John Blanchard: MHA, 1996
Your job history
Shortly after MHA graduation I was hired as a junior administrator at Seattle Children's and later I went to Virginia Mason Medical Center where I managed several clinics and learned about Lean. Finally, after three years at Group Health Cooperative, I joined Harborview Medical Center administration to help build the new UW Vascular Center.
What decisions/choices have led to your current career position?
The practice of vascular surgery is undergoing a major shift away from open surgeries, and the UW vascular team is a world leader in minimally invasive treatment of vascular conditions. There is also a very proud history in vascular medicine at UW, including the creation of dialysis shunts in the 1960s, and duplex ultrasound in the 1970s, both of which changed the course of vascular medicine, so I am thrilled to serve in this arena.
What are the unique rewards inherent in what you do?
It is exciting to be developing UW vascular care in Seattle right now because an enormous increase in vascular disease is expected to present itself over the next few decades. By researching the risk factors for disease, making early diagnoses of conditions like carotid stenosis, and by improving surgical outcomes and training the next generation of surgeons, the UW vascular team is positioned to help improve our health status as a region.
What challenges do you face in the current health care environment?
One area that is very challenging is how to pay for expensive technology used both for patient care and for teaching new trainees, especially in public institutions. Given tighter reimbursement for hospital care and for medical training, we need to reach out to private industry for financial help but do so in such a way that scrupulously avoids compliance and conflict-of-interest issues.
What aspects of the UW MHA Program have been of greatest benefit to you?
The MHA experience gave me a strong sense of belonging when I moved to this area from the east coast. In the mid-1990s the MHA community was enthralled with the health care reform debate—especially the idea of universal coverage as a public health issue—and now that reform is actually happening it's very reminiscent of the passion and idealism of graduate school.
What advice do you have for people considering health care management as a career?
A career in health care management requires a lot of direct operations experience, such as supervising or managing an outpatient clinic. You will have to enjoy and be good at evaluating, supervising, and inspiring other human beings so that they can perform to the best of their ability. I think The Customer Comes Second by Hal Rosenbluth should be required reading for all MHA students. Another critical skill set for health care leaders is project management and understanding the idea of the critical path. Over time you will learn about compliance, technology, finance, etc., but successfully leading people is a career foundation.