse population. If we are successful in a clinical outcome for the entire population, but there is inequity in outcomes for any stratified population, a certain cultural background, or a certain ZIP code…then we really haven't been successful. Success in population health is having the best outcome in all populations (age, race, geography, et cetera).


How has VCU played a role in your career?

I tell people who are thinking about going to graduate school that look at all the programs across the country. And I'll say to them, “Try to get into VCU.” 

To me, the professors in the Department have been outstanding and the alumni connection at VCU is incredible. The one-year required residency is what sets VCU apart. [She lists off numerous leaders statewide, all of whom are VCU Health Administration graduates]. They're solid, values-based people and they're effective leaders within complex organizations. They are leaders who care and who I trust. So there's a natural network of colleagues who you seek for advice, rely on, and ask for their thoughts.

On your mission trips to Haiti, what is your role as an administrator?

The roles change based on the goals of a mission. I am naturally a planner and organizer. I also work to provide emotional support for others and work to problem-solve and remove barriers. My goal is to help each mission be successful in accomplishing its goals. In developing countries, you may plan to focus on surgery, but while there, the emerging need is something else, so you need to be flexible and able to pivot to where you can provide the most help. 

We designed a primary care clinic on a church campus in a remote village and treated over 100 patients every day. The number grew each day. I love the medical work the most: If you can see a kid and you get them nourished and get them healthy, then their opportunity for doing better in life is so much greater.

When I went in 2016, there was a lady who had broken a hip years before and had been waiting for an orthopedic surgeon to come so she could get it fixed. Can you imagine an American waiting for three years with a broken arm or leg? America is so blessed. How do you not care for those in need? I really admire the orthopedic surgeon and his physician assistant wife who worked many hours every day to provide surgery at no cost and impact each patient so positively all week. Americans who do not get involved in some way miss a blessing. 

Catch this image: There was a small child outside the primary care clinic. He was about 6 years old. He had taken a large thin plastic lid and tied a string to it. Then he added a little piece of a trash bag on it, and he flew it as a kite every day. That kid was full of joy. He had no shoes, no shirt, but each day, he showed up and he smiled. He had joy amid poverty and a very simplistic life. 

So how do we help remove barriers for them? If you have a social conscience, and if you are mission driven, and are a healthcare leader, you’ve got such a great opportunity to use the resources and talent God has given you to improve the life of someone else. It may be your next-door neighbor, a local community in need, or a population in another country. There is a contribution we can each make and that is only because we want to invest in improving the life of someone other than ourselves.

There is such joy for me to be part of creating a vision of “what could be.” We've been very fortunate to have a lot of other people understand the impact that can be made on lives and want to invest in helping the vision become reality. Patients have been healed, cancers found, schools built, children fed, and ultimately, we have invested in improving their lives.  

As a leader, you have the opportunity to influence others and the responsibility to give back. And maybe it's not Haiti, and maybe it's not missions, but there's got to be something you're passionate about — that you can implement a change or help facilitate something better for someone other than yourself. If your whole life is about yourself, then you've missed the point.

An interview with The Barcliff Group CEO Sheronica Barcliff (VCU MSHA ‘13)

Just as every patient enters the medical system with their own history, health administrators bring their own unique background and skills to their chosen roles. This is particularly true in the case of Sheronica Barcliff (MSHA ‘13). As CEO and Founder of the Barcliff Group, an Atlanta-based consulting firm, Barcliff relies on her experience as an entrepreneur, speaker, community liaison, and healthcare quality and equity expert to evolve a patient-focused approach into person-centered care.

“My life’s work in this arena is to push the needle forward in the ability to measure quality for the purpose of improving healthcare service and delivery,” says Barcliff. “We need to put a face and call-to-action to the real issues in healthcare equity, and to create cultures where there is an ongoing ambition to operate in excellence not solely motivated by profitability.” 

A Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Woman Business Enterprise (WBE), The Barcliff Group puts its core values at the forefront of their work. They seek to create “a deep-rooted, systematic change in healthcare delivery through the intentional provision of equitable, quality, value-based care.” The firm centers on management and administration consulting, strategic planning, communications, health information technology, and NCQA accreditation and regulatory compliance. Barcliff makes sure clients are paired with a consultant who aligns with their values and vision. 

“Our motto is ‘excellence without exception,’” she says.

As the industry has been rocked by the global events of the last two years, Barcliff sees this moment as an opportunity for overdue, systemic change: “We can look to the pandemic, social justice, economical, and political climates as points of major change. This, in concert with the advancements in health technology, need for remote services, and the increased need for mental and behavioral health services, have heightened healthcare consumer consciousness and the value system behind delivery.” 

That value system is taking on more meaning and nuance in 2021. “Trust is hard to earn, but easy to lose – especially surrounding marginalized communities,” she says. “If we truly want to build more trustworthiness, we must address and hold accountable the good, bad, and treacherous history of our country and the prevailing thought systems, ethics, values, and superiority complexes that continue to exploit marginalized communities to date.”

On Giving Back: The Barcliff Group has a commitment to philanthropy through its foundation, Living Legacies. The arm gives to a number of community organizations and healthcare needs. “As administrators, we should be the torchbearers of promoting cultures of quality and operational excellence,” she says. “We must want to be a change agent and swim the upstream battle to see the value in cultural competencies, integrity, and equity.”

On her time at VCU: “Aside from having the honor of studying alongside the best cohort of clinical and administrative professionals, the VCU MSHA program provided the opportunity to directly apply my studies...it has certainly served me well to date,” she notes.

Meeting students where they are with Haga (MHA '10)

Prior to joining the Department in 2017, Rachel Haga led teams at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

Rachel F. Haga, MSHA Program Director, portrait image“In the field, my strength was in empowering the members of my team,” she says. “I supported their success and continued growth to be promoted off my team. That was my indicator of success: If I was helping prepare my team for whatever came next in their careers.”

Preparing Health Administration students for their next opportunity is the focus of her new role as Director of Professional Development. Formerly Masters Program Director, Rachel’s new effort presents students in both programs with timely and relevant tools, skills, and opportunities. 

“This is about equipping students to be excellent leaders,” she says. “They have challenged us to help them better understand professional norms and how professional norms are evolving. We want to expose students to executives who are multidimensional and embody that executive presence and leadership mindset in ways we think are great role models for students.”

One recent example is finding executives who were able to have authentic conversations around the Black Lives Matter movement and what it means to be inclusive. 

“What does it mean to bring your own beliefs to work?” Rachel says. “And how do you do that in a way that supports your organization? What’s the separation between you as the individual and the organization’s values, and how do you navigate waters that feel a lot more gray than they did 10 years ago? The best leaders are able to do that.”

In the MHA program, Rachel will lead the executive skills series — teaching executive presence, interviewing, resume writing, and other requirements as a lead-up to the third-year residency placement. For executive MSHA students, the Department is exploring ways to offer personalized executive coaching plus professional development activities to support their growth as leaders. Rachel completed an executive coaching certification class over the summer while on maternity leave. 

“Professional development is all about supporting our students in their quest to be leadership-ready upon graduation,” she says. “At VCU, we’re going to support development of those intangible leadership, communication, relationship, and reflection skills to help you connect with others, lead through relationships, and equip you to execute on meaningful work.”

VCU 'probably the most impactful event in the evolution of my career'

Michael C. Zucker, FACHE (MHA ‘91), is the CEO and Co-founder of FetchMD, a San Antonio-based company providing on-demand telehealth care. When the pandemic altered FetchMD’s previous business model, Zucker and team made a quick change in how the company delivered care to customers. 

FetchMD’s ability to make a nimble adjustment led to massive growth over the last year and a half. Embracing technology has been key to FetchMD’s development, and Zucker predicts the future of patient care will hinge on utilizing technology to the advantage of administrators and clinicians alike.

What was the evolution of FetchMD?

FetchMD started about six and a half years ago, and was originally called Ranger Health. We were working with large self-insured employers to negotiate bundled payments for high-acuity, inpatient procedures. Within the regional market, we evolved and continued working with our same clients: mid-to-large sized companies and their employees.

We started providing on-demand urgent care to the home or office through our mobile app much like Uber or Instacart. We engaged with independent, advanced practice nurse practitioners and physician assistants who were available on their days off. They went out and delivered basic urgent care for our clients. It was essentially bringing back the old-fashioned house call. It really filled that gap between trying to get in to see your primary care physician and having to go to an urgent care center to get treatment for something basic like an ear infection. We were able to deliver fast, affordable and convenient care, directly to the consumer. That business took off and thrived.

Then the pandemic began, and we stopped doing house calls and quickly pivoted to telehealth. And because of the quick pivot, we were able to actually grow our business over the last year and a half and evolve into FetchMD. Although telehealth has been around for more than a decade, even offered as a benefit in most people’s health plan, it wasn’t until the pandemic that it really started being utilized. I think patients and providers have both realized that it’s inexpensive, efficient, and so convenient. But along with the growth and commoditization of teleheath comes the question of pricing the service, which can still pose a hurdle to administrators.

How did your time in the MHA program at VCU influence your career path?

My experience at VCU is probably the most impactful event in the evolution of my career. It really gave me the foundation upon which to launch into healthcare administration. I went the traditional route and started with HCA and spent almost a decade with them, and it was a great experience.  

The Health Administration program at VCU very much prepared me for the practical aspects of leadership and management. But it also really taught me how to think more broadly and more acutely at problem solving. After my time at HCA, I left the corporate healthcare world and joined an early stage company that started my interest in the non-traditional healthcare models. That ultimately led to me launching this company some 25 years after I graduated. 

The faculty at VCU are second to none, every one of the professors is just the best at what they do. They challenged us and prepared us for the real world. One of the hallmarks of VCU is that it's not a program built around health policy, but it's about real world preparation for future healthcare leaders.

What is the Health Administrators role in helping clinicians to do what they do best: provide quality patient care?

We have got to figure out how to deploy technology to our advantage. As leaders of healthcare organizations, we need to take an active role in transforming the process for documenting cases and allow time for physicians and nurses to do what they do best, which is caring for patients. The electronic medical record was supposed to make everybody's lives easier and more efficient, but it has a steep learning curve and can often become more of a burden than an advantage. 

We need to thoroughly document patient care to ensure quality care, while also providing support for reimbursement. But there has to be a more efficient way of doing so. We want our care providers to be at the bedside, not spending inordinate amounts of time at the keyboard. 

How have you seen the field of health administration evolve over the last two years?

It’s obviously evolved quite a bit in the last 30 years since I was at VCU. Today, we're seeing a lot more healthcare focused on value-based care, Medicare Advantage, etc. The whole move from fee-for-service to value-based care is transforming the entire healthcare industry. It was a long time coming, but it’s here now. I think we will continue to see growth in consumerism in healthcare, because the patient now has more information at their fingertips to be able to measure quality and value in health care. I know the department of Health Administration at VCU  is very much preparing their students for this new world of healthcare delivery and the types of leaders that it's going to require.

‘A wild ride full of adventure, heroism, joy, and challenges you will never anticipate’

An interview with 2021-2022 ACHE Chair Carrie Owen Plietz, FACHE (MHA ‘00)

Since graduating from the MHA program in 2000, Carrie Owen Plietz has made an indelible impact on the field of health administration. In November 2020, she was named President of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals Northern California region, which provides care to more than 4.5 million members through 21 hospitals and more than 250 medical offices.

In March, she began her term as Chair of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). We caught up with Carrie this fall as she reflected on the industry, women in healthcare, and the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead after the pandemic.

What do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges facing the health administration profession?

Plietz with staff at Kaiser Permanente hospitalAffordability is not a new challenge, but it's just as important as it was 10 years ago. While we have made great strides, we must continue to be relentless about removing waste from the system, move upstream toward disease prevention, and innovate. Healthcare organizations nationwide have been anticipating staffing shortages for quite some time now and the pandemic has made this challenge even more apparent. Early pipeline programs will be critical to build bench strength for clinical professions. 

Healthcare is often times viewed as a slow-moving industry; however, this pandemic has taught us a lot about how quickly we can move in times of crisis. We'll need to continue to facilitate rapid change, quickly assess what did or didn't work, and spread best practices. Performance improvement and innovation are best done when listening to what our consumers want/need, tapping into our workforce to come up with great ideas, and quickly removing barriers that get in the way or slow down progress. 

What's the role of ACHE and healthcare organizations in moving the profession toward a more inclusive understanding of standards of professionalism?

What drives us at ACHE is our vision to be the preeminent professional society for leaders dedicated to advancing health. What defines us is our mission – a commitment to advancing both individuals and the field of health care leadership. 

We are committed to ethics and our values of integrity, lifelong learning, leadership, and diversity and inclusion. By playing an active role as a catalyst for the field, connector for the leadership community, and a trusted partner for our members throughout their careers, we are dedicated to moving the profession toward a more inclusive understanding of professionalism. 

Women are underrepresented in healthcare leadership positions. As a woman in a high-level leadership role, what advice would you offer women entering the field?

It is incredibly gratifying to make a difference in the health and lives of others. My advice: spend some time assessing what brings you joy, ensure you are clear on your own personal values, and know what you want from a role — not what other people want or expect. 

Make a plan to achieve your goals. Where are you today? What’s your next step? What do you envision as the trajectory of your career path over the next 5, 10, 15 years? Identify organizations that share your personal values as places you might want to be part of your professional journey. 

Finally, always remember you do not have to walk on water, all you have to do is swim across.  

As a healthcare leader, what have been your greatest takeaways leading through a pandemic? 

It’s been a remarkable 11 months for me since joining Kaiser Permanente last November. Being given the opportunity to not only lead Kaiser Permanente Northern California, but to do so during a global pandemic has truly been an awesome challenge. 

While there have been multiple learnings for me and my team, the greatest takeaways for me have been the importance of being a mission-driven organization and just how critical it is to be nimble, to innovate, and to demonstrate leadership in the midst of a crisis.

The people of Kaiser Permanente Northern California have a remarkable and unwavering commitment to its mission – to improve the lives of the communities it serves.

As the pandemic continues to change the world around us, our mission has never ceased to serve as a North Star, a guiding light keeping us in the fight to heal our sickest patients and to ensure we get as many of our community members vaccinated as possible. 

The ability to stretch and flex to meet the health care needs of our members and local communities in what has been a constantly shifting landscape over the past 20 months of the pandemic has been incredibly important. When demand for COVID-19 testing far outpaced supply in early 2020, we moved quickly to significantly expand our testing capabilities. The expansion included building a new $14 million testing lab in Northern California. The lab opened in May 2020 and was built in less than two months. It can process up to 20,000 tests per day.

Early in the pandemic, Kaiser Permanente was able to swiftly move to offering our members telehealth appointments as an alternative to in-person care. From March to November 2020, our physicians conducted nearly 3.7 million video visits, compared to approximately 100,000 for all of 2019. This remarkable work around telehealth is a terrific example of Kaiser Permanente’s ability to innovate on-the-fly to provide members and patients with excellent care and service, while also supporting COVID-19 mitigation efforts to combat the spread.

Understanding that getting as many people as possible vaccinated is the best way to end this pandemic, Kaiser Permanente led the way in its decision to mandate vaccinations for all our physicians and employees in August, which was closely followed by a similar mandate for all health care workers by the State of California. Our leadership in implementing a vaccination mandate shaped the conversation at both a state and national level – ultimately helping to increase vaccination rates across the board. 

You serve on the VCU Health Administration Alumni Advisory Council. Why is it important to you to remain engaged with the program as your career has progressed?

Throughout my career I have been supported, encouraged, and motivated by so many individuals and organizations connected to VCU. The university has not only provided me with a great education and a strong springboard to my career through their Administrative residency program, but also opportunities to build lifelong friendships with fellow students and professors. 

I have also had the pleasure of being a preceptor to students during their own residency training and supporting them in their careers, where I have learned as much from them as they have from me. Mentoring and being on the Alumni Advisory Council are just two small ways for me to give back to VCU.

What advice would you give students who are entering the healthcare field?

Make sure you are entering the profession for the right reasons. Are you called to care for others, improve our systems, and is healthcare your passion? 

Healthcare leadership is not an easy path. From the inherent flaws that remain to be solved to the need to move toward a new model of preventative care, a successful career in health care requires incredible dedication and personal commitment.

It is a wild ride full of adventure, heroism, joy, and challenges you will never anticipate and one that has the power to save lives. Be humble, ask for help, raise your hand for the assignment no one wants, fix a problem no one has spent time to fix, make a difference — and always, always put the patient at the center of every decision.

Build your internal and external network and work at it at every step of your career. VCU Alumni always have an open door.


VCU Health Administration alum named head of The Joint Commission

Headshot of John Perlin

VCU Health Administration MSHA alum Dr. Jonathan B. Perlin has been named as the next president and CEO of The Joint Commission. He is currently president of clinical operations and chief medical officer of Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare.

Founded in 1951, The Joint Commission accredits and certifies more than 22,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. The Commission seeks to continuously improve health care for the public by evaluating health care organizations and inspiring them to excel in providing safe and effective care of the highest quality and value.

Before joining HCA in 2006, Perlin was Under Secretary for Health in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He was a champion for early implementation of electronic health records, and led VA quality performance to international recognition. Perlin also is a commission member of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), a nonpartisan legislative branch providing Congress with analysis and policy advice on the Medicare program.

"I know that he will continue to transform The Joint Commission’s critical work to improve patient safety and quality of care in health care organizations across the country and around the world,” said Dr. Mark R. Chassin, current President and CEO of The Joint Commission.

Read the full story at the Joint Commission.

VCU Department of Health Administration announces new PhD program director

Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Health Administration has appointed Laura McClelland, PhD as the new director of the PhD Program in Health Services Organization and Research (HSOR).

As program director, McClelland will be responsible for recruitment efforts for both part-time and full-time doctoral students; overseeing the curriculum of the PhD program; mentoring and supervising degree progress for doctoral students; as well as interfacing with the program’s robust HSOR PhD alumni community.

“I am honored to take on the role for a program that has reliably produced so many outstanding PhDs that have gone on to lead distinguished careers,” said McClelland. “This is an incredible opportunity to build on the many programmatic successes of our previous director and faculty emeritus, Dr. Jan Clement.”

McClelland who has been a member of the Department of Health Administration and taught in the PhD program for 10 years, says that a top priority is to grow the program’s full-time enrollments. 

CHP funded student scholarships and stipends will enable the HSOR PhD program to attract the brightest research-oriented students, which will further strengthen the reputation of the program, and also synergistically fuel productive research collaborations for its students and faculty,” she said. “The latter, in turn, enhances the reputation of our college. It's a win-win. In the long-term, we want to further strengthen our reputation as a top-tier PhD program that reliably produces highly productive health care organizational scholars.”

McClelland has expertise in the areas of health administration, organizational behavior, management and organization theory. Her research interests include workplace compassion, employee well-being. and patient experience. Her work examines the nature and effects of organizational compassion practices on important outcomes for healthcare organizations. 


Her research is published in leading health services and social science journals, including Health Services ResearchMedical Care and Human Resource Management Review, and is cited in popular press outlets such as CNN and Kaiser Health News. Additionally, her work was featured in VCU Health’s annual report this past year.



“I consider it a privilege to take on this role at such a unique time for our department and college because we are better resourced to best support our students and in turn produce strong PhD graduates,” said McClelland. “We have successfully recruited a number of leading scholars in the field to join our department faculty, which further strengthens the caliber of our curriculum and research mentoring. In addition, due to CHP's commitment to our PhD program, we are now able to fund up to four incoming full-time PhD students who each will receive full tuition scholarships, a stipend for their living expenses, and provide support to attend research conferences.”


McClelland encourages anyone who is interested in a career in research and teaching, with a passion for studying health care organizations and health services research, to reach out to see if the VCU HSOR PhD program can help you achieve your goals. For more, visit here.

Health Administration Alumni Spotlight: Robert S.D. Higgins, M.D., M.S.H.A.

Picture of Robert S.D. HigginsRobert S.D. Higgins, M.D., M.S.H.A., has been appointed president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and executive vice president at Mass General, effective December 2021.

A 2005 graduate of VCU’s Master of Science in Health Administration program, Higgins currently serves as surgeon-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and is the William Stewart Halsted Professor of Surgery and Director of the Department of Surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. 

To read the full announcement, visit here.

Two long-time Health Administration faculty set to retire

The VCU College of Health Professions’ Department of Health Administration will soon bid farewell to two accomplished faculty members, who are set to retire in the near future.  

They include Jan Clement, Ph.D., Cardwell professor and director of the doctoral program in health services organization and research, and Carolyn “Cindy” Watts, Ph.D., Sentara professor in the Department of Health Administration.

photo of Jan Clement

Clement has dedicated more than 30 years to the department, serving as a faculty member, as well as program director and interim chair during a time of transition between chairs. In 1994, Clement was the first female faculty member to earn tenure in the department.

Specializing in healthcare financial management, she has published numerous articles about the financial performance of hospital firms, strategic alliances and subsidiaries of larger firms. She has also studied not-for-profit firms extensively, including the returns provided by not-for-profit acute care hospitals to communities, financial management tools for not-for-profit firms, and provision of charity care in the face of market competition. Clement also completed studies with regard to the relationship of financial performance of skilled nursing facilities to their quality of care.

A woman smiling in professional attire

Watts joined VCU as the Richard M Bracken Chair of Health Administration in 2010 and served as department chair until 2019. She is currently the interim MSHA program director.

Watts studied economics at the Johns Hopkins University, and her research has focused on organizational, reimbursement and regulatory issues in healthcare markets. Her previous research explored the impact of various legislative initiatives on health insurance risk pools and the implementation of various hospital reimbursement models and medical home demonstration projects in Washington State.

She has worked with the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association on a project to measure value in Virginia hospitals. She also was an inaugural member of the planning committee for the Virginia Healthcare Innovators Awards, and served on an Institute of Medicine Task Force to evaluate the Lovell Federal Heath Care Center Merger. Watts has completed several projects on various aspects of prison health care for the Virginia State Department of Corrections. She serves on the Board of Health Brigade, a free clinic in Richmond, as well as various committees with AUPHA (Association of University Programs in Health Administration).

“I am thankful to these two remarkable individuals for their longstanding commitment to fostering and building exceptional leaders in healthcare,” said Paula H. Song, Ph.D., Richard M. Bracken Chair of the Department of Health Administration. “The success of our programs and numerous accomplishments throughout the department are a testament to the strong foundation they have each helped to build.  I sincerely wish Jan and Cindy the best as they each begin a well-deserved and exciting new chapter.”

The VCU Department of Health Administration is a premiere research department geared toward creating innovative, compassionate, and business-savvy leaders to reimagine healthcare. The Master of Health Administration program is rated in the top five among its peers in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

For more information, visit here.

Malorie Burkett
VCU College of Health Professions


Two Faculty Appointments

The VCU College of Health Professions announced the appointment of two new faculty members who recently joined the Department of Health Administration.

They are Saleema Karim, Ph.D., and Nathan Carroll, Ph.D. Both will serve as associate professors in health administration.

“I am excited to welcome Saleema and Nate to the College,” said Paula Song, Ph.D., Richard M. Bracken Chair of the Department of Health Administration. “Their extensive backgrounds in teaching and research expertise in healthcare financial management will be a tremendous asset to our department as we continue to prepare students to become innovative leaders across healthcare.”

Picture of Saleema Karim

Karim comes to VCU after serving in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, in Little Rock, Ark. Throughout her career, she has taught classes in healthcare financial management, operations management, and quality. Karim’s research interests include hospital financial performance, quality and access, disparities and reimbursement/payment systems.

“I am looking forward to being part of the health administration and VCU team and the opportunities to collaborate and innovate with faculty, to teach and motivate the next generation of health administration students and to be involved and influence policy within VCU,” said Karim. “I hope to contribute and have a positive impact on the VCU community, state, nation and globally.”

She received her Bachelor of Science in biochemistry from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.; Master of Business Administration and Master of Health Administration from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia; and doctorate in health services research with a minor in financial management from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Picture of Nate Carroll

Carroll previously was assistant professor in the Department of Health Services Administration at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His research focuses include value-based payment, organizational responses to changing reimbursement systems, the financial management of health care organizations and return on investment for quality improvement activities.

“I have enjoyed the chance to teach great students over the past seven years, and learned a lot about training students to make good financial decisions for the organizations they go on to lead,” said Carroll. “I'm looking forward to bringing those skills to the students I'll be working with at VCU. Similarly, I've learned a lot about how financial incentives impact organizations' delivery of care, and I'm hoping to use that insight to develop partnerships with some of the accomplished researchers in the department, at the university and at the medical center.”

Carroll received his Bachelor of Science in commerce (finance) and economics from the University of Virginia, McIntire School of Commerce; a Masters in Health Administration from VCU; and doctoral degree in health services organization and policy, from the University of Michigan, Department of Health Management and Policy, in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“VCU has done so much for me and I grew a lot during my time in the MHA program,” he said. “As a student I remember being impressed by the high bar the faculty set as teachers, but also as researchers. The current faculty have continued to maintain those high standards, and I'm really excited to participate in that tradition and that I get to do so with a great group of colleagues.” 

The VCU Department of Health Administration is a premiere research department geared toward creating innovative, compassionate, and business-savvy leaders to reimagine healthcare. The Master of Health Administration program is rated in the top five among its peers in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

New Associate Dean for Research and Strategic Initiatives

pic of Dr. Daniel Lee

Lee comes to VCU after serving as professor and associate chair of health policy and management at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, and faculty director of the Griffith Leadership Center at the University of Michigan. His main research interest is in health care organizations. In addition, he has conducted studies on issues related to health care utilization, physician manpower, and health information technology. His current research applies the theories of social capital, social support and social networks to the understanding of health care organizations and patient behavior.   

“The dean envisioned having someone on her leadership team who could think out loud with her in charting new grounds and direction for the College,” said Lee. “This is beyond just focusing on the research within the College. What I see in front of us are opportunities to do something innovative, new, exciting and hopefully effective and impactful.”
Lee’s work has appeared in major health services research and management journals. He has received recognitions from several regional and national associations, notably the Best Pre- and Post- Doctoral Presentation Award from the Association for Health Services Research in 1997, the John D. Thompson Prize for Young Investigators from AUPHA in 2002, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research in 2008, and the Medical Care Research & Review Best Paper Award in 2009. He currently serves on the boards of AUPHA and National Center for Healthcare Leadership.
He received his doctoral degree in health services organization and policy from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; his Master of Science in public health from National Yang-Ming University; and his Bachelor of Science in zoology from National Taiwan University, both in Taipei, Taiwan. In his spare time, Lee enjoys cooking, gardening and reading. He and his family will relocate to Richmond this summer.

Paula Song Begins as New Chair for Health Administration

pic of Paula Song

Since 2017, Song has served as program director for the residential master’s program in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), and a research associate at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research. As program director, Song has focused on programmatic improvements, enhancing efforts around diversity and inclusion, and engaging in national organizations. Under her leadership, the national ranking of UNC’s master of health administration program rose from no. 5 to no. 3 according to U.S. News and World Report.  
Song began her career as a health administrator, and subsequently transferred her interests in health administration to teaching and research. Her current research focuses on the financial management of healthcare organizations, payment reform, and how alternative payment models impact utilization and access to health services for underserved populations. Her work has been published extensively in leading health services research and healthcare management journals. She teaches courses in healthcare accounting and finance and has co-authored five leading textbooks in healthcare finance.
“I feel very fortunate to contribute to a dynamic field that has an impact on people’s lives and healthcare experiences,” said Song. “I look forward to continuing my research at VCU to address emerging questions relevant to health administration and policy, teaching and mentoring students and colleagues to be successful in their careers, and leading programs and the Department of Health Administration.”
Song is actively involved in national professional organizations such as the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA) and the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). Most recently, she was named the 2020 recipient of the John D. Thompson Prize for Young Investigators by AUPHA. The Thompson Prize was established to honor John D. Thompson, a professor of health administration education, who set teaching, commitment to learning, collegial relationships, and health services research standards which are without peer.
She received her doctoral degree in health services organization and policy, her Master of Arts in applied economics, and Masters of Health Services Administration from the University of Michigan. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in biological basis of behavior from the University of Pennsylvania.
An avid long-distance runner, Song enjoys spending time with her husband, two small children and their dog. She and her family will reside in Richmond.

Dean's Seed Funding Award

"Preconception Care and Pregnancy-related Morbidity and Infant Health Outcomes among Women with Disabilities using Virginia PRAMS Data"

pic of Ann Shih, Ph.D.

Ann Shih, assistant professor in Health Administration department will be collaborating with Virginia Department of Health to achieve the following objectives:

  • To understand the preconception health and preconception care among women with disabilities and how it differs from their counterparts.
  • To investigate factores associated with preconception care-seeking behaviors and how disability status affects the associations.
  • To investigate the associations between preconception health, preconception care, and pregnancy-related outcomes, and infant health outcomes.

Have a story about the College of Health Professions in action that you'd like to share? Contact us at mgburkett@vcu.edu or (804) 828-7247.