An Inside Look at the January 2015 MHA Immersion

In health care management, relationships matter. Networking plays a major role in career development for students across a range of professions. To meet this need, MHA@GW provides valuable opportunities for online students to meet their classmates in person and network with experts in the field during four immersion experiences.

Recently, 50 students from three different cohorts came together for a multi-day immersion experience in Washington, D.C., to meet and network with one another, as well as with faculty, alumni and accomplished health administration professionals. A number of students had already attended an on-campus immersion — these students participated in Immersion II. The remainder participated in Immersion I. Here’s a look at the main highlights from these immersion experiences.

Day One


Hile Rutledge discusses the connection between leadership and emotional intelligence.

The first day began by welcoming Immersion II students to the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. The students reunited with their classmates and professors and had the opportunity to share updates on their professional and personal lives. Students also discussed how they’ve incorporated what they learned during the previous immersion experience into their jobs.

Students test drive different leadership styles in a role playing exercise.


Students spent the remainder of the day in a workshop about emotional intelligence (EI) led by Hile Rutledge of Otto Kroeger Associates. During this session, students learned about the 16 components of EI, completed the EQi assessment and reflected on their own EI scores.

Day Two


A few MHA students stuck around after the workshop to ask Professor Marghella questions.

Professor Peter Marghella, a former medical plans, operations and intelligence officer in the United States Navy, led two workshops on public health preparedness. In the first workshop, students learned about the 2009–2010 influenza pandemic, and in the second, they discussed nuclear terrorism and the catastrophic incident response plan. The workshops highlighted that as leaders in health care, MHA@GW students can have a significant influence on developing interdisciplinary preparedness plans that bridge the often “siloed” fields of medicine and public health. Retired U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Bob S. Cohen reiterated this theme by discussing the importance of teamwork in his closing guest lecture.


Day Three



In the morning, Immersion II students took a tour of the GW hospital and met with its executive team. “Stepping foot into GW hospital was very humbling,” said student Maureen Yson. “We had the opportunity to engage with the CEO, the COO and the rest of the executive team. It gave me a glimpse of what I can become and the direction I am headed.”


Meanwhile, Immersion I students arrived in D.C. to join in the immersion experience. The new students had the opportunity to meet Dr. Leonard Friedman, director of the Master of Health Administration program, Dr. Lynn Goldman, dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health, and Dr. Julie DeLoia, associate dean of academic affairs.

Students from both Immersion I and Immersion II enjoy the view of the Washington Monument during the networking dinner.

Later that evening, students from both Immersion I and Immersion II mingled during a networking dinner and alumni panel. The panel included several prestigious alumni who provided valuable insight on the biggest challenges facing health care today. The networking dinner gave all students the opportunity to wind down, connect with one another and enjoy a delicious meal with the Washington Monument as a backdrop.

Day Four

Immersion II students spent day four with Professor Pierre Vigilance, former director of the D.C. Department of Health and assistant dean of MHA@GW. Professor Vigilance discussed a number of topics currently affecting public health including meta-leadership, social determinants of health and population health.


Rear Admiral C. Forrest Faison III poses with Immersion I student Erica.

The same day, Immersion I students discussed leadership styles with Professor Ricky Allen. Through a series of case studies and role-playing exercises, Immersion I students were able to put their personality types (which they had discussed the previous day with Dr. Friedman) into practice. A surprise lecture by Rear Admiral C. Forrest Faison III, the deputy surgeon general of the Navy, capped off the day. The admiral discussed the forces driving health care choices today and the federal health care sector. He also outlined his current priorities, including training, keeping the workforce healthy, preserving combat survival rates and providing wounded warrior care.


Day Five

On the final morning of the immersion experience, students attending Immersion II had the pleasure of participating in a workshop by Jackie Gaines, the first African American woman to be CEO of a major health care system in the United States. She discussed the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and emphasized the idea that diversity extends beyond just race and gender. She asked students to think about how organizational practices such as recruitment, hiring and promotion can act as barriers to creating inclusive and diverse workspaces, and she challenged everyone to think of how to breakdown these barriers at their own jobs.

Students from Immersion I show off their school spirit on the final day of the Immersion.


The Value of Immersion Experiences

“The immersion programs feel like the glue of MHA@GW,” student Laira Roth explained. “We have a unique opportunity to come together and connect all of the pieces. It’s as though everything we have learned in our modules has further clarity when we sit next to our classmates and bounce ideas off each other, chat with our professors about questions we have or listen to GW Hospital’s CEO discuss leadership in practice. I’ve never had an experience quite like it, and I wish we had more immersions scheduled for the program!”

From emotional intelligence to public health preparedness to diversity in the workplace, the immersion covered a wide variety of relevant topics that are influencing health care and health services today. Over the course of the immersion experience, students had countless opportunities to network with faculty, professionals and one another. By building valuable industry connections and gaining fresh insights from distinguished thought leaders, students had the chance to learn critical skills that will help prepare them to assume leadership roles in their organizations.