Amy Richardson, a Weatherhead Physician Executive Institute and Executive MBA Alum, sat down with Savannah Barnett, program manager for Healthcare Executive Education, to talk about her experiences at Weatherhead. Amy, a pediatric physician at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Emergency Department, has held a myriad of positions in the healthcare industry, from academia to insurance.
SB: Amy, tell us a little about yourself.
AR: I have been in Cleveland for about almost fifteen and a half years. Right now, I am a physician who works in the Rainbow Pediatric Emergency department. I became interested in the business of medicine about 30 years ago when I was in the public health service and was sent to a bankrupt practice and ended up having to figure out how to keep it afloat. I worked in a number of different positions from the insurance industry to academic medicine. In 2002, I signed up for the Physician Executive Institute because, at that point, I was working in the insurance industry and was contemplating going to business school. I used that Institute as a bridge to decide if going to business school was really what I wanted to do. Subsequently, in 2004 enrolled in Weatherhead's Executive MBA Program and graduated in 2006.
SB: What drew you to the Physician Executive Institute?
AR: There were three things: (1) The variety of topics that were covered; everything from marketing to emotional intelligence. It allowed me to get a taste in each of the disciplines involved in the business of medicine. (2) The faculty. Clearly, as you looked over the people who were presenting, they were all top notch. (3) The people who attended and my exposure to them. I enjoyed interacting and learning with the range of people from medical disciplines and other health care systems and it gave me a chance to see how other people approach the problems we were all facing.
SB: How were your expectations met?
AR: My expectations in terms of the Physician Executive Institute were far exceeded. The classes themselves were terrific and we had access to sit and ask specific questions of the professors who were brought in from out of town. I ended up getting a lot of really good advice about different pathways and the whole issue of business school or not.
SB: What were the highlights of the Physician Executive Institute?
AR: One of the highlights of the leadership portion was Eric Berkowtz’s talking about generational cohorts in both understanding the people you work with and the customers you’re trying to serve. Those were concepts I could go back to the hospital and use the next day in terms of the families, the patients and residents we’re trying to serve. We’re trying to train the Generation Xers and I’m a Babyboomer, so understanding why we approach the situation differently has been valuable.
Another highlight was learning the language of business. As physicians try to exert influence over the healthcare system at different levels, we need to interact with the dreaded "bean counters" who often control access to the resources we need for what we want to do. If we cannot speak their language we have little credibility since these days the "we should do it because it's good for patients" argument rarely succeeds unless there is also a business case for a proposal. In the PEI, people are introduced to key concepts, like the time value of money, etc. that will allow them to participate in management decisions with comfort and credibility.
SB: Who were some of your colleagues in the Physician Executive Institute?
AR: There was actually a huge range. There were people from private practice and people from academics. There were people who had just finished their training and were new to the field and others who’d been in the field for 40 years. There was even a retired physician who was just taking it for fun. Literally, I think every medical discipline was represented.
SB: What did you think of the faculty presenters?
AR: The faculty presenters were fabulous along a number of dimensions. The first was they were all experts in the field they were presenting. This wasn’t a group of presenters that was just put together. Clearly, they were experts in the particular field. Both the materials and presentation were well organized and well thought out. Presenters had taken time to think about what physicians need to walk out of here and use the information tomorrow. This was really important in order to give immediate payback to the organization. At the same time, a number of concepts were challenging and some ideas we had never heard before and really made you stop and think about if we should be doing things a different way. In terms of an adult learning experience, it was really outstanding.
SB: What would you tell someone who is considering enrolling in the Physician Executive Institute?
AR: I would say whether you are a practicing physician or in training, this is a way to get a piece of education about the healthcare system that we don’t get in other settings. We didn’t get it in medical school. We don’t get it residency. We don’t get it in other continuing education programs, but it’s really important if we’re going to solve the mess that healthcare is in.
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