Sharon Brooks: Executive MHA Candidate, 2012
What brought you to the UW Executive MHA Program?
Over my 25 year career in both physical (medical) and mental health care, I became convinced that the integration of these two systems is the best way to provide care, particularly for patients who need both medical and mental health services. I believe integration will be cost effective, and I am aware that many organizations are moving in that direction. I want to take part in this process of integration and play a leadership role. So, I made the decision to reposition myself professionally to pursue related opportunities in a broad-based health care/hospital environment. My research into the UW Executive MHA Program indicated that this program could provide me with the background and training I need to supplement my education and pursue my goal.
How would you describe your educational background?
As an undergraduate, I attended Guilford College, a small liberal arts college in Greensboro, North Carolina. After receiving a Bachelor of Science in biology with a concentration in philosophy, I entered the pharmaceutical industry where I worked for 14 years. I found that I wanted to work more directly with patients/clients, so I earned a Masters in Social Work (MSW) from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts.
What is your professional background?
My first career was in the pharmaceutical industry. I was a sales representative with the added responsibilities of hiring, training, and mentoring sales representatives. I enjoyed learning about new pharmaceutical products and sharing the information with physicians. After earning an MSW, I worked with clients who have major mental illness and provided therapy to individuals, couples, and groups. I also provided care management and consulting services to the elder population.
Are there any outstanding or unique experiences that you would like to share with regard to the UW Executive MHA Program?
Before starting coursework, all incoming students are required to go through a ropes course. This is a fantastic way to "jump start" the relationship building that forms the basis of the program. Health care is truly a team sport and, as such, we must work together to provide the leadership that is required for the transformation of health care.
What do you feel are the strengths of the UW Executive MHA Program?
The UW Executive MHA Program has multiple strengths. Three of the most important are team-based learning, the breadth of student backgrounds, and the commitment to teaching health care professionals. First, the program successfully incorporates team-based learning. Progressing through assignments and work simulations as a team has been incredibly valuable for learning how to solve problems as a group. Second, working with a variety of professionals (including pharmacists, physicians, nurses, IT staff, educators, psychologists, and social workers) has taught me the value of different points of view in accomplishing our goals. Third, the program is designed for professionals, with accessible scheduling and experienced professors.
What are your career goals, and how do you feel the UW Executive MHA Program is assisting you in reaching those goals?
My specific goals are still in formulation. My areas of interest are policy development and implementation, organizational systems and the integration of multiple health services, and how the application of integrated care influences the success of individual care plans. The UW Executive MHA Program is a great vehicle for gaining greater exposure to current and future opportunities in health care. An exciting element of the program is the broad exposure I've had to different arenas of health care through the varied experiences of my cohort and professors. I believe that my process of refining my goals will mirror my progress in the program.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your experiences here?
I encourage anyone who is seriously considering an Executive MHA program to "try out" the UW program. The moment I decided that this program was for me occurred while I was visiting a second-year class and observing a lecture. There was lively conversation and I found myself participating as if I were a student. That is when I had the "a-ha!" moment: these people are speaking my language!