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Washington State University
Dividend - Fall 2019 The Next Carson Coug

McKinney Public Industry Treks and Forums Open Students' Hearts and Minds to Public Service Careers

Story and photos by Sue McMurray

When people think of careers in health care, physicians, surgeons, and nurses are often top of mind. But just about any business profession can be found in the health care workforce, from marketing to technology—and much more.

Alumnus Rich McKinney created a fund to support programming to increase business students’ awareness of the opportunities and rewards of working within public and nonprofit sectors. The Carson Center for Student Success used the fund to launch the McKinney Public Industry Treks and Forum.

The idea for the fund stemmed from McKinney’s career in public service. He spent nearly 28 years in the Air Force before retiring as a colonel and served another 11 years as a civil servant.

“Public service has been so gratifying to me. You get much more responsibility at a younger age than you might otherwise in a different career,” says McKinney. “It was a great life, and I want to encourage WSU students to consider a career in public service. The opportunities are infinite for those who choose to work in it.”

Trekking to Seattle

Recently 11 Carson students participated in a trek to the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle where a panel comprised largely of WSU alumni spoke about business careers for nonmedical professionals.

Heidi Aylsworth, Swedish’s chief strategy officer, explained that health care is an amazing, untapped industry for business careers, especially for those with an MBA degree.

“If you can thrive in the business of health care, you can work almost anywhere; there are few industries that are more complex,” she said.

The Value of Transferable Skills

The panelists focused much of the conversation around business, finance, accounting, basic operational knowledge, and leadership skills that transfer well into the health care sector.

Jesse Todhunter (’00 MIS), interim executive director of the Swedish Neuroscience Institute, says problem solving, offering fresh perspectives, and the ability to incentivize people to change their behavior are valuable talents. He encouraged students to get volunteer experience and find mentors. “Don’t underestimate the power of connections—every job I’ve ever gotten was supported by people I know,” he said.

Kristy Dobrauc (’02 Mktg.), patient experience program manager, spoke about marshaling her passion for patients over the last four years to create Swedish’s first patient experience program.

“If there’s something you want to do and it doesn’t exist, talk to people,” she said. “Work on your soft skills now and volunteer to learn about people. Take chances to build the career you want.”

Stephen Brown (’13 M.S. Hlth. Care Admin. Mgmt.) senior quality program manager for Swedish Medical Health Services, manages pathways of care for specific health conditions based on best practices.

“Being able to translate trends, data, and statistical concepts to a doctor or explain to a data analyst what a doctor wants to measure are important skills in my profession,” Brown said. He added that hospitality skills he learned in prior positions, such as being confident, building consensus, and always treating people with respect, also complement health care careers.

Panelists from the Swedish Foundation, Adria Alhadeff (’02 Comm.), senior director of philanthropy, and Betsy Brown (’02 Sport Mgmt.), director of stewardship, spoke about the diverse roles and rewards in philanthropy careers.

“I really liked the panel—the speakers showed me more business opportunities in health care than I thought were possible,” said Joanna Sanchez-Avina, a freshman majoring in international business and marketing.

“The panelists at Swedish impacted my heart—it was a great example of Cougs helping Cougs,” said Diana Baldovinos, an international business/psychology major. “Learning about their various jobs and the transferability of business skills excited me to learn more about nonprofits.”

Career Pathways for New Graduates

After touring Swedish, students convened at WSU West to engage with Jon Morgan (’92 Bus. Admin.), executive recruiter at Providence St. Joseph Health, and Kim Nguyen, managing director of the Washington State Public Health Association (WSPHA).

Morgan has 26 years of human resources and talent acquisition experience, most of which has been in nonprofit health care recruiting for allied health, clinical, leadership, and executive positions. He spoke to students about preparing for a career in health care as new graduates. Professional attire and great presentation skills will open doors, he said.

“Go to a company’s website and look at the minimum qualifications,” he said. “You may qualify for an entry-level position, and most companies provide on-the-job training.”

He also said getting exposure to how union negotiations work is beneficial, especially to those considering a career in human resources. “It makes you look at business differently,” he said.

Nguyen’s passion for bringing out the best in people led her from being a nutritionist and public health teacher to overseeing WSPHA’s operations and projects, such as Washington state’s annual public health conference and legislative education day.

“Business skills are underrated in a nonprofit society,” she said. “Not many in public health care know how to manage the human resources or financial sides of things. There are many good opportunities for business students.”

Jesse Todhunter, center, offers advice on developing skills that apply to health care.
Carson students touring the Swedish medical facility.
Kim Nguyen, center, shares insights on job opportunities within nonprofits.