School may be out for summer. But for undergraduate and graduate students interested in a career in health care administration, the real learning is just beginning. Each summer, Stanford Health Care opens its executive suite, conference room and office doors to student interns and administrative fellows seeking an immersive experience in health care administration. By providing these graduate and undergraduate students a deeply engaging experience in their field, SHC is helping to prepare a new generation of health care leaders.
Stanford Health Care offers two primary internship opportunities. The administrative fellow program is a yearlong immersive experience for graduate students who have completed their master's coursework. Student internships are a 10 to 12-week educational work opportunity for undergraduate or graduate students studying health services administration or public health.
"The purpose of both opportunities is to provide students with exposure to academic medicine and health care in general, and to promote the growth and development of future health care leaders," said Alpa Vyas, Vice President of Patient Experience, who serves as the administrative host to fellows each year.
"Interns gain a wealth of knowledge about how complex health care systems work, how they're structured, what teams look like, what leadership actually means and the different roles within health care leadership," said Bryanna Gallaway, SHC's first administrative fellow. Gallaway knows firsthand how that on-the-job training can prepare students for a career in health care. Today, she is Director of Service Excellence Programs and Operations.
Beyond fulfilling a teaching mission, the summer internship and administrative fellow programs provide SHC with an inspired, energetic workforce. "These students are fresh in their academic journey, so they bring many new perspectives," said Gallaway. "They bring new curriculum, innovations, practices, policies and approaches that they're learning at school, that haven't yet been applied."
Immersive fellowship experience
Administrative fellows spend a year at SHC, where they do a deep dive into the organization, learning about operational and team structures, leadership styles and decision-making, and applying what they learn through project work. Fellows report to the Vice President of Patient Experience but are deployed to a variety of areas such as clinical operations, finance, IT, human resources, planning, network growth and facilities redesign. Physicians are likely to encounter fellows in meetings and as part of process improvement teams.
"It is a truly valuable program to help guide those who are interested in becoming health care administrators," said Vyas. "There are several former administrative fellows here at Stanford, including leaders within Service Excellence and Operations." Vyas herself completed an administrative fellowship at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Rachel Rizal, MD, recently completed an administrative fellowship at SHC this June. Unlike most fellows who enter the program after graduate school in health care administration, Rizal came to the program from the halls of the Stanford School of Medicine. She pursued the administrative fellowship as a way to blend her medical skills with a business background to solve larger health care issues.
"I love building health care programs and organizations, particularly ones that improve access to care, health education and care coordination," said Rizal, who is heading to Boston at the end of the month for residency training in Emergency Medicine at Harvard. She initially planned to combine her medical degree with an MBA, but chose to pursue the SHC administrative fellowship instead. "SHC was a great environment to learn business ideas and then to implement them through projects," she said. Working with leaders at every level, the program gave her a new understanding of how hospitals are managed and ideas about how to bridge physician and administrative priorities later in her career.
Like Rizal, Gallaway came out of her fellowship training with concrete experience in health care project management. She worked across the organization, conducting a current state assessment of SHC's contact and call centers, and co-designing a medical oncology patient visit model to improve access. As a team leader for several lean process improvement efforts, Gallaway led Kaizen events, Rapid Process Improvement Workshops and 5S activities. She also managed C-I-CARE rounds, training rewards and recognition. The experience cemented her desire to work at Stanford, as it does for many others.
"Many interns come back to Stanford as strong leaders who have been pre-trained and oriented to the culture," she said. For example, current fellow Jared Roberts will take on a role in Operations later this summer, and former fellow Katherine Autin is a Director at the University HealthCare Alliance.
Invaluable work experience
Like administrative fellows, summer interns can be found just about everywhere in the Stanford system. This year, for example, an intern hosted by Performance Excellence will be deployed to ValleyCare to conduct process improvement work. Others will rotate through inpatient units, conducting a real-time feedback program where they interview patients and families about their experience, and share their discoveries with staff.
"This is a great opportunity to further explore an area of interest and how the principles students learn in the classroom are applied in the workforce," said Michelle Suyehiro, Operations Manager for Performance Excellence.
Patrick Adams sought out Stanford for a summer internship last year because of his interest in patient-focused care. "I wanted a place that was patient-focused, with a real desire to improve the experience and outcomes for patients," said Adams, a Masters in Health Services Administration candidate from Xavier University in Ohio. He was placed on the Performance Excellence Cancer Center transformation team, and was able to see firsthand the collaboration required to bring key stakeholders together around a shared goal. Stanford's commitment to that process made him want to come back. This month, he returns to Stanford as an administrative fellow.
When Adams reflects on the learning opportunities Stanford has afforded him, the word that comes to his mind is grateful. "It's really valuable that Stanford is willing to devote resources to train us, get us up to speed quickly and help us learn and grow throughout this process," he said. "What an investment Stanford is making in the future of health care leadership and the future of medicine."