Only about half the graduates from the CU Denver Health Administration program end up running hospitals. In his search for new Health Administration Alumni Board members, Rulon Stacey, Director of Graduate Programs in Health Administration, wanted to find alumni who represent the variety of opportunities the program creates.  

“Our program develops the best hospital administrators in the world, but that’s only half of the students we have,” said Stacey. “The other half are running clinics, they’re consultants, they’re running start-up companies, they’re working in health policy. There are a host of opportunities for these students.”

“Our students are running clinics, they’re consultants, they’re running start-up companies, they’re working in health policy. There are a host of opportunities for these students.”

Rulon Stacey

Alumni board members connect the university to the professional world and advise on curriculum and industry trends.

James McHugh Helps Hospitals be their Best

The old adage says, “there’s no such thing as perfect timing.” For James McHugh, he picked perhaps the busiest time in his career to enroll in the Executive MBA in Health Administration. McHugh started his own consulting firm at the same time he joined the program.

“Things could get pretty hectic during the week, so the flexibility of the program was really great for me,” McHugh said.

James McHugh

McHugh is among the health administration alumni who do not run hospitals. He is a managing director at Impact Advisors and consults hospitals on strategy, operations, revenue cycle, and digital optimization. The CU Denver Executive MBA in Health Administration gave him an edge in working with nonprofits – more than half of hospitals are non-profits.

“What appealed to me about the program was not only the flexibility, but you’re really learning the non-profit space,” said McHugh. “You’re learning non-profit accounting, how providers do marketing, and so everything is relevant to what you do.”

This is not McHugh’s first time serving on an alumni board. He is on the Dean’s Board of Advisors for Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University Chicago, where he got his bachelor’s degree. He is looking forward to increasing engagement with CU Denver Health MBA alumni.

Kevin Slavin Got His Start in a Colorado Hospital

There are also the alumni who run hospitals – and not just in Colorado. The program has a national footprint. Kevin Slavin hopes to represent the East Coast on the alumni board. Slavin is President and CEO of St. Joseph’s Health in New Jersey and was the 2020 Board Chair of the New Jersey State Hospital Association.

Slavin’s first job in healthcare was here in Denver at Craig Hospital working as an orderly. He said it’s still “the most fun job I’ve had in healthcare.”

Slavin, an East Coast native, made his way back home after the program, but sees it as critical to his success in running a hospital.

“It really appealed to me to get an education that’s more business-oriented, rather than based in the medical school,” he said.

Kevin Slavin

Last year, as he took up the mantle of the Chair of the State Hospital Association, the COVID-19 pandemic struck. New York and New Jersey were hit particularly hard in the early days of the pandemic, and Slavin’s staff were burned out. Connections he made through CU Denver’s Health Administration program proved vital – another hospital sent nurses to St. Joseph’s to help relieve their staff. Despite the grim days of the pandemic, it has increased his optimism.

“Certainly, these past few months during this pandemic we’ve been able to do innovative things we never would have if we didn’t have a pandemic staring us in the face,” he said.

Advice for Students

For McHugh, one of the most valuable parts of the program was the well-rounded education that helped him understand all parts of the industry.

“You understand a lot more about the people you work with, so even if you don’t do those jobs you have a great understanding of the people you interact with every day and what’s on their plate,” McHugh said.

He encouraged students in the program to take advantage of the diversity of thought and variety of classes.

“Look at every class as a great way to learn something you wouldn’t know otherwise and hang on to that,” he said. “This is one of the few programs where every class has something to offer as a takeaway.”

After what he dealt with running a hospital during a pandemic, Slavin’s advice is simple:

“Be open to change,” he said. “As scared as some people are right now about the future, I think it’s an exciting future.”

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