Alumni Spotlight: Jeannine Grinnell

Written by Becca van Sambeck, originally posted on https://online.usc.edu/news

Jeannine Grinnel CEO

Exciting news recently surfaced in South King County, Washington: Valley Medical Center, the oldest and largest public hospital district in the state, just named its first female CEO.

Jeannine Grinnell, MHA, CPA, also has the distinction of being the first new CEO of Valley Medical Center in 37 years — and best of all (in our eyes, anyway), she’s a Trojan.

Grinnell received her Executive Master of Health Administration (EMHA) from the USC Price School of Public Policy in 2019, and she attributes the online program to her recent success in the field.

“I would not be in the position I am today if I had not done the EMHA program at USC,” Grinnell firmly told USC Online.

Grinnell actually started her career in the finance world as a licensed certified public accountant in Washington, where she worked in the state’s auditing office for many years. She then took on a new position at UW Medicine’s Valley Medical Center as the director of finance, eventually getting promoted to the chief financial officer position.

Working as the CFO allowed Grinnell to move into the more operational side of the business, which sparked her curiosity in health care administration. As she learned more about the other tenets of the company, she realized she wanted to keep growing and expanding her abilities in the sector.

“When I became the CFO about five years ago, I realized I was so interested in health care administration and health care operations. And I knew that if I wanted to cross over to either a chief operating officer or a chief executive officer, I needed to have a better understanding and background in health care operations and administration than where I was,” she said.

As a mid-career professional, Grinnell was looking to enroll in an executive master’s program that would help advance her into the C-suite. That’s when she found the online EMHA at USC Price.

“The program has a wide breadth and depth of topics and issues that they were covering in their various classes,” she explained.

The Executive Master of Health Administration focuses on providing graduates with the opportunity to improve health care — one of the fastest growing sectors in the United States and one of the most vital industries in the world — from an executive level. Allowing students to learn the ins and outs of health care administration, the online program provides the leadership skills and tools necessary to tackle complicated issues surrounding the field.

With curricular themes including efficient management, patient safety, cost-effective care and innovative initiatives, it’s easy to see why Grinnell was confident the EMHA would catapult her forward as a health care leader.

The EMHA Online Experience

With online classes, Grinnell was able to fully leverage the community and mentorship opportunities available at USC and beyond.

“The Trojan network is truly alive and well … I met some of the most amazing people and colleagues, basically all across the country, from my time at USC,” she enthused.

While Grinnell said she wouldn’t single out a specific class as a favorite or the most beneficial to her career, she noted that the EMHA’s emphasis on leadership and organizational development were integral skills she wanted to hone before landing an executive-level position.

And one highlight of USC in particular, she said, is the diversity.

“Diversity of education, diversity in the program, diversity of the people, of the opinions, of the thoughts and the welcoming of it … And the education program itself provided me with a really good supplemental core and background to what I was doing every day in the field,” she said.

Grinnell clearly places a high value on her time at USC, and when asked what she would tell those considering attending USC, she was unequivocal in her response: Go for it.

“I was one of the few non-clinical folks in my age group, [and] I was with a lot of clinical doctors or other types of clinical folks. I don’t think there’s any substitute for having the ability to interact with so many different, diverse people who have so much knowledge that you can learn from and collaborate with. You can’t replicate that in other situations … You need a program like an EMHA program like that to give you that,” Grinnell explained.

While Grinnell’s school days are in the past, she has another challenge ahead as she takes over as CEO of Valley Medical Dispatch. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage on, leading many health care providers to feel overwhelmed and burned out as they work to provide quality patient care. It’s a priority for Grinnell to keep Valley Medical Dispatch moving in a positive direction, despite the barriers posed by COVID-19.

“Our mission statement is caring for our community like family, and we have the privilege to do that,” she said of the 600,000 residents served in her district. “And we will do that through a really strong lens of equity, diversity and inclusion, married with strong organizational development and leadership[.]”

Grinnell has already achieved monumental successes in her life: becoming a CPA, obtaining her master’s degree, rising to CFO of a company and now being promoted as the first female CEO in the company’s history. When asked her career advice for others, especially women, Grinnell emphasized the importance of self-belief and continuous curiosity.

“Believe in yourself even when the world, circumstances, fate and perhaps other people will tell you that you can’t do it, that it isn’t the path [for you] … And if you’re fortunate, you will have some family members or friends, colleagues, mentors who will help support and bolster that thought,” she said. “At the same time, never lose your sense of childlike curiosity. Always be asking why, how? Seek to understand because that will continue to give you information to believe in yourself. If people do that, they have a much stronger sense of self as they move forward. And I think as a woman, that’s even more important to believe both of those pieces.”

Learn more about the Executive Master of Health Administration online program today.