When I began college, I felt it was important to know the course my career would take over the next several decades. I quickly realized that determining my long-term career path was complicated. I learned the most important thing was to keep an open mind in terms of where my career could go. I had known my whole life that I wanted to be in the healthcare field, but the specificity ended there. Once I shed the notion that I had to know exactly what I wanted to do, my career path was all about seizing opportunities and getting a full range of experiences within healthcare. This exploratory perspective led me to healthcare associations, and I could not be happier.
I entered college as a psychology major with the intent of becoming a neuropsychologist. I soon realized I did not want to work with just one patient at a time; rather, I wanted to work on systemwide issues to help change the landscape of healthcare more broadly. I wanted to work in an environment where I could work with many different stakeholders in the healthcare field and help them collaborate. So, I chose to pursue a second major: history of science, medicine and technology. This unique major allowed me to explore many aspects of the healthcare field, and it ultimately led me to pursue a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree. The MPH program was the ideal program for me because it allowed me to learn healthcare management and policy.
My career path was also shaped by the various jobs and internships I held throughout my college and graduate school years. I was fortunate to gain experiences in a variety of healthcare settings. Over the course of five years, I worked in a hospital, an association of hospitals, a small nonprofit organization and a state department of public health. I found my internship at the association to be the most intriguing and rewarding for me, as I had found a healthcare setting in which I would be able to one day accomplish my goal of working on systemwide issues with a variety of healthcare stakeholders. Now that I was sure of my career goal, I felt the ACHE fellowship would be the perfect next step.
In my few months here thus far, I have already learned so much from my preceptors: President/CEO Thomas C. Dolan, PhD, FACHE, CAE, and Executive Vice President/COO Deborah J. Bowen, FACHE, CAE. Through my rotations in the various divisions of ACHE, I was able to learn from the vice presidents, assistant directors and other staff members as well. I have also had the amazing opportunity to meet with leaders of other associations headquartered in the Chicago area, which has shown me how all of these associations work together to make positive changes in the healthcare field.
Healthcare has always been a rapidly changing field, and today’s environment is no different. Our members are at the frontlines of healthcare and are affected by all of the changes happening right now. They are the best and brightest minds in healthcare leadership today; they have the knowledge about the current healthcare environment and how it will affect their organization. They share their expertise at ACHE’s annual Congress on Healthcare Leadership, so Congress is a critical opportunity for students to learn from some of the most accomplished healthcare executives and leaders in the country. There are many chances to network and get to know and learn from your peers as well. As an added incentive, Student Associates may also work at Congress as program assistants and receive complimentary registration.
Congress is not your only opportunity to get involved with ACHE. Local chapters are a great opportunity to meet with members who are located close to your school. Chapter events often provide a smaller and more intimate setting than Congress. These dinners, meetings and lectures offer additional settings in which to learn from and network with everyone from early careerists to senior healthcare executives.
Another way to get involved with ACHE (and healthcare associations in general) is to apply for the Diversity Internship or the Postgraduate Fellowship. It is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the complex world of healthcare associations, as well as principles of leadership, teamwork, professional development and so much more. If you have any questions about ACHE or these opportunities, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (312) 424-9308. I look forward to answering any questions you may have and hope to see you at the 2013 Congress on Healthcare Leadership!