In 2021, McGill Desautels launched its Graduate Certificate in Healthcare Management in collaboration with the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, a unique opportunity for leaders in the healthcare field to receive formal managerial training and learn from renowned McGill professors. As the inaugural cohort embarks on its final module, hear from current students about their experience in the program.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background

I’m the site director of anesthesia at the Montreal Neurological Hospital and an intensivist at the McGill University Health Center. I’m also the program co-director of McGill’s Neurocritical Care clinical fellowship program. I’m most driven to have a significant and long-lasting positive contribution to the health care offered to our community. Our hospital is recognized for excellence in neuroscience and treating society’s most vulnerable patients. My goal is really to maintain and develop our hospital’s status to continue to treat this patient population in the best way possible. To do this, we need to attract and retain the brightest and sharpest minds in the field and support their excellent work for our patients with optimal hospital functioning and the best working conditions. This is where the science of management comes in.

What led you to pursue the Graduate Certificate in Healthcare Management at McGill?

McGill’s residency training was excellent. It taught me how to care for my patients, provide the best treatments in an organized and systematic way and to uphold the highest standards. The problem in medical programs across North America —and probably even across the world—is that they don’t teach much about management. Although they’re excellent clinicians, doctors who graduate from these residencies lack the tools to optimize their departments’ function.

I was thrust into a leadership position very, very early on in my career and I honestly had no clue about where to start. It was very daunting. It was an intimidating process and I felt that I was “sous-outillé” (undertrained), as they say in French. Although I learned a lot on the job, I still found myself inefficient and somewhat dependent on others for many of the tasks this new aspect of my work demanded, so I decided to get formal training. I bounced ideas off a friend with expertise in the matter (an industrial engineer) who always comes up with these brilliant, out of the box managerial solutions. He said ‘Mo, what you need to get to that level is management training. There’s actually a whole science behind it and I’m sure there’s something available for healthcare providers.’

A few weeks after, I came across the GCHM, a program specifically for physicians and other healthcare workers looking for some training in management, not as extensive as a master’s degree, but certainly very concrete, very in-depth, very rigorous training in the world of management. I thought this was brilliant.

Entering the program, did you have any specific hopes or expectations as to what you would get out of it?

Absolutely. I was really hoping to help my institution successfully navigate these difficult times in healthcare. I wanted to see our hospital environment thrive, the care it provides remain excellent and reach all those it needs to. We have significant challenges in hospitals across Quebec, especially with regards to manpower shortages. At the Neuro, this problem is exacerbated even more because our building’s infrastructure is out-of-date. It’s more difficult for us to retain our personnel. We do have a lot of really positive things in our hospital that stand out compared to other institutions, but the physical amenities are unfortunately not that attractive to a lot of our employees. We needed to change in the way we run our operations, to keep it at a very high level and attractive. My hope was to contribute to this and to help my hospital navigate through this incredibly difficult crisis.

Do you feel that those expectations are being met? What are your favorite parts of the program?

My expectations are definitely met. It feels as though the founders of the program knew exactly what we lacked, what the needs are in today’s healthcare context and designed the program just for us.

The fact that the GCHM program co-directors are two people with very different but complementary backgrounds makes the program extremely rich and complete. First, Dr. Adrian Dancea is a renowned physician with extensive management training and expertise. He has over 15 or 20 years in the field of management and holds very high management positions, both in the hospital and in his department, as well as at a provincial level. The other program co-director, a PhD professor in management at the Desautels Faculty of Management Dr. Leslie Breitner, brings in a whole other point of view. They complement each other wonderfully and the program is structured in a way that’s just logical, with the modules building on one another and bringing in aspects from both medicine and management. It’s extremely well organized, run and well thought-out in its delivery.

The way they evaluate students is through “deliverables, which is just top notch and directly applicable to real life. The GCHM is an extremely serious, high-level program and it worth every minute.

The mentorship program is absolutely fantastic. Being paired with mentors who are tailored to our needs and follow us throughout the program to help with the deliverables, is so rich. I once called my mentor to talk about a deliverable but then the discussion kind of took a tangent towards how I was going to approach my colleagues at work to implement certain changes. The advice he gave me was spot on. To have that level of expertise and experience and be able to share that with me honestly was a privilege and goes beyond what the program promises to offer.

How has your experience in the program so far impacted the way that you lead your team?

We write one-page memos that take the concepts learned in class and apply them concretely to our professional work and then submit them to our mentor and to the program director. The program is therefore designed to push students to find solutions to real life problems using concepts learned in class.

As an example, during the process management module, I applied what I learned about swim lanes and process optimization to a huge problem in the operating room — a shortage of respiratory therapists that causes a great limitation in the anesthesia delivery of services. By rearranging the workflow, we were able to increase capacity in my operating room by 33 to 50%. To this day, this reorganization of the structure of our workflow has a daily impact on patients. I didn’t have to finish my certificate to be able to apply the knowledge that I got from this course; it was directly applicable right there and then. There have been many other direct uses of what I’ve learned to my work environment, and I can only see that increasing. There are so many tools at our disposal right now to address our problems, but time is the resource I must manage the most carefully to be able to accomplish everything I want to.

What advice would you offer to somebody debating applying to a program like this?

Just do it. You absolutely need to do this. Reflecting back on this program, it’s something that should probably be incorporated in most residency programs. The tools that are in this program are just so powerful. Part of residency programs is to have residents go through a quality improvement project or initiative, but we’re not really taught how to do that in a complete manner. In addition, very little is taught about managing people, process improvement, leadership, negotiations skills, or finance. Anyone who hears about this program, especially program directors across the country, should get at least two or three of their staff members trained in this so that they can come back and train their own residents in the science of management. I would go as far as far as saying that this should be promoted at the level of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada because it fits within the CanMEDS roles, and I would say that the most underdeveloped role currently taught is the leadership role. We just don’t get formal training in it, and I think that this program absolutely would fulfill that need.

GCHM Program

The McGill Graduate Certificate in Healthcare Management is a joint initiative between the McGill Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and the Desautels Faculty of Management. The GCHM is an 8-month, 15-credit graduate certificate program which takes place entirely online.

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