IU SPH Alumni Spotlight Blog: Michael Leivant
IU Undergraduate: BS, Public Health with concentration in Health Administration (1997 -2001)
IU Graduate: Masters in Health Administration (2001 – 2003)
How did you get into your field?
I originally got into the healthcare field when I joined a large health system in Chicago as an analyst, where I gained experience regarding operational productivity. Over the years I built upon that initial experience to where I worked with inpatient hospital departments to identify areas of opportunity for improved operational efficiency and clinical outcomes. My interest in learning about how patient care can be improved was a main reason for my interest in joining VillageMD. Until now, my experience involved working with hospitals and the inpatient side of healthcare. Joining VillageMD allowed me to take many of the experiences around productivity, Lean & process improvement and apply it in an outpatient setting. As the concept of value based care continues to grow in healthcare, I knew that VillageMD’s mission was on the forefront of helping physician practices transition from a fee-for-service model to a value based care model.
What’s the best part of your current job?
It is working with a team of people who believe in the work that we are doing. Surrounding yourself with people who believe in the mission makes things more interesting and fun. When challenges arise (which they will) knowing that there is a team of people who you can reach out to for advice or assistance is not only reassuring but will likely also result in the best outcomes. “Two heads, or more, are better than one.”
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
The most difficult aspect of the job, but also the most rewarding aspect is to lead by influence. Instead of team members perhaps being more inclined to do what is recommended because those individuals “report to me,” I have to lead people to the point where they understand and realize themselves what is the right/best course of action. Doing this is not always easy, especially when some people are averse to change. However, I know I have done my job when an individual(s) comes up with a solution without me telling them what the solution is and then having them take the lead on implementing the solution.
What skills and characteristics are most important for success in this field/position?
One needs patience to listen to people and to then know what questions to ask. These skills are important skills to have in this field and likely in any field. Someone who taught me a lot about process improvement once told me that a good leader is not someone who knows all the answers, but is someone who knows the right questions to ask. I have seen numerous instances where people have jumped to solutions before really understanding the problem, thus resulting in a solution that did not actually solve the problem. This could have been avoided had that person truly listened, asked the right questions to where he/she fully understood the problem. Listening and asking questions also helps one create solid trusting working relationships with others, which is key when trying to lead through influence.
What does a typical week look like for you?
My week typically involves working with colleagues in the office to create and improve on tools that will help us when out ‘in the field’ with physicians. Regular communication with colleagues allows me to learn about issues that they are working thru and what has and has not worked. The rest of the time is spent meeting with physicians and other practice team members to review data and make data-driven decisions.
What do you wish you knew when you were an IU student that you know now?
I wish I knew about how valuable knowledge of process improvement and behavioral change management would be in healthcare. Had I know this, I may have tried to learn about Lean earlier in my career or even in my undergraduate or graduate studies. At the time of my undergraduate studies (1997 – 2001), there was little to no discussion on process improvement and how to dissect processes and help lead teams to solve for barriers that get in the way of everyday work. In fact at the time the idea of Lean was often considered to be concept only applicable to manufacturing. The mere thought of using similar methodologies in healthcare was met with opposition from people who thought Lean would force us to treat patients as widgets.
What is your advice for graduating students?
Never dismiss an opportunity to learn, even if it is about something that you perhaps did not think you were interested in. There are few things I have learned over the years that did not help in some way later on. Having a well-rounded understanding of healthcare has proven very helpful, by allowing me to understand how different aspects of healthcare work and fit together. You may miss out on a new founded passion if you don’t explore new aspects of healthcare you may not be familiar with.
What do you miss most about IU?
I miss being on campus and being around so many other students with different majors, backgrounds and goals and aspirations. Most of my friends in college were like me: they had an idea of what they wanted to do in life, but had no idea what their life would actually be like almost 15 years after graduating. I of course miss the great Bloomington campus life of meeting friends in the dining halls, dorms and at sporting events.