Executive Master of Health Administration Online: Program Overview and Student Spotlight

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Following a brief program overview from Dr. Jason Doctor, Associate Professor and Chair at USC’s Executive Master of Health Administration online program, learn from a panel of current students and an alumnus the path that led them to pursue their EMHA at USC, what they have gained from the program, how it fit into their lives and the contribution their education has made to their career development.


Lindsay Babcock: My name is Lindsay Babcock. I am a graduate admissions advisor for the Executive Master of Health Administration program, and I’ll be your host for today’s webinar. First, I’d just like to thank you all for being here today and taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us.

Lindsay Babcock: To begin, I’d just like to review what to expect during the presentation. To cut down on background noise, everyone is on listen-only mode. And if you are experiencing any technical difficulties, please be sure to try refreshing your browser. And if you have any questions for any of our speakers, please type them into our Q&A box in the lower right hand corner of your screen, and then just hit send. Feel free to enter any questions as you think of them, and we’ll answer as many as time allows at the end of the presentation. Also, a copy of the presentation and recording will be available soon.

Lindsay Babcock: So, here’s our agenda for today, and what we’ll be covering. First, Dr. Doctor, will be given a brief overview of the program. Then, you’ll be introduced to our panelists, and I’ll go over the next steps and the admissions requirements. And then lastly, we’ll end the presentation with a brief Q&A session.

Lindsay Babcock: So, Dr. Doctor, passing it over to you.

Dr. Jason Doctor: Hi everyone. How are you doing? My name is Jason Doctor, and I’m a professor in the School of Public Policy at USC, and I’m also the director of the Executive Master of Health Administration.

Dr. Jason Doctor: What I’d like to do, is just give you a little overview about the program. Mostly, today’s about our alumnae and their experiences in the program, so I’m just going to give a very brief introduction, but we are one of the top-ranked public policy schools with a history that spans over 90 years. We’re ranked number five in health policy and management by US News and World Reports. We do an incredible amount of research scholarship teaching and training that has led to this level of excellence that we’ve attained, and we would really like to talk to you today about your interests and the degree you’d like to attain, and see if there’s a good match there. Next slide.

Dr. Jason Doctor: Okay. So, why should you consider USC EMHA, Executive Master in Health Administration? First, it’s an executive program, so its cohorts are members of the professional community and you have to have, typically, a minimum of five years experience, although occasionally we offer positions to people who have three years or more, depending on their experience. And you have to have had greater and greater responsibility within the healthcare field in order to be in the program. It’s a flexible program. It is carried out online, but also in person through meetings at USC a couple times a year. There’s a tremendous cohort diversity. We have an interdisciplinary cohort of health policy scholars, health people with real-world experience in health management, and we also have a number of economists that teach in the program. That’s mostly what I want to say is that the program is designed around, and tailored around, your schedule, and it takes into account that you’re a working person and you have professional responsibilities and limited time to carry out the work. Next slide.

Dr. Jason Doctor: So, there’s a number of different types of students that we admit into the program. It’s not all one type, and so you’d be exposed to a lot of different people who work in different areas of healthcare, physicians, nurses, therapists, hospital executives, health plan administrators, health IT professionals, people who work in long-term care, executives with experience in crossover industries that relate to healthcare, and health technology startup professionals. The class discussions and the discussion boards are engaging, and you actually learn a lot from people in the program, not just from the professors, and the courses, but also from your interactions with other students and their experiences as executives. Next slide, please. So, here is me. I’m telling you who I am, now, after the fifth slide, but as I mentioned, I’m a professor and chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at USC. I’m also the director of health informatics at the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center.

Dr. Jason Doctor: My research area is in behavioral economics, which is how to change human behavior, and I focus on the healthcare setting, mostly on physicians, and working with reducing low-value care, changing the electronic health record, so that physicians will adhere more to guidelines. Next slide.

Dr. Jason Doctor: So, now, let me just briefly introduce our first speaker, and Nicole Kieffner, and that’s her in the picture with her beautiful family. She’s a senior manager and program director at Accenture, a global services consulting Fortune 500 company. Specifically, she’s led nationwide provider engagement within Accenture strategy and management consulting health practice. She has over 13 years of experience in the healthcare industry, focusing on strategy and management, and she’s had the opportunity to work alongside leading healthcare providers, payers, life science companies, to address pressing challenges in healthcare. So, welcome, Nicole, and Nicole’s going to give a little talk, and then she’ll pass it on to the next student, and so forth. So, thank you very much.

Nicole Kieffner: Hi everyone. Thank you for having me today, and thanks, Jason Doctor for that warm introduction. Nicole Kieffner here, and as you can see on the slide, yes, it is my family, my husband, two children, Kip and Cal, which I currently kind of manage the working mom bit, a full-time job, as well as the MHF program, which I will talk further along in the presentation, about how to manage the multiple life roles. But, overall, my profile, as Jason Doctor mentioned, I work at Accenture as a senior manager, been with the firm for over 10 years, and just had the privilege to work with every kind of large healthcare practice in the nation, to date, for various engagements and initiatives over the years.

Nicole Kieffner: As you can kind of see on the bottom, started out at UC Berkeley with a concentration in healthcare economics, worked at Accenture, and now really starting to pursue that next tier up in my career leading healthcare organizations, so wanted to pursue this EMHA program through USC. Also, through the EMHA program, have been working a lot with different organizations, HFMA being one of them, as well as the American College of Healthcare Executives.

Nicole Kieffner: Already in my first year of the program, have made tremendous strides in building my resume, so to speak, and adding on to what you see on the screen.

Nicole Kieffner: I will pass off introduction to Scott Russell.

Scott Russell: Hi guys. Hope you can hear me okay. I’m Scott Russell. I am an internist. I started medical school in 1990, and I’ve been a practicing internist for 25 years. I have a very busy practice, and I kind of realized that I see medicine from the point of view of seeing the patient, and that’s it. Medicine confused me, the whole business organization, I didn’t understand it. There were these changes being mandated, and I didn’t understand any of those, and so I wanted to pursue a degree that would give me some idea of what the beast of medicine is. And I thought about an MBA, because that was suggested to me, and then I realized that’s not specific enough. That’s very broad. I want something in medicine. And so, that’s why I chose the Masters of Health Administration. I chose… Oh, can you go to the next slide, please?

Scott Russell: Hm. Well, there were some slides there. Anyway, I’ll just keep going.

Scott Russell: I chose USC because of the name. It has an outstanding name, outstanding reputation, and the program itself is very respected. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking, “Now, do I want to put all this time and effort and money into an Executive Masters of Health Administration?” Turns out, our degree says, “Masters of Health Administration.” It does not change anything about that.

Scott Russell: I realized that if I wanted to go up in my company, I needed something besides experience. I needed that knowledge. I needed input from different viewpoints. I was concerned. I’m very busy in my practice, I have a partner and four kids, and I just don’t have a lot of time. I was concerned that I wasn’t going to be able to pull that off. And then my partner plays in the Gay Polo League, and the Gay Polo League plays all over the world. So, I’ve actually had one of my classes while we were in France playing polo. You generally take two classes a semester, a four-hour and a two-hour. One is once a week. One’s every other week. This easily fit into my schedule. The assignments, they were easily done, as well. You tend to do a lot of it during the weekend, but not entirely in the weekend.

Scott Russell: My experience with the program, incredible. I have met the smartest, most driven, accomplished people I have ever met, and… Let’s see. The professors are also accomplished and incredible. The classes I enjoy because they’re discussions about a particular topic. But, I’ll come at it as an internist, someone else will come at it from a surgeon, or a health plan executive, or a transplant coordinator, and we’ll discuss these things, and realize that I might be seeing it this way, but I had never even contemplated the way that they see it. And so, you just learn so much about it. And now, I have friends that are brilliant and highly-placed all over the world.

Scott Russell: So, how has this changed my professional life? I’m already seeing changes where I work. I’m suddenly being asked… and I graduate after this semester. I’m already being asked to be on committees, I am now being asked to start utilization review, and I’m suddenly being included in groups that are designed to look at problems like, why our patient scores might not be where they are. They’re asking me to come to these meetings and saying, “How can we approach this differently?”

Scott Russell: One of the things I love about the program is, it’s changed my perspective as far as, I don’t look at it from the perspective of an internist any more. I now also see it from the perspective of the payer, and the patient, and IT, and innovation, and continuity of care. So, my advice on this is, if you are here listening to this, you have already contemplated what this degree might do for you, and you’re probably right. You need to go ahead and do it.

Scott Russell: I started part-time, which after I went to my first in-residence and met my cohort, I realized I loved these people, and I wanted to stay with them as a group, as we moved through. And I wanted to go full-time, and somebody gave me some excellent advice. They said, “Go full-time, and if you feel like you can’t handle it, go back to part-time.” I went to full-time, never had a problem, I actually took three classes in one semester, did fine with that.

Scott Russell: So, if you’re considering this, go ahead and make the commitment. I’m done. 

Mostafa Khairzada: Great. Thank you. Thank you so much. My name is Mostafa Khairzada. I am the vice president of innovation and applied sciences at Pacific Dental Services, which is crazy to say, right, because you’re like, “Dental services? What are they up to?”  We figured out that the mouth is connected to the rest of the body, and we had an ah-ha moment, and we were like, “Hm, maybe we should do some studies.” They can correlate some disease types by just looking inside your mouth, and I say it so flippantly, but we’ve been working on this for a while. 

Mostafa Khairzada: So, it’s an exciting period in healthcare as technology and healthcare really evolve and then on their own. So, I’ve been here with PDS for a few years. I did my undergrad in business management and organizational development, because, truth-be-told, I wanted to learn how to grow a company to be profitable. But, more importantly, how to build teams that can be cohesive and work together. 

Mostafa Khairzada: I specialize in technologies that uses artificial intelligence, and I get a lot of comments about that, but the most of our concentration in that space is really, how do we apply AI to help the human perspective. It’s how do we keep dignity in mind, as we’re deploying technologies within healthcare. And I’ll get into all of that juicy stuff when I’m up after Nicole, here. 

Mostafa Khairzada: Basic, funny things about me, I’m an inventor. That’s what I do. I’m a wannabe vegan. I try to eat right, at least as plant-based as possible. I paint. I play guitar. I’m a student on everything. I love the Trojans, and there’s a cool story about that. I’m a Laker fan, a Giants fan, all kinds of fun stuff, and I’m really excited to spend a few minutes with all of you, with my esteemed panelists, how wonderful they are. We’ve been chatting and getting to know one another, as well, and with that, I’ll turn it over to Nicole, so she can tell us a little bit about her journey, and how she got to this place. 

Nicole Kieffner: Thanks, Mostafa. I appreciate that. Yeah. To go a little bit deeper on my introduction, and to kind of let the group know why I decided to pursue an EMHA at USC. Similar to Scott, I was also wavering between the MBA route, versus the EMHA route, and at this point in my career, I knew that I wanted to have a focused concentration on healthcare specifically, and the MBA-focused healthcare programs just didn’t have enough of that healthcare component. And I can say, being a year into my EMHA program, every class, every conversation, is filled with healthcare leaders and content, and it’s extremely applicable to my day-to-day job and environment. So, that’s why I kind of went the EMHA route. 

Nicole Kieffner: Really, from a 50,000-foot view, I think everyone who knows the healthcare industry, who is on the call, know that the healthcare industry has been an ever-changing complex world and ecosystem, and in need of leaders that can really drive change, and can do that in a sustainable and transformational way. 

Nicole Kieffner: For me, in my career, with being in the consulting world, sometimes working long hours, like robotics, it’s hard to find that time, that me-time, to really focus on learning the new regulations and kind of the newer trends in healthcare. And so, I really wanted me-time to kind of sit down and focus on my personal and professional development and advancement in my career, so that I could keep growing and pursuing larger and more senior executive roles. 

Nicole Kieffner: The EMHA program at USC, I think stands alone in its reputation, and just looking over the course content and curriculum when I was trying to decide which route to go, just got me so excited about pursuing this specific USC program and why it uniquely met my advanced educational goals.  Everywhere, from like I said, the curriculum, to the distinguished staff, to the executive level delivery and student profiles. Furthermore, I think the cohort concept really caught my attention, and one of my main reasons for joining the program… You know, in my world, I deal with healthcare executives, technology groups, business folks, clinicians, but I wanted to have more engagement and conversation about industry, and less about programs and projects that I was driving. And this program allows me to do that

Nicole Kieffner: Right now, my cohort is actually a majority of clinicians, which I really appreciate that perspective, as we talk about health policy, finance, and things that impact the healthcare environment. I really appreciate hearing from the clinician side and it’s been extremely valuable, and I can say right now… I’m in a group chat and tech string with all of my cohort members, and we’ve just grown such a bond through doing simulations in class, to group projects, and have built a friendship, and it’s just really awesome to have that camaraderie with the cohort at USC. Next slide, please? 

Nicole Kieffner: As mentioned previously, I’m a full-time working professional, have had multiple roles in life, mother, wife, so many roles, as we all do. The list goes on and on, and it’s really hard to find that time. And something I always kind of go back to is, it’s not about not having the time, but making the time, and that phrase has kind of really stuck with me, and the reason why even after having my second child, I said, “You know what? Now’s the time that I’m going to do this for me.” 

Nicole Kieffner: So, I did let my family know, and they all support me. I let my work know, and made this happen, and have made it possible through the flexible accommodations that USC program has, such as the evening classes. So, right now, in my current setup, I’m taking one course. I’ve wavered between taking two and one course at a time, depending on my workload and my personal life. Very flexible to switch between the course load that you do take. The administrators and support that you have in order to decide how you cater the program to you, is extremely valuable. You can hop on with an administrator or anyone in the program really quickly to help you guide your path at USC and in the program. 

Nicole Kieffner: The evening classes are extremely easy. Before dinner, after dinner, easy to hop on a virtual call. Professors range in having your camera on versus not having your camera on, a lot of them are flexible. If you let them know you have something going on, classes are recorded so you can always chime in later, and they are just so flexible with anything that comes up, and allow students to make these classes fit right into their schedules. Weekends are also… I use for class projects sometimes, so typically my group meets on the weekends, which has allowed me to find time outside of work to get class projects done.

Nicole Kieffner: And then, I think the professors, like I said, are just really, really awesome supporters, all of them say, text them, email them. If you need to turn something in a little late once in a while, they allow you to do that, as long as you give it far enough in advance. They know that we’re all working professionals and are committed to learning and doing the work. It’s just, sometimes things come up in life and we’re juggling both worlds, so great supporters on the professor and administrator front. 

Nicole Kieffner: And then, lastly, I think my classmates, as I mentioned earlier, my cohorts specifically, just an amazing group of individuals. I can’t say it enough, clinicians, and business administrators at the same time, and we’re all in the same place. We’re here to learn, here to help each other grow, here to make each other successful. There have been times when I’ll get a text on a Thursday, and someone says, “Hey, does anyone know what this assignment is?” Can we help explain it? Did anyone do it, yet, and we all just help each other through the program, and it’s been a really huge sense of community, and sense of trust, as well.

Nicole Kieffner: So, with that said, really easy to fit this program into your day-to-day life. It’s just making the time and prioritizing it if that’s what you ultimately want to do in your career. Next slide? 

Nicole Kieffner: I’m really excited about this slide. These are the top classes that I’ve taken over the last year, all with… When I read the titles of these classes, I was just so excited to dive right in, and all of them, I can say confidently, they have had an impact on my day-to-day job. It’s just so funny how it works, where the top course, the leadership course, has directly enabled me to better manage my clients, as well as my team, kind of learning the theory and concepts behind leadership, and how to apply that in healthcare settings. 

Nicole Kieffner: The second one, Health Information Systems, I mean, the healthcare industry runs on systems, right? And it’s a huge trend right now in terms of cloud, and EMRs, and so forth. It just directly impacts the day-to-day that you do in your job. 

Nicole Kieffner: Managing the Organization’s Financial Health, again, when I was in this course, it directly related into the calls and work that I was doing for my clients. I was more open and conversational in my conversations with the clients related to cost accounting and things that I typically wouldn’t have had confidence in prior to joining this USC program. 

Nicole Kieffner: And then, this last class, Health Economics, Financing, and Reimbursement, I’m currently in, and just one of my favorites, and really dives deep into health policy, single-payer systems, and immensely applicable to any healthcare setting to have this foundational knowledge. The clinicians in my class actually are really excited about this class in particular. I think there’s a lot of clinician involvement in this type of conversation, overall. Next slide, please? 

Nicole Kieffner: And I guess, the last slide I’d like to leave you with is, kind of going back to what I said. It’s not about not having the time, which I also say a lot in my life, and I constantly remind myself to change my thinking about making time. It is a priority in your career and your advancement, wherever you are in your career. You can make the time to fit this program into your day-to-day, week-to-week, month-by-month, year-to-year. 

Nicole Kieffner: I encourage everyone to just keep going, and a year from now you’ll thank yourself, really. I think the hardest part is to get started, and that was my problem. After seven years, I have had those USC emails coming in, “Is now the time to apply,” and I said, “Oh, no. I’m pregnant,” or “had another baby,” or, “I’m working towards this promotion.” But, I finally said, “Enough is enough. I need to do this for myself,” and I just got started, and started the conversation with the support team at USC, and I was immediately assigned a resource that guided me, and walked me through the application process, and it was so immensely helpful. 

Nicole Kieffner: That resource was available to me for any questions. He jumped on a phone with me to talk to me about letters of recommendation, ease my fears about timelines, told me, if something was definitely due, how he could help me get there. So, the application, itself, was probably the hardest thing to sit down and do, but once that was over, it’s just been a breeze since, due to the flexibility of the program. 

Nicole Kieffner: So, take charge of your career, find the time if this is what you want to prioritize in your career. I promise you, in a year, you’re going to thank yourself. Lean on the USC support system so the applications and admissions support. You can flip office hours, or have you, just to get started on the application process to understand more. And you won’t regret it, investing yourself in your career. Thank you, everyone. 

Nicole Kieffner: And I will hand off to, I think, Mostafa, to go through his detailed slides on… Well, I don’t know, Scott, if you had additional slides to kind of walk the team through, or… You went through all of that earlier, but…

Scott Russell: Yeah. I went through it. I can add a couple of things, if you don’t mind.

Nicole Kieffner: All right. Yeah. Absolutely. [crosstalk 00:29:06]. 

Scott Russell: Thank you, Nicole. That was a outstanding presentation. Sorry, guys. I got overly excited and I gave you all my information when I was just supposed to introduce myself, but that’s me. I do that all the time. 

Scott Russell: There are some things I want to point out. Nicole made an excellent point about how really helpful the counselors were. I, in the back of my mind, always thought… I mean, I’ve been through medical school, but I wasn’t sure how I would do academically, and I had to write the essay about being in it, and I got a real confidence boost from my counselor, saying, “Let me look it over to see if there’s anything we need to change or tweak to make it sound better, so you’re more likely to get in. And he went through all of my stuff and didn’t change a word. I was thrilled. It made me feel like, “Okay. If I can write it well enough that they don’t feel like they need to change it, I can probably do the assignments I need to in this course. And that turned out to be the case. 

Scott Russell: Let’s see. Again, the reason I chose USC, outstanding name, and this program is so well thought of. Can you go to the next slide, please? 

Scott Russell: Again, managing the work/life/school balance, that actually turned out to be far easier than I thought it was going to be. I really had a lot of apprehension, and postponed starting this because of it. And it turned out that it just didn’t put that big of a burden on what I was doing.

Scott Russell: Now, my youngest are 13, a boy and a girl, and they didn’t want to be around me, anyways, so that kind of helped. But, just having the time was easier to do than I thought it would be. Next slide?

Scott Russell: The experience, as I said, has been outstanding. I really like my group projects. I know you’re thinking, “Oh, my gosh. I don’t want to spend part of my time on the weekend meeting with these people,” but it turns out that our… It’s a cohort. We go through it together. I’ve worked with these people many times over the past few years, so when we do actually get together, it’s about 50% group project, and about 50%, “How did that date with that guy go?” So, we really are a close group of people, and I’ll stay in touch with them forever. Next slide?

Scott Russell: Again, my advice, if you’re listening to this, you’ve already put some thought into it. You might as well go ahead and do it. You will thank yourself, just like Nicole said. Like I said, I started part-time, and it was Seanna that said, “If you want to try full-time, do it, and if it’s too much, just go back to part-time.” And she was absolutely right. It turned out to be very manageable, and yes. I am graduating a little bit behind the rest of my cohort, but by one class, so that didn’t change things that much.

Scott Russell: I think that’s everything for me, now that I’ve gone through it twice. I’d like to hand off to Mostafa.

Mostafa Khairzada: Yeah. Thank you so much, Scott. By the way, it’s really cool to hear both of you guys express your experiences, and it’s so similar. I mean, I guess, for the folks that are listening, you heard Nicole and Scott both talk about their cohorts and their love for the folks that they’re studying with, and they’re in the trenches with. 

Mostafa Khairzada: You know what’s super interesting, is that I started the program in 2014. I was just sharing with the folks, I can’t believe it was 2014 when I started the program. Until this day, I’m still connected with the people that were in my cohort. We say the proof is in the pudding, but you are really going to be surrounded by some of the best people in the industry. And guess what. These people don’t mess around, and they’re going to elevate your own game in such a way. So, if you like to be challenged, and you like to find that excellent part of yourself and be the best version of yourself, this is such a great program.

Mostafa Khairzada: My slide is kind of funky here. Looking at it you’re like, “What the heck is all that?” For me… Oh wait. I’ve got to turn on my timer because I’m trying to be cool about this. All right. Here we go. There’s my timer. I’ve got 12 minutes. I got it.

Mostafa Khairzada: So, what I want to talk about… I think both Scott and Nicole really talked about the comraderie, the scholastic requirements, and all that stuff, so I hope that resonates with you. What I want to talk about is regret. Really, that’s the focus of my conversation today.

Mostafa Khairzada: So, there is a picture of me with my best friend, Eddie, in the eighth grade. He’s got a Notre Dame shirt on. I have a USC shirt on, and it was just like one of my dreams in my life to go to a USC, for so many reasons. So many people in my family have graduated as Trojans, and they are at some of the top areas of their own fields. And so, that success mindset was always set, but I never took that plunge. I never went.

Mostafa Khairzada: I’m going to kind of go through this little story for you guys. I did a bunch of stuff in technology, right. I’m a technologist. I was an infrastructure guy, some of the stuff Nicole talked about, cloud, and all of that virtual computing, and all that great stuff is really where my focus was. I spent a lot of time telling this story, and the intent isn’t to get you to think about how sad things are, but it’s to think about what the possibilities are. So, just a little personal story about me.

Mostafa Khairzada: I was born blind in my left eye, and my entire life, my family and my doctors always said, “You’ve got to protect your right eye under every cost.” I’m an artist. Remember, I went through it in my intro. I’m an artist. I’m a guitarist. Blah, blah, blah. All that stuff, so protect the right eye, protect the right.

Mostafa Khairzada: Over my career, you know, I was a technologist, and finance, and then I got into healthcare, and then it was like, cool, because I was in healthcare, and I was doing some really great tech stuff. But one day I woke up and I saw this weird halo over my right eye, and I thought to myself, like, “Maybe I could just kind of wait this out and see what happens,” and nothing really happened. And then, I got a little nervous, so I went and called my retina specialist and my ophthalmologist, and we got together, and we realized that there was this jelly in the back of my eye that was coming off, and it was ripping the retina in my one good eye out. During that time, when you hear something that significant in your life… I’m a father, a husband, my two babies were so young. This was about nine and a half years ago that this happened. And so, as I start thinking and reflecting on life, what is happening in life, what am I doing, have I met the criteria that I’ve set for myself, did I achieve my goals? And I started to think about it, and I was like, “No. I really haven’t.” I didn’t want to get into a place in my life where I drew on my regrets. I think Nicole touched on it, too.

Mostafa Khairzada: You’ve got to know, if you’re here, you’ve already made the time and the commitment to look into this, you’ve got to jump into it. That one little picture with the words that in a year, you’ll appreciate yourself, is so right. It’s so right.

Mostafa Khairzada: So, as a guy who’s lost 80%… Or it was about 74% of my vision, I was in the head-down position for a month as I was recuperating. I was out of my… I was on leave for three months, and honestly, during these quiet moments, I really reflected around the things that I had to become to catch up on, should I be able to get past this situation in my life. And I made a list, and it was just like, “You’ve got to do things that are going to be so meaningful, so that your children and people around you can see that no road block, and no major event in your life, can really slow you down if you choose to not allow it to. And I think that’s the underlying message.

Mostafa Khairzada: So, I thought, “How can I not have any regrets?” Well, fun story is, I came back to the office, and after three months, and I talked to the CIO back then. This is called a meeting with Bill. This is the chapter, right? So, talking to Bill, and I said, “Bill, I’m in these hospitals now. I’m the director of IT. I see what’s going on, and by the way, I had the worst experience. I had to go from UCI with my medical records, and have them in a folder, and then go to UCLA to see another doctor. There’s no record sharing. What is happening in this industry? Why aren’t we doing this stuff?”

Mostafa Khairzada: And so, right then was when the Affordable Care Act was starting to lift up. Nobody really knew what it meant, and especially, I didn’t know, as a technologist. I could tell you a database administration all day long, but I couldn’t tell you what the Affordable Care Act did, and what its value was… outside of the political perspective, what its actual value was.

Mostafa Khairzada: So, I started to experiment. What was happening in these hospitals, and how patients were being taken care of, and what was their experience like? One day, I went to our CIO, and I said, “Hey, Bill. I got this idea, and I think if we did A, B, C, and D, we would be able to do something really cool in this industry. All I need is 2.4 million dollars. And he’s like, “Get out.” Right? And I say that flippantly and jokingly, obviously, but he was like, “Well, that’s cool that you want to do something.” He understood to some degree what I was talking about, but I didn’t know how to tell him what the value was. I didn’t know how. And so, as a techie, I’m like, “Well, it’s great. It’s fast. The user experience is phenomenal.” You know, I was using these tech-spec words, and it was something that I really struggled with then, but I knew even within me that it was a really good idea, that it was really important that we did this in this hospital system.

Mostafa Khairzada: So, the next year, I went back to him. It was a new budget season. I was like, “Bill, meeting number two. Bill, come on. You’ve got to hear me out. I have this idea. I think this device that I’m inventing, it’s going to improve patient experience. It’s going to be so good. It’s going to be so good.” And he’s like, “Yeah, Mostafa. It sounds good, but I don’t think so. I don’t think we’re going to do it.” Three months after that, USC accepted me, and I’ll tell you how that happened. When I lost all my vision, I had this list of things that I needed to make sure I accomplished in my life, and one of those things was that I wasn’t going to sit back at 50 or 60 years old and think to myself, “I should’ve, I could’ve, for sure I could’ve, but yeah. I chose not to, because it makes me better by saying it that way now.” I said, “No. I’m going to do it.”

Mostafa Khairzada: And so, I went through the process to get into the university. For me, it was tough. I was an underachiever my entire career in school. And so USC has requirements. You’ve got to meet them. This isn’t a… It’s not a joke school. I think you can’t be ranked number five… I think it was ranked number three or four when I was in there. You can’t be ranked that high if you’re not running a really good program with professors, and assistants, and even your colleagues that care so much about development.

Mostafa Khairzada: So, I start going through the USC program, and man, that first semester I started learning about the Affordable Care Act, and I’m like, “Whoa. This is amazing.” So, I go through the program a little bit longer, and I come back to my CIO, and I sit with him, and I say, “Hey, Bill. Check this out. I have this idea.” This is the third year, right, same idea. And I’m like, “Hey. But before I tell you about my idea, here is the patient satisfaction scores for hospitals in our region. Here’s where everybody is, and here’s where we are. And here’s where we stand in the nation. Here’s where the nation is, and here’s where we are. And what do you think?”

Mostafa Khairzada: And he’s like, “No. I always want to improve.” So, Bill was a guy who values not just technology, but the experience for clinicians and the experience for patients. So, he thinks about it, and he’s like, “Yeah. This is absolutely right. Why wouldn’t we want a increase?” And I’m like, “Hey, by the way, should we increase our patient satisfaction scores, guess what. Those hospitals get reimbursed.” I didn’t know what reimbursement meant, much less how it worked, and I learned that here.

Mostafa Khairzada: And he’s like, “Absolutely.” I thought to myself that day, I was like… What I was missing in my career as an inventor, and as an innovationist, the struggle that we have is that we are like three, four, five years ahead of business decision makers, and if we don’t know how to speak the language and tell people exactly how they can consume that information to make a financial decision, a multi-million dollar financial decision, that’s what USC taught me, was that language, right.

Mostafa Khairzada: And outside of that, there are plenty of times, and even until this day… I call it meeting with Don, or connecting with Don, and I don’t want to just throw everybody’s names around, but the CEO of a major hospital is my partner. Are you kidding me? This is the person I’m going to learn from. This is the guy who’s sitting there, and he’s indirectly mentoring me, and he’s saying, “Hey, do it this way,” “Think of it this way,” “This is how you should present this idea.” And he’s my partner in assignments. This is the kind of class of people that you’re going to be surrounded by. This is why this program is amazing.

Mostafa Khairzada: I think there’s a lot of great programs online, but the USC Alumnae Network is ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. The fact that we all still stay connected, the fact that we share job postings with one another, the fact that we have a group on LinkedIn, all of these things really contribute to the idea that USC, when we came together, we really bonded.

Mostafa Khairzada: And the bonding period didn’t just happen online. We had these residencies where for a whole week, we would hang out together, and we would sit there and study together. There were times where we had to do presentations, and there would be five, six of us just working out of this little hotel until like three, four o’clock in the morning just to get our presentations ready. And we were bonding like crazy. These are the people that we still stay connected with.

Mostafa Khairzada: And so, I thought I’d share some things like that with you. How do you want to lead your life? How do you want to think about this? Do you want to think about how you could’ve done things, or how you should’ve done things, or do you want to just say, “Hey. You know what? I’m going to take this.” Two years of my life. I had two small kids. Nicole has kids. Scott has… Everybody’s got families. Everybody’s got priorities. I had this thing where my kids were young enough where bedtime was 8:00 pm. That was one of my favorite days, by the way. They’re all old now.

Mostafa Khairzada: So, 8:00 pm, man, I would get onto the books, and at 8:00 pm, we’d just start studying. And for me, because I had vision problems… Now think of this. You guys are going to read a book like you read a book. I literally took a picture of every page of the books on an iPad, so I can zoom in, so I can read each page. That’s the level of effort it takes to be great, and then to be part of something great.

Mostafa Khairzada: And so, I just wanted to share little bit of this story with you guys. I hope I haven’t bored you all, but really, that, to me, is what I think is so phenomenal about this program. And so, with that, I just want to thank you guys for indulging me.

Mostafa Khairzada: All right, Lindsay. You’re on mute. There you go.

Lindsay Babcock: I just realized that. Thank you. I just said, thank you, Mostafa, and Nicole, and Scott, for just going over your experience. And now, I just want to go through the admissions requirements.

Lindsay Babcock: So, to be eligible for the program, students must meet the following qualifications, a bachelors degree from a regionally accredited institution, a GPA of 3.0 or higher, transcripts, as well, have to be sent directly to your advisor from all of the post-secondary schools that you’ve attended, and then, USC alum do not need to submit official transcripts. Three letters of recommendation are also needed. They’ll all be uploaded to your application portal. A professional resume, and then a personal statement of purpose, as well. Lastly, five years of experience, or greater, with the responsibility within healthcare, or related fields, is also expected.

Lindsay Babcock: Now, in terms of some questions, we do have some more time here, about 10 minutes, so I do see some questions, actually, in the chat here. So, some of our panelists, I think, could answer these. Maybe we’ll start with Nicole, if that’s okay with you, and then if anyone else wants to answer, we can do that, as well.

Lindsay Babcock: One I often get, as well, is, what makes the EMHA program different from an MBA or an MHA? So, why did you choose EMHA over that MBA or MHA, and what was your main deciding factors. I know that there’s always trouble distinguishing between those three.

Nicole Kieffner: Absolutely. Yeah. And that’s a great question, and I think I kind of covered the surface of it earlier in the conversation today, but I was really conflicted. My entire career, and kind of said to me from my parents, I actually took the GMAT in college while other people were out having fun, because my parents just had that [inaudible 00:46:43]. I applied to business school, actually, when I was still in college, because my parents had that kind of path charted out for me. But for some reason, I just didn’t think that it was the right approach. In my undergrad I did take a lot of economics and business courses, and they were just so generic, and I just always had an affinity and love for people in healthcare, in particular, and the industry. The complexity of the industry, itself, is just so fulfilling in day-to-day life. Those of you who are on the call are also in the healthcare industry, which I’m assuming you are. It’s a remarkable place to be right now, and has been.

Nicole Kieffner: So, for me, it was just really… I needed a program that was very, very healthcare-specific, and I looked at… For me, the one key thing, and kind of differentiating the different programs, because all of them have the great blurb. I think Wharton and a couple other big schools comparable to USC have MBA-specific healthcare programs, or you can get a dual degree, as well. But, when I looked at the actual curriculum, I think for me, it was the deciding factor, as well as kind of thinking through who I would be studying along with, and talking to administrators at USC. I really wanted to be among other healthcare leaders, clinicians, administrators, technologists, and innovators in the healthcare sector, and learn along with them. It’s a very different industry, and those were the two deciding factors for me, one, the healthcare-specific curriculum, and the cohorts and students in the program that were healthcare-specific.

Nicole Kieffner: So, that’s kind of how I made my decision, and I’ll pass it off to Mostafa or Scott, if they have any… and want to speak to that question, as well.

Scott Russell: Well, one of the things that I pointed out earlier, yes, it’s an EMHA, but your diploma will say, “MHA,” and I have seen my classmates, my cohort that graduated last semester, I’ve seen their diplomas. They don’t say, “EMHA.” They say, Masters of Health Administration,” and I actually struggled with the MBA versus MHA. And when I started my program, one of my cohort, who works in transplant, so she’s in the medical industry, has an MBA. And I said, “Well, why are you doing an MBA, or an MHA, if you already have an MBA? She said that wasn’t specific enough to medicine. I needed to be more medically relevant. And speaking of medically relevant, he pandemic has changed medicine, it’s propelled things five, ten years in the future in different aspects, and all of the things that we were learning are still applicable, where some of the other things that you might have learned before that, they just don’t count any more because of the pandemic. So, MHA is the way to go.

Lindsay Babcock: Perfect. Thank you for that. Mostafa, did you want to add anything, or do you think it was covered?.

Mostafa Khairzada: Yeah. No. That’s it. That’s perfect, so…

Lindsay Babcock: Okay. Thank you for that. It looks like we have a few more, so maybe time to go through one or two more. One is, what potential job opportunities might this program allow for after graduation? I know this was touched on a little bit. Does anybody want to expand on this? Mostafa, did you want to add to this at all?

Mostafa Khairzada: Sure. The thing is that if you’re in healthcare, I don’t think there’s a limitation of which position this can affect in a significant way. Whether you’re a charge nurse that’s looking to understand the industry, so you can have deeper, more meaningful conversations around the administration of your hospital, and be a part of that conversation, and not just have… To be able to have that level of understanding can influence so much change. I think that both of these guys hit on it just right. It’s about the specificity of the topic. The cool thing about the MHA program here at USC, though, is that there are… Nicole’s got the best slides, because she’s got everything in there. She listed out a bunch of the classes already. You’re dabbling in policy, you’re dabbling in technology, you’re dabbling in accounting and finance, which wasn’t my…

Mostafa Khairzada: By the way, a funny side story, and I hate to divert us, but real quick. I was sitting next to a chief finance officer who was in this program, so this can still be relevant to the topic. And so, she and I were kind of sitting there talking, and we both had picked up these two classes together at the same time, part of the same cohort, and she’s like, “Nah, Mostafa, I’m so nervous,” and I was like, “Why are you nervous?” And she was like, “I’ve got this technology class. It makes me nervous. I don’t know anything about technology.” She didn’t know what I did, and so I looked at her and said, “Oh, you know what I’m nervous about? I don’t know much about finance. That’s my weakness.” And then, you know what we did? We helped each other during that whole timeframe. So, yeah. You get CFOs, you get vice presidents of operations, you get a lot of CEOs of hospital systems that are getting it, and then lately I’ve seen even folks like, in care navigation, and those areas getting their MHAs, because they want to participate in the bigger discussions at the table. I think that’s all I can really add to that.

Lindsay Babcock: Perfect. Thank you for that, as well. I think the other questions were answered by each of you, so with that being said, I just want to thank everybody for their time, and the panelists, Nicole, Scott, and Mostafa, I think that was really, really helpful, as well.

Lindsay Babcock: In terms of next steps… if there’s any other questions that maybe weren’t covered, or you think of any others after the presentation, feel free to contact us, Enrollment Services, at this number, email, or start your application as well. There’s just a link there, below.

Lindsay Babcock: And thank you again. It was really nice to hear from everybody, and I hope that this was helpful. Have a great rest of your afternoon.