Inaugural Class Graduates from Executive M.B.A/M.S. in Healthcare Leadership Program

Graduate student Natasha VanWright. All photos: Amelia Panico

Healthcare transformation isn’t just a concept to pharmacist Sarah Thompson—it is her passion.

Since joining Coastal Medical, the largest primary care practice in Rhode Island, a decade ago, Thompson has made it her mission to help patients receive high-quality, comprehensive healthcare at the greatest value. At first she directly engaged patients to ensure that they knew how to properly use their medications and that they could afford them. Then, as director of clinical services, Thompson led teams that conducted this work.

As she rose through the ranks and became more immersed in emerging models of healthcare delivery, Thompson wanted to gain proficiency in the industry’s business aspects so that she could drive innovations in the field. So, in 2015, she began researching graduate programs, identifying ones that focused on healthcare or business administration but not both.

Enter Cornell’s Executive M.B.A./M.S. in Healthcare Leadership, which combines a Master of Science degree in healthcare leadership from the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences and a Master of Business Administration from the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management. Established in 2016, the two-year program equips healthcare professionals and leaders like Thompson with the skills and experience to facilitate change in the industry. Thompson was accepted as a student in the program’s first class, and in May joined 38 of her fellow classmates as inaugural graduates.

“It’s a huge accomplishment for me, both personally and professionally,” said Thompson, who recently became vice president of clinical operations and pharmacy at Coastal Medical, a role for which she is immediately applying the lessons she learned from the graduate program. “I can now envision a whole new future for me—one that wasn’t possible before I completed the program. With the combination of my clinical background, a Master in Business Administration and a Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership, there really are infinite possibilities in terms of future professional growth.”

The inaugural graduates celebrated their achievements at two Commencement ceremonies—Johnson Graduate School’s on May 25 in Ithaca and Weill Cornell Medicine’s May 30 at Carnegie Hall—and during a private dinner on June 4 at the Rubin Museum of Art.

Dr. Rainu Kaushal and Mark Nelson during the June 4 dinner.

The program—chaired by Dr. Rainu Kaushal, chair of the Department of Healthcare Policy and Research at Weill Cornell Medicine, and Johnson Graduate School of Management Dean Mark Nelson, and managed by Director Shivani Dhir—prepares students to address challenges and opportunities faced by the healthcare industry at-large. These skills are critical in order to succeed as a well-rounded leader as well as to effectively drive national dialogue and spearhead initiatives in healthcare policy and delivery amid a rapidly changing healthcare landscape. And the inaugural graduates, program leaders say, are the perfect emissaries to do just that.

“When we launched this program two years ago, we set out with a very unique mission,” said Dr. Kaushal during the June 4 dinner. “We wanted to train the most innovative future leaders of healthcare. When we saw your applications, we were very impressed and after a rigorous two years, we are proud to see you graduate. We are excited for the impact you will make in the industry as leaders.”

“You are our best ambassadors,” Dr. Nelson added. “We couldn’t have picked anyone better to hold as the exemplars, the pioneers of this program.”

Andres Jimenez, Asim Hameedi, Linda Zhao and Mary Jane O’Connell.

Program graduates Dr. Andres Jimenez, Asim Hameedi, Linda Zhao and Mary Jane O’Connell during the June 4 dinner.

The dinner also featured speeches from Dhir; Dr. Geraldine McGinty, who was the M.S. in Healthcare Leadership’s inaugural academic director, and is an assistant professor of healthcare policy and research, chief strategy officer of Weill Cornell Medicine’s Physician Organization and mentor to the program’s students; and from graduating student Natasha VanWright, who was also a banner bearer at Cornell’s Commencement ceremony. Class representative Nicholas Gavin bestowed the inaugural Healthcare Leadership Faculty Award on Soumitra Dutta, a professor of management at the Johnson Graduate School. And graduate Andrea Cohen, who will be the cohort’s alumni representative, announced the class’s gift to the program: sponsorship of the lunchtime speaker series for the next five years. Dr. Said Ibrahim, who also leads the program and is senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion at Weill Cornell Medicine, and Dr. Rich Lee, current academic director for the M.S. in Healthcare Leadership and an associate professor of urology and of healthcare policy and research, were also in attendance to congratulate the graduates.

For Dr. Andres Jimenez, the Executive M.B.A./M.S. in Healthcare Leadership Program was the logical next step in his professional development.

Dr. Jimenez was in surgical residency a decade ago just as implementation of electronic health records was gaining momentum. Marrying his medical expertise with his post-doctorate research on the use of technology to train physicians, Dr. Jimenez in 2009 established his own company, ImplementHIT, to help physicians learn how to maximize use of these systems. Shortly afterward, Dr. Jimenez began contemplating pursuing a master’s in business administration, with a specialization in healthcare, to enhance his skills in business strategy, accounting and marketing, along with healthcare policy. The Executive M.B.A./M.S. in Healthcare Leadership Program was a perfect fit.

“Healthcare is evolving very quickly,” said Dr. Jimenez, CEO of ImplementHIT. “I’ve gained a deeper understanding of healthcare regulation, and how it connects to so many different aspects of healthcare and the market. I’ve gained a set of tools I use daily to critically evaluate new policy, develop ideas to meaningfully improve healthcare and create advanced strategies to continue to grow my company.”

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