Alumna Spotlight: Alyse Kerr ’08 – School Counseling

 

After obtaining her Masters in school counseling, Alyse became the director of Intellectual Developmental Disabilities services for NHS Human services for NEPA. From there, she went on to be the director of the Dual Diagnosis Treatment Team for Eastern Pennsylvania and also for NHS Human Services. In September 2012, Alyse started Integrative Counseling Services, PC on Mulberry Street in Scranton. Her practice specializes in outpatient therapy, training, consultation, clinical supervision, assessment, and behavior support services. In 2014, Alyse and her team opened a second office in Harrisburg. Alyse’s business continues to expand, as a new facility was just opened in June 2018 in New Milford, in Susquehanna County.
Integrative Counseling Services, PC currently partners with several local colleges and universities including The University of Scranton, Marywood, Temple, and Messiah to help in the training and education process of future counselors. They also partner with local physicians’ offices, hospitals, residential providers, children and youth, probation, local legal systems, and more to ensure we provide the best level of care possible.


Learn more about the School Counseling program at The University of Scranton.

Journey from Clinician to Administrator: Advancing in Healthcare Administration

Neel Pathak, an MHA graduate, has eight years of progressive management experience in diverse settings, including major health systems, healthcare associations, accrediting organizations, and academic institutions. He is a skilled clinician, an experienced administrator, and a strong advocate of initiatives in process excellence. He also serves as a Baldrige Examiner for state and national levels. His unconventional career path, he says, was shaped by earning his MHA degree online at The University of Scranton. Read on to learn how he’s impacted patient care on national and regional levels.

How did you decide on a career in the healthcare field?

I’ve had an interest in the healthcare field since high school. I’m originally from India and I spent a year and a half practicing as a clinician—a physical therapist. Though I loved being a clinician, I had an insider’s look at the management activities of the clinic. That sparked my interest to learn more about the business and delivery of healthcare. That interest motivated me to move to the United States to pursue a program in healthcare administration.

What made you choose The University of Scranton?

It was the combination of having all the right elements in one place. First, I wanted to attend a program that was strong academically and demanded an administrative residency or fellowship so I could gain more first-hand experience in the field. Second, I only looked at CAHME-accredited programs because I knew that meant the rigor, integrity, and quality of my education was ensured. I was able to have a phone interview with the program director, Dr. West, while I was still in India researching schools. He’s also a member of CAHME’s Board of Directors, so I knew I was talking to an extremely knowledgeable professor—and we really connected! I appreciated the personal and student-centric approach. It seemed like the perfect fit.

How did you find your residency/fellowship?

Scranton’s MHA program provided multiple resources early in the program that helped orient me with the residency/fellowship process. Current students in those phases spoke with us about their experiences. We were encouraged to join the American College of Healthcare Executives, which in turn offered seminars and education regarding fellowships. Faculty advisors were familiar with our goals and matched us with appropriate residency and fellowship opportunities. I knew these are very competitive and it was important to me to find the right option to better understand the healthcare delivery system in its entirety, from strategy to operations and front-line management.

Where did you complete your residency?

I was selected for the Aramark Healthcare Administrative Fellowship and placed at OhioHealth, a health system headquartered in Columbus, OH. This was a unique opportunity to get exposure to two different organizations. Aramark sponsored the healthcare fellowship and the selected fellows were paired with a client organization. Aramark’s philosophy “Everything’s Connected” gave us a unique vantage point in understanding the day-to-day operations of a hospital or healthcare system from not just a practice management standpoint, but also from a service and patient-experience standpoint.

They selected five fellows from across the nation, and I was paired with the senior vice president of support services at OhioHealth. While I was there, I worked on projects in eight different hospitals. They included strategy development and planning for a new neuroscience building, quality and process improvement initiatives, physician-practice management projects, and revenue-cycle management initiatives, among others.

Throughout my fieldwork, I was able to attend industry conferences like the American College of Healthcare Executives Leadership Congress, the American Hospital Association’s Leadership Summit, and the National Association of Health Services Executives Conference.

Because of the unique fellowship structure, Aramark was also able to leverage other healthcare clients in their network to offer us unique observation opportunities at leading healthcare organizations like the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, MD Anderson Cancer Institute, and Texas Children’s Hospital, among others.

How did you transition from an administrative fellow to a research/program specialist at the American Hospital Association?

I wanted to explore different settings in the healthcare industry and build upon my quality improvement experience. I got an opportunity with the American Hospital Association (AHA) in Chicago—they advocate for 5,000 hospitals and healthcare systems across the country.

I worked on The CUSP: STOP CAUTI project with Health Research and Educational Trust—the research arm of the AHA. The project specifically focused on reducing catheter-associated urinary tract infections across the country.

We had a national team of experts who provided leadership and guidance on content. In addition, we worked with state hospital associations to get their buy-in and assist them in their journey to reduce hospital-acquired infections. We collected, analyzed, and reported the data on a national level to identify trends and assisted individual hospitals through their state’s hospital associations by sharing best practices.

I’m proud to report that we saw a significant reduction in hospital-acquired infections throughout the project, saving millions of lives and millions of dollars.

After the AHA, you took an opportunity with CAHME. What was that experience like?

Right after my time with AHA, an opportunity with the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) came along. While I was still a student, I worked with Dr. West on a small project with them. When I saw CAHME had a position open for a director of business and development, I knew it would be a great learning opportunity. And it was! CAHME taught me more about business development and I was proud that they ensure the future generations of healthcare leaders are training appropriately.

During my time at CAHME, we made our business processes more efficient by leveraging the right technologies and moving to a cloud-based environment. By using tools like Box, Salesforce, Office 365, and Constant Contact, we improved our day-to-day processes and provided better value for our programs.

This experience of improving quality on a national scale taught me a lot about teamwork and further fueled my passion for quality and process improvement. I launched a signature program—the CAHME Awards—which recognizes organizations that are going above and beyond meeting accreditation standards and are doing exceptionally well. The awards program is very successful and is sponsored by leading healthcare organizations like Modern Healthcare, Ascension, Cerner, Canon, and Baylor Scott & White Health.

The University of Scranton just won the CAHME CANON Award. Is that part of this project you worked on?

Yes! The full name of the award is Canon Solutions America Award for Sustainability in Healthcare Management Education and Practice. As its name suggests, the award serves to incorporate the ideals of sustainability in future healthcare leaders. It recognizes the significant influence of education programs in creating sustainable, inclusive, and socially responsible healthcare organizations. I’m very glad that Scranton won that award!

What do you do in your current role in Ambulatory Services Administration at the Johns Hopkins Hospital?

We have a state‐of‐the‐art outpatient center with over 60 clinics, providing 20 ancillary services, and serving about 650,000 patient visits annually. I’m a project administrator in the Ambulatory Services department. My role is to serve as an internal change-management consultant by planning, directing, and implementing projects to improve quality, operations, efficiency, access, delivery, and experience of care for ambulatory patients. We use innovative technologies and business-intelligence tools with Epic and Tableau to make data-driven decisions.

After my time with CAHME, I wanted to explore the ambulatory and practice management setting further. This opportunity with Johns Hopkins, which has been ranked the number one hospital in the country for more than 20 straight years, has been a dream come true in experience and learning.

Are there any projects that stand out in your experiences in ambulatory services administration?

I serve as the Patient Experience Lead for Ambulatory Services. At Johns Hopkins, we have a really strong focus on providing the best possible care in the best possible place. It is challenging to provide that seamless experience in a complex academic medical center environment.

We created an executive council to set goals and provide leadership and mentorship for all aspects of patient experience. We also created a coordinating committee—the working arm that digs deep into the patient-experience data points: Current processes and challenges, workflows, and sharing of best practices to improve care delivery and experience. We look at our scores and compare them to national benchmarks to see what’s working and what we can do to deliver a better experience.

We discuss these results with our clinical care teams to find opportunities for improvement together. We have gained a lot of traction on this and our clinics are highly engaged in this journey. I’m very proud of that.

It sounds like a lot of data and analytics go into your role. Was that something you learned in Scranton’s MHA program? Or is it more on-the-job learning?

There was a lot of emphasis on data in the program, beyond just understanding the foundation of data and finances. We focused on evidence-based decision-making in the MHA program. That being said, I think there are always skills and nuances you have to learn on the job. I’m a graduate of the Leadership and Excellence in Analytics and Data Science (LEADS) program at Johns Hopkins, which focuses on teaching professionals how to use data in their decision-making.

Congratulations on your appointment to the Baldrige Board of Examiners! How did you become involved with the Board?

I was first introduced to the Baldrige criteria while at the AHA. I talked to a few members who completed the examiner training and studied the Baldrige approach and criteria. What I liked about their approach is that it’s not prescriptive and not built for a specific health system with exactly 200 beds. It’s for anyone looking to improve their performance: A hospital, nonprofit, city, or small business. The Baldrige criteria can adapt to these unique situations.

I was selected for the state examiner role after my training opportunity. A few years later, I applied for the national level and became the national examiner.

I review applications for the Baldrige award—a prestigious presidential award that demands a very rigorous process. Baldrige is administered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Baldrige criteria encourages applicants to think about their processes and the results from an organizational viewpoint. This, in turn, stimulates conversations about improvement strategies.

How long do you serve as examiner?

The Baldrige examiner term is for one year. You need to reapply again to serve on the Board and go through the training.

You’ve had many high-level positions. Do you think your clinical background helped you get to where you are today?

Yes, it certainly helped! My clinical background coupled with administrative experiences helps me better understand operational issues. It leads to a better vantage point in decision-making. When I was treating patients, I made one-on-one decisions regarding their care. Now the decisions I make affect patients on a larger scale. I have to be mindful of that fact and ensure each decision I make is ultimately patient-centric.

What advice would you give someone looking to move up in the healthcare field, even without that clinical background?

First, you can still succeed in this field without having a clinical background. What you must have top of mind at all times is a focus on quality patient care. With that, you can achieve your goals.

My second piece of advice to anyone looking to advance in healthcare is don’t limit yourself. Take advantage of how broad and diverse the healthcare field is to understand the levels of patient care in multiple settings. There are hospitals, outpatient settings, nursing homes, insurance companies, retail clinics—the opportunities are endless, so branch out.

You’re now involved with current students as a mentor. How did that come about?

I remember when mentors helped shape and guide my decisions as a student. I want to ensure our current students have that same opportunity, and so I serve as an external/alumni mentor for many students in the Scranton MHA program.

We also created The University of Scranton MHA Alumni Society. I serve as one of the board officers and make sure we give back to the Scranton MHA program in as many ways as we can. We meet on a monthly basis and talk through how to improve relationships with current students and re-engage past alumni to better the program.

Connect with Neel Online on LinkedIn or Twitter!

Put Your Passion For Helping Patients To Work

Discover how you can manage healthcare processes, provide the best possible care, or build on a strong business background that helps a community of patients with The University of Scranton’s Master of Health Administration program today.

 

Scranton Alumna Receives Educator of the Year Award

Jackie DeFilippis ’08 G’11 received the Educator of the Year Award. Jackie is the school counselor at Samuel E. Shull Middle School in Perth Amboy, NJ. What a way to represent the University of Scranton’s school counseling graduate program!

Alumna Jackie DeFilippis was recently recognized as “Educational Services Professional of the Year,” as a School Counselor at Samuel E. Shull Middle School in Perth Amboy, NJ. This award is part of the New Jersey Governor’s Educator of the Year Program. Each school within a school district asks for staff nominations and then a voting committee selects one of the nominees to receive the award based on a specific criteria provided by the organization.

Eligibility criteria includes:

  • Be an expert in the field who inspires students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn
  • Actively collaborate with colleagues, students, and families to create a strong culture of respect and success
  • Demonstrate leadership and innovation in educational activities at the school, district and/or state and national levels that take place both within and outside the school setting
  • Have the respect and admiration of students, parents and colleagues

DeFilippis said,”I am humbled and honored as this is actually my second time achieving this award. I was also recognized with the same award in 2016 in my previous school district when I was a School Counselor in Elizabeth Avenue Elementary School in Somerset, NJ. I am now in my 8th year of my School Counseling career and I very proudly graduated from the University of Scranton in 2008 with a BS in Counseling & Human Services and again in 2011 with a MS in School Counseling.”

Congratulations, Jackie!

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Learn more about the School Counseling program here.

A Father and Son’s Global Mindset Leads to MBAs at Scranton

When Sunil Pillai G’83, of Mumbai, India, was finishing up his MBA at Scranton at age 23, he promised himself that if he eventually got married and had a child, that child would go to Scranton for his or her MBA.

“God has been kind,” said Sunil in a recent interview. “I had one son. And his name is Rathin.”

It was pretty clear from early on that Rathin Pillai G’12, who, like his dad, grew up in Mumbai, would follow in his father’s footsteps.

“My dad had his framed final certification on the wall at home. He’d say to me, ‘That’s the degree that has gotten me this far. You can talk back to me all you want, but until you have that degree, I won’t listen,’” remembered Rathin.

Like Father, Like Son

Rathin had a lot to live up to. Sunil had gone from Scranton to Pfizer International in New York to Colgate Palmolive in India, quickly moving up the corporate ladder. He eventually became vice president of marketing and sales at CavinKare, a conglomerate in fast-moving consumer goods, then vice president of marketing at Reliance Communications, Global Operations, and, most recently, COO at Tata Teleservices. He is currently a guest faculty member at IIM Bangalore and founder and director of Strategy Green Consultancy.

“I owe this whole career of mine to Scranton and the education I got there,” said Sunil. “It got me to move from being just a young kid playing around in the streets of Mumbai to be a formative professional in the way I looked at things.”

Rathin, a TV executive who recently took on a strategy and business development role at India’s Network 18 (Viacom in the United States), said it was essential — for both of them — to go abroad for their graduate degrees.

“I think I speak for both of us when I say we needed a global perspective. Had we studied for our MBAs in India, it would’ve been specific to India marketing only,” he said.

Sunil and his son both chose Scranton because it had a good reputation, was a “friendly campus” and was close to major cities. Although the two graduated about 30 years apart, they had a campus friend in common — Murli Rajan, Ph.D. G’84, now interim dean of the Kania School of Management. Rajan was Sunil’s roommate in the ’80s and became a lifelong friend.

Paying it Forward

Sunil paid it forward when Rajan arrived in Scranton from India for his MBA just a year later. Rajan traveled directly from the airport to the Hotel Jermyn on Spruce Street, where the other international students were staying while they looked for more permanent housing.

“Sunil called me as soon as I got there. He found out where I was staying,” said Dr. Rajan. “I don’t even know how he did that. We spoke the same language; we both speak Tamil. I couldn’t believe it. He just made me feel so welcome.”

When Rathin arrived in 2010, he found out that his dad’s friend would be his adviser. Having that personal connection was a comfort to Rathin, but he said he felt on level with almost everyone at Scranton.

“I never felt alone on that campus or in Scranton in general,” said Rathin. “It’s not just the students; it’s the professors as well. They made me feel at home right from the start.”

Sunil said his own acceptance into the University community made it possible for him to focus on his studies and excel in his courses.

“I grew into a professional at Scranton,” said Sunil. “I learned to understand the world better.”

He expanded his global knowledge when he went on to work in India, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and East Africa. And now, as he sits in his house gazing out at the Arabian Sea, he looks back with pride at his experience in Scranton, where it all began.

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Learn more about the MBA program at The University of Scranton here!

This article originally appeared in The Scranton Journal.

Alumna Working on Groundbreaking Technology with Microsoft

Kaitlyn Jones ’18, University of Scranton alumna and occupational therapist, now works for Microsoft on the Xbox accessibility team! In this video, she gives an update on her first couple months working with Microsoft and some of the cool things she’s been doing there.

“Often as students, we have these very strong preconceived notions about what aspect of OT or what specialty you want to go into.  Don’t be afraid to be open to all the different areas, and don’t be afraid to advocate for the value that we can bring as OTs. … There are so many things we have to offer.” -Kaitlyn Jones

To learn more about the OT program at The University of Scranton, click here!