Michelle Phillips was determined to change the healthcare field when she left her pharmaceutical sales career behind the counter. More than six years later, she works for an insurance company and is still filling the prescription for improvement.
The Alaska native, who now resides in Ohio, graduated from the Master of Business Administration with a Concentration in Healthcare Administration online program at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in December 2019. She is the first person in her immediate family to earn a graduate degree.
"I always wanted to transform healthcare," she said. "With the pace of how things are going nowadays, you're constantly moving and striving to stay in step with where technology is taking the healthcare arena.
"Going back to school was part of staying in step with the pace of healthcare and learning new business strategies and management strategies to deal with this complex environment."
In 2013, Phillips landed a position as a provider marketing manager at CareSource in Dayton, which ultimately led to her current role of director of health partner innovation and payment strategy. Along the way she also worked as a health partnerships manager, director of business integration, and director of business development network strategy.
"When I worked in pharmaceutical sales, I was finding that oftentimes the conversations that I was having about access to healthcare were progressively getting worse," she said. "I didn't feel like I was making a difference.
"I convinced the CEO of CareSource to give me a chance, even though I didn't have any experience in healthcare. Today, I continue to be blessed with the opportunity to serve and help the healthcare mission."
When Phillips was researching online MBA programs, TAMU-CC checked off all of the boxes on her wish list, including strong reviews, comparable coursework to the on-campus program and low cost.
"For an out-of-state person, the tuition couldn't be beat," she said. "When you look at programs and find one with the Texas A&M name behind it, it's a no-brainer.
"Name recognition was important, but the most important thing was not breaking the bank and still getting the best value I could. I felt like I got that — and then some."
Phillips made the move from Anchorage to the lower 48 so she could experience more seasons than winter and fall. She graduated from Sullivan University in Louisville, Kentucky, with a bachelor's degree in human resource leadership in 2002 and in business administration with a concentration in marketing in 2003.
"It was something that I had always wanted to do," she said. "Unfortunately, life kind of got in the way. Right after I finished my bachelor's degrees, I thought, 'I'll just take a short little break.' The next thing you know, your career is blowing up and you're travelling hither and thither."
So, Phillips jumped at the opportunity to return to school via the online format and earn a master's degree while maintaining a full-time job. She and her husband, Jay, also have two 10-year-old daughters, Alexis and Olivia.
"It was a fantastic experience," she said. "I am so glad that I chose this program — I can't say that enough. I have made learning a lifetime thing. Learning is part of who I am and feeds my soul. I couldn't have been more tickled with the format."
Living in a different time zone than Corpus Christi was initially a concern for Phillips. However, she quickly learned that would not be an issue.
"It never once impacted anything I was doing," she said. "I found that I could just as easily get on in the evening after my kids went to sleep and after my day was done. The professors were very responsive. In some cases, outside of being in a real classroom, they couldn't have been any more responsive.
"I could keep up and have conversations through GroupMe and the tools the school offered to collaborate with other learners. I never once missed the classroom dynamic. It was always a part of what we were doing — just a different format."
MGMT 5355: Administrative Strategy and Policy (Capstone) was her favorite course in the online MBA program with a Concentration in Healthcare Administration. She also enjoyed HCAD 5312: The Health Care System.
"All of the things started to come together and knit into a comprehensive picture in the capstone course," she said. "It started to bring all of the concepts we learned in operation management together with what we learned in marketing management and provided the opportunity to apply it by running a company during that semester. It was a great strategy."
On Texas Time
Phillips made the long trip from Ohio to Texas to walk in the commencement ceremony and meet some of her professors and classmates in person.
"It was awesome," she said. "The evening event that the faculty puts on for students coming in from out of town was very well done. It was nice to put names and faces together.
"I had an amazing conversation with the dean of our school, Dr. John Gamble. I was excited to talk to him and meet the guy who wrote the textbook [on strategic management]. It's a beautiful campus. Who would have thought of putting a college on an island? It's a great idea."
Phillips completed the program in the shortest possible completion time of 12 months with the help of her family and friends.
"Oh my gosh, yes, they were all definitely excited, including everyone at my company," she said. "My daughters were gracious enough to let mommy work on school on the weekends. That worked out well for me."
In addition to working full-time in healthcare, Phillips helps run a small family farm, where she takes care of three horses she regularly rides to relax.
Now that she has a master's degree, Phillips plans to stay the course and make as big of a difference as she can in the healthcare world.
"I'd like to continue down the path of innovation and try to work more with how to streamline the administrative components of the current healthcare system to be more user-friendly and less onerous," she said.
Even though Phillips put in a lot of hard work in a short amount of time to complete the online MBA program quickly, she believes it was most important to absorb all that she learned.
"You should take your time with learning the materials," she said. "I found my classes built upon one another. Right as I was moving on to the next class, I had gained the components needed from the previous class.
"I would also suggest connecting with your adviser. There may be a best plan in how to take those courses so you can maximize your learnings and build upon them. It worked out that way for me. Use those advisers to help you plot a course for success."
And don't forget to keep improving.
Learn more about the TAMU-CC online MBA program with a Concentration in Healthcare Administration.
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