By Patty Johnson, reporter
Just a few short years ago, Cindy Gilmer, RN, BSN, was looking for a new challenge. Now, armed with a master’s degree in business administration (MBA), she’s about to take on a new role at Missouri Baptist Medical Center.
“I was restless in my current role and looking for opportunities to integrate my current knowledge base into something that was fresh and challenging,” says Gilmer, MBMC operating room assistant nurse manager.
So she looked into the mini-MBA program that’s offered by the BJC Center for LifeLong Learning. After completing the mini-MBA, she joined cohort 5 of the BJC-Webster University MBA program.
“Since graduating last month, I’ve been offered a new position at my hospital that will allow me to grow and use many of the tools and skills I’ve learned through the MBA program,” Gilmer says. “I’m very excited about the new direction my career is taking.”
Ryan Talbert, MBA, LCSW, tells a similar story. “In early 2008, I was evaluating my career path, as well as the future needs of my family,” says Talbert, a hospital social worker with BJC since 2004. “The field of social work is diverse and rewarding, but I knew it wasn’t going to be my long-term occupation. I wanted to expand my sights and learn more about the big picture of health care.
“I had heard about the MBA program and decided to give it a shot,” Talbert says. “It seemed like a fantastic opportunity to expand my thinking, learn a new set of skills — and the BJC tuition assistance made it financially accessible as well.”
Since obtaining his degree, Talbert has moved into a new position as a clinical information services coordinator at Christian Hospital.
Gilmer and Talbert are just two of more than 100 employees from across BJC — 101, to be exact — who have completed their MBA through the BJC Center for LifeLong Learning-Webster University MBA partnership program, which began in January 2006.
“The MBA partnership with Webster University continues to provide BJC with a growing resource of trained business managers,” says Gary Stocker, CLL learning partnerships manager. “These managers will likely be called upon to apply their expertise to help move BJC through the challenges of health care reform and improving the quality of health care we provide our patients and our community.”
Recognizing the graduates
On March 23, members of the fifth BJC cohort of MBA students were recognized for completing their required MBA courses at a luncheon hosted by the CLL and sponsored by the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology at Webster University.
During the recognition ceremony at the BJC Learning Institute, the students were praised for their dedication to their careers and education by JoAnn Shaw, BJC vice president and chief learning officer; Benjamin Akande, PhD, dean of the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology at Webster University; and Lee Fetter, BJC group president and president of St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
“When we started talking with Webster University about this program in 2006, no one had done anything like this in St. Louis before,” Shaw told the graduates. “Today, in 2012, we’re graduating our fifth cohort and our 101st MBA graduate.”
Dr. Akande, the keynote speaker, told the graduates to ask questions and seek clarity as they move forward. “Don’t follow blindly, because you will get lost,” Dr. Akande said. “Look at yourself not in terms of where you’ve been, but where you can go.
“The future belongs to those who can see it,” Dr. Akande said.
Fetter added his congratulations to the students. “On behalf of BJC leadership, I want to extend our thanks to you,” he said. “BJC is a learning organization. What you do today will be different tomorrow. It’s a challenging environment, and we have to be a learning organization. You are role models to other employees.”
A balancing act
In addition to earning their MBA, the students also learned more about their BJC colleagues, as well as strategies for juggling their careers, their families and their studies.
Classes meet for four hours one night per week over a nine-week term. Lisa Cook, RN, BSN, Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital 2 West, tele/stepdown and ICU assistant nurse manager, participated in the program to learn more about the business side of medicine. Cook says she appreciated the convenience of the classes being offered at the BJC Learning Institute, but adds that it was challenging working homework into her already busy schedule.
“I can say, though, the instructors knew we were all working professionals and really worked with us when we needed them to,” Cook says. “Webster has been phenomenal, supplying our cohort with brilliant instructors and professors who are caring and really enjoy their profession.
“Also, the fact that I had the opportunity to go to class with fellow BJC employees was an added bonus,” Cook says. “The friendships that developed as a result of the cohort I will treasure for a lifetime. I am so honored to be a part of such a great organization as BJC HealthCare. We really care about the continued education of our employees. To me, that is invaluable.
“I just can’t say enough about the great things BJC and Webster are doing with this program,” Cook adds. “It is not only an invaluable opportunity, but a life-changing experience. I have a huge sense of accomplishment knowing I’ve completed my MBA.”
Talbert agrees. “The instructors were great, and the course material was interesting and diverse — but the thing I liked the most was the cohort itself,” he says. “I loved going to class the same night with the same people every week.
“I would recommend this program to anyone interested in making a career transition or simply wanting to expand their own vision and understand how their role fits into the big picture,” Talbert adds. “By improving ourselves, we can better serve our patients — because, in the end, it’s all about them.”
Adds Gilmer, “I have already recommended the program to easily a dozen people. I can’t say enough about the positive impact it’s had in my life.”
*first printed in BJC Today
About BJC Healthcare
BJC HealthCare is one of the largest nonprofit health care organizations in the United States, delivering services to residents primarily in the greater St. Louis, southern Illinois and mid-Missouri regions. BJC serves urban, suburban and rural communities and includes 13 hospitals and multiple community health locations. Services include inpatient and outpatient care, primary care, community health and wellness, workplace health, home health, community mental health, rehabilitation, long-term care and hospice.