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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.

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 webina, "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
mgburkett@vcu.edu

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.

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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.

Robert 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.

Picture of Robert S.D. Higgins

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
mgburkett@vcu.edu

 

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.