A Closer Look at the April 2015 Immersion: Day One

MHA@GW students are required to attend a total of four immersion experiences while enrolled in the program. Recently, the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University welcomed more than 20 new students to campus for an intensive, three-day course on leadership and ethics, led by Program Director Dr. Leonard Friedman and Professor Ricky Allen, MHSA, MDiv, FACHE.

Curious about previous immersions? Read more about our experiences in September 2014 and January 2015.

First Things First…


Before students dived into the curriculum, they spent a little time getting to know one another through a formal classroom introduction session. They quickly found that they had more in common than a background in health care, from pets to hometowns to shared sports team allegiances.

They also shared why they decided to pursue an MHA — and why they settled on MHA@GW. For Jesse McCarter, health care principal at HDR, Inc., it’s a matter of being engaged with his professional community.

The health care landscape is changing dramatically. I just want to be involved in that conversation. — MHA@GW student Jesse McCarter

Others, like Robin Clinkenbeard, associate principal and strategic consultant at Page Southerland Page, were taking advantage of a newfound opportunity. “I’ve been waiting for forever to be able to do this,” she said.

Cherriza Plott, a medical logistics officer with the U.S. Air Force, was looking forward to gaining experiential knowledge, noting, “The reason I chose GW is so I could interact with different professionals like this.”

What Makes an Effective Leader?

Following introductions, Dr. Friedman asked the cohort to answer some big questions. What is leadership? Is it synonymous with management? What do effective leaders have in common and, alternatively, which traits do poor leaders share?

Leadership is a verb, not a noun. It’s a process. When all is said and done, you have to do it. You have to get out and practice it. It requires a significant degree of personal courage. — Dr. Leonard Friedman

Students agreed that effective leaders must be good listeners who understand the importance of relationships. “Good leaders ask good questions,” noted student Kendra Fiscelli, a paralegal at St. Luke’s Health System in Missouri. Some felt that innovativeness was a key trait; others emphasized honesty and credibility. Sean Casler, a market manager at Humana, said that a good leader must be clearly invested in the community around them, stating, “Either you’re engaged or you’re disengaged, and people around you can feel that.”



Bad leaders, alternatively, tend to be out of touch, incompetent and inflexible. Those individuals, students agreed, aren’t passionate about reaching a common goal or advancing a common purpose; they’re in it for personal gain.

Introduction to the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

Developing that courage and ability to lead, Dr. Friedman explained, requires a high degree of self-awareness: “You are who you are. I hope that this weekend, you’ll learn to embrace that.”

With that in mind, he introduced the curricular centerpiece of the weekend: the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator, a psychometric assessment of how an individual prefers to interact with others and with the world around them. The keyword here is “prefer” — the MBTI isn’t a fixed definition of anyone, but rather a series of dichotomies used to describe their behavioral tendencies.

Students, who took the assessment before arriving at the immersion, received their results and walked through in-depth descriptions of each with Dr. Friedman. More than half of the 16 MBTI personality types were represented at the immersion. He emphasized that no one type is superior; they all bring unique and diverse strengths that can, in collaboration, help a complex organization like a hospital run more smoothly.

Activating New Knowledge


To illuminate the link between collaboration and self-awareness, students were divided into five groups based on MBTI qualities they shared, then asked to create their representation of the United States health care system. In 20 minutes. Using Legos.

Health care is a relationship-based business. Yeah, we have a lot technology to do a lot of stuff, but at the end of the day it’s about a human moment. — Dr. Leonard Friedman, MHA@GW Program Director

Following the session, the group discussed takeaways from the day. Many students agreed that the diverse nature of the program was helping to fill gaps in their experiential knowledge of the health care field. Others felt that the day encouraged them to think more critically about what others bring to the table instead of treating leadership as something conferred simply by title. As one student put it, knowing when to step back can be just as important as knowing when to step up.

Connecting with Alumni

Following a full day of classroom sessions, students attended a reception and panel with GW health administration program alumni, all of whom have built impressive careers in health administration. Todd Cohen, FACHE, EDAC, is director of client services at AtSite, Inc., where he’s specialized in acute care hospital operations and health care project management. Jennifer Wilkerson is vice president of strategic and business planning for MedStar Health’s Baltimore division. A familiar face, Professor Ricky Allen, rounded out the lineup.


Dr. Friedman and students alike solicited their input on a range of industry issues, from electronic health records (EHR) to population health management to the emerging role of retail in the health care landscape. Wilkerson and Cohen both observed that while there are clear and significant differences between our existing health care system and retail giants like CVS, more access points for patients and communities who need them are crucial.

They also touched on professional skill development, networking and the importance of mentorships.

“This is still a small world. Things don’t happen through a recruiter or through a newspaper. They happen because someone said your name.” — Professor Ricky Allen, MHSA, MDiv, FACHE

Cohen urged students to “seek out something that makes you uncomfortable. Don’t come here to continue what you’re doing.” Leaving your comfort zone, however, can be more manageable with the support of a robust alumni network like GW’s. This factor was a major differentiator for Cohen when he earned his MHSA. “Now you’re a part of that,” he said to the audience of students.

What happened next? Find out in our day two and day three recaps.