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Seattle University


Forming Leaders in Healthcare

Written by Mike Thee
February 14, 2012

In all professions, good leaders are always in demand; for the healthcare industry, the need is particularly great. The challenges facing the industry are well documented. Costs spiral even as the number of uninsured Americans, now at an unprecedented 50 million, continues to climb. The situation is, of course, much more acute in developing countries where millions die annually for lack of basic care and vaccines.

How then to meet these mind-numbing challenges?

The Albers School of Business and Economics is helping to answer that question. This fall, the school launched the Health Leadership EMBA (HLEMBA), a 21-month degree program.

“With the health sector being such an important part of our local and national economy, Seattle University needs to be offering this program to meet the needs of emerging health leaders in our region," said Albers Dean Joe Phillips. "When Albers and the College of Nursing did our market research on educational needs in the sector, we identified overwhelming interest and need for a program like this. With our mission, we are well positioned to deliver the program and it has been well received by leaders in the health community.”

The program is housed in the Center for Leadership Formation.

"Health and life science professionals typically receive excellent scientific training, but little leadership formation and little or no business education," says Marilyn Gist, director of the center. "The HLEMBA program is designed to prepare leaders across the health and life science sector with enhanced leadership competence and the business acumen necessary to have organizational impact and effect positive change."

Approved last spring by the Board of Trustees, HLEMBA welcomed its first cohort this fall. Four months is an almost impossibly short timeframe for launching a new academic program, but Albers, with help from the College of Nursing, was more than ready,  given the existing expertise of faculty in the two schools.

The new program combines coursework from the center's Leadership EMBA (LEMBA) program, which U.S. News & World Report ranked 18th in the nation, with a curriculum specifically tailored for professionals in health and sciences. As with LEMBA, the new program includes a social justice project in which students create real-world solutions that can be sustained over time.

The first cohort is a diverse group of health professionals, ranging from a pharmaceutical representative to a patent attorney at a medical technology company to the lead profusionist at a local hospital. That diversity is very much by design, says Sommer Harrison, the center's recruiting and marketing coordinator. "We wanted to create a dynamic conversation," she says.

The ultimate goal of the program, of course, is to develop leaders for an industry that is expanding in leaps and bounds. Even at the peak of the recession in 2008 the healthcare industry grew by nearly 400,000 jobs nationally, according to the Bureau of Labor. It is projected that over the next six years more than a quarter of all new jobs in the U.S. will be in health care industry.

The arrival of the HLEMBA degree also fits nicely with one of the goals President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., outlined in his 2011 State of the University address, in which he said, "We must build new connections with the biomedical, global health, scientific, technological and environmental institutions and foundations of our region."

Already, HLEMBA is forging those connections. The program is the main sponsor of a Feb. 23 event at which President Sundborg will present Seattle Business Magazine's Outstanding Healthcare Executive of the Year award. More than 200 representatives from the healthcare industry are expected.

"Seattle has a very dynamic health sector, and the richness of this community is a key asset to our program," says Gist. "This is an exciting time for the center as we expand our reach into the health and life science industry."