Eric Wolak: Executive MHA Candidate, 2012
What brought you to the UW Executive MHA Program?
After more than ten years in health care, I reached a crossroads in my professional growth as a nurse and my education. I moved to Seattle just over two years ago with intentions of applying to the PhD program at the University of Washington School of Nursing. However, while working as a Nurse Manager in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at Swedish Health System, I began to appreciate how little I understood health care as a business. After extensive dialogue with local health care leaders and researching MHA programs throughout the nation, I was relieved and excited to learn that not only does the University of Washington have an outstanding MHA program, but they also have a program tailored to the working professional. The Executive MHA Program's comprehensive curriculum in conjunction with the diversity of its students provides a unique learning experience that has truly opened my eyes to the inner workings of health care.
How would you describe your educational background?
Following high school in Havelock, NC, I attend the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. Not knowing what I really wanted to do, I attempted to diversify myself as much as possible, majoring in English and minoring in Chemistry. After volunteering in hospitals, I found my path in nursing and started the BSN program at UNC-Chapel Hill following my graduation with a BA in English. As a neophyte RN, I thrived while learning and expanding my clinical skill sets, so I began the MSN program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where I graduated in 2007.
What is your professional background?
I began my nursing career in the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Health Care. As a staff nurse, I had the opportunity to see both tremendous sadness and amazing hope and strength. I was also honored to work with some of the most amazing nurses, physicians, pharmacists, and therapists. After four years, I became a Clinical Nurse Education Specialist, focusing on critical care education and orientation. During this time, I realized that my passion for health care leadership and administration was emerging, and I accepted the position of Assistant Nurse Manager in the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit (ICU). In 2008, I moved to Seattle to become the Nurse Manager of the Cardiovascular ICU with the Swedish Health System.
Are there any outstanding or unique experiences you would like to share with regard to the UW Executive MHA Program?
The diversity of experiences my classmates bring is truly remarkable. Whether someone has been a physician for 20 years or a clinic manager for five, we all bring our own unique strengths and experiences, which add so much to the learning experience. The UW Executive MHA Program truly breaks down the health care silos that many of us fall victim to.
What do you feel are the strengths of the UW Executive MHA Program?
There are too many strengths to list, but I must say that I have been incredibly impressed with the caliber of our professors and the curriculum they have developed. Each professor is a health care leader that brings to the table a unique blend of academic preparedness and real life experience. Those qualities, in conjunction with a heavy focus on team dynamics and team learning, has provided me with a learning experience second to none.
What are your career goals and how do you feel the UW Executive MHA Program is assisting you in reaching those goals?
Following graduation from the UW Executive MHA Program, I will strive to apply what I have learned in this program on a daily basis. My hope and desire is to truly impact the health care system as we know it today in a positive way. I see myself growing as a leader in health care and hope that my leadership contributes to bettering patient outcomes and lowering costs.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience?
I have been amazed by how much I have learned thus far. The curriculum is designed in a way that focuses on team dynamics and team projects, which provides an almost imperceptible learning experience. You don't realize how much you have learned and how much you have changed as a health care leader until you take a moment to reflect back. As I look forward to the road ahead, I can only imagine the challenges, but I know that I will have the skill sets to be successful.