Healthcare is a large and growing industry in Canada and internationally, and offers opportunities for MBA graduates to make a real difference in people’s lives.
One of our most recent Rotman Morning MBA candidates accepted into the program to start this August is Vanessa Perry, Public Health Practice Advisor, Standards and Performance at the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Her impressive experience to date has earned her one of our new Women in Business Excellence Entrance Awards. She chatted with us over coffee about her experiences, and her decision to enter the Rotman MBA program.
Congratulations on your admission to Rotman and on your award! Tell us about your professional background.
I work for the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care in health policy planning. Currently, my emphasis is on performance management and organization management in public health.
My background is in research. I have a Masters degree in Epidemiology which is the study of population health. It is the basis of health research and involves a lot of bio statistics. Before working with the Ministry, I specialized in Aboriginal health, and worked in the North managing research sites for an international research project looking at youth resilience.
Recently, I took a leave of absence from the Ministry and spent a year working at an NGO running the monitoring and evaluation of a UN funded sanitation project as a professional volunteer. I was in Tanzania for the first year of the five year project, helping them set up a nationwide monitoring and evaluation system. I have a background studying international development and had never gotten to apply it. So it was a great opportunity to use some of those skills.
How do your earlier experiences tie back to what you’re doing at the Ministry of Health?
After completing my Masters degree and working in Labrador, I came back to Toronto and started working with the Ministry, I moved away from straight science and research into policy, planning and system management.
At the Ministry, I do a lot of performance management: how do you look at health systems, how do you evaluate them, how do you manage them to make them better?
So how does the MBA fit into your experiences?
I want to be a leader in the healthcare sector and to have influence in shaping its direction. I view business management skills as essential for me to move up and to be in a position to help create the strongest and most sustainable healthcare system that we can.
I’m happy with my career trajectory, and I didn’t want to stop working. Part-time was a natural place to go. Plus, Rotman at U of T is a top school in my backyard, with the great option of the Morning MBA program.
The Morning MBA program immediately made a lot of sense to me. In high school and university I rowed competitively, so I used to get up very early so I know I’m capable of doing that. It’s a great set up: it’s only two mornings a week and Rotman also has a health management specialization.
In my area of healthcare, there is some debate if a Masters of Health Administration or an MBA makes more sense. For me, the MBA provides a broader perspective. The ability to be in a class with people from so many different professional backgrounds – to be able to learn from them – had a lot of appeal. So even though I’m interested in the healthcare specialization, I don’t want to have my blinders on. I want to be in a class with people from different backgrounds, learn what they’re thinking and how they approach things.
What advice do you have for women thinking about the MBA?
I’m a second generation female Rotman student – my mother did the Rotman MBA, also on a part-time basis, when there were very few women taking that step. So for me, it has never been an emphasis of whether you’re a man or a woman, but on pursuing what you want and need professionally. That said, I believe that women can bring something special to the table as strong, collaborative leaders and communicators and, considering the low representation of women in MBA programs, should be proactively encouraged to pursue them. It’s really amazing to me what we can accomplish.
Thanks for your time, Vanessa. Final question – is there anything else that you’re particularly looking forward to during your time at Rotman?
One of the things that I most look forward to is the networking – to take advantage of the community that Rotman provides. During the application process, I got to sit in on a healthcare-related workshop. To have access to those conversations and events beyond the classroom, I find that really energizing!