Designing solutions for healthcare delivery

Leah Vasquez recently landed her third promotion in the three years since graduating from OHSU's School of Medicine Healthcare MBA program. Leah is stepping up in each new role to help solve profound challenges within the healthcare landscape. For instance, she is currently leading a team tasked with figuring out how to enhance access for patients in need of gastroenterology services.

The challenge of aligning access to care with patients' needs drives Leah and her team to explore new possibilities. Instead of doing what always has been done, they are thinking of bigger to align health care delivery with consumer expectations.

"You're competing in a market where people are getting same-day service from Amazon and hot food delivered right to their front doors," she said. "Healthcare consumers are looking for services that are convenient and affordable." Leah is the practice director for gastroenterology at Permanente Northwest, the physician group of Kaiser Permanente Northwest.

OHSU's MBA coursework teaches a systems approach that Leah said has prepared her to look at complex challenges like access to care in a different way. Because of that coursework, through which she also gained a better understanding of the nation's health landscape, she's been able to accelerate her career.

"There's no easy solution to access challenges, and it requires innovative thinking and a deep understanding about how our country's health care system works. The challenges are quite complex, and everyone has a part to play -- from physicians to frontline staff to insurers," she said.

When Leah began her studies, she was a project manager at Care Oregon. In that capacity, she successfully led many complex change-management projects that required rallying cross-functional teams. She decided to pursue an advanced degree after she said she recognized a need to take her leadership abilities to the next level to be on par with top executives.

Much of her coursework involved communicating and presenting to her cohort. "You are presenting your ideas to people from all kinds of backgrounds, including clinicians and executives. You build confidence as a leader and learn how to engage various stakeholders with eloquence," she said.

She said one of the most valuable aspects of her MBA experience took place before her first class. She said she had an assignment to attend her first class with a list of her five and 10-year goals. "That was very powerful. It gave me a clear line of sight as to what I was working toward and what I needed to glean from the MBA program to get me there," Leah said. In taking on her current role, she's pleased to have completed the goal of reaching a strategic leadership position, which she'd pegged as her five-year goal.

"It's all because of what I went through getting my MBA. I shared a seat at the table with some of the brightest, most experienced healthcare professionals to tackle the most complex healthcare challenges."

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