A healthcare executive on how the industry is changing and the importance of leadership
August 22, 2017
Big changes are coming to the Canadian health sector, given the mounting pressures to develop a sustainable healthcare system that offers affordable care and makes use of the latest technologies.
“Healthcare has typically been a risk-adverse environment but the industry is changing. We can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing,” says Heather Chalmers, (Morning MBA ’04), VP and general manager of GE Healthcare Canada.
“We are going to need pioneers who will challenge the status quo.”
Chalmers is no stranger to change. She started her career at GE, 22 years ago, as a chemical engineer working in the plastics division. Since then, she’s steadily progressed at the organization, moving into leadership roles within the sales and business operations arms of the company.
“Looking forward, there is going to be a big focus on how digital analytics and data can provide insights at the right place and time to improve the delivery of healthcare.”
-Heather Chalmers, (Morning MBA ’04), Vice President and General Manager, GE Healthcare Canada
Looking to expand her finance and accounting knowledge, she completed the inaugural three-year, Morning MBA program at the Rotman School of Management while advancing at GE. The move positioned her well for senior management positions at the company.
“The experience made me a lot more thoughtful about organizational design,” she says of her time at Rotman. “I had a different appreciation for the thought processes underlying decision-making. It was enlightening.”
Today, armed with a strong management education, years of experience and institutional knowledge, she ensures that GE, a major vendor of medical equipment and technologies, has the right talent and strategy in place to stay competitive in the healthcare landscape. And she has valuable insights on where the industry is headed.
The future of healthcare
It’s an exciting time to work in healthcare. As technology evolves and attitudes about health shift, Chalmers knows that change is imminent.
“Looking forward, there is going to be a big focus on how digital analytics and data can provide insights at the right place and time to improve the delivery of healthcare,” she points out.
She also notes how the relationship between vendors and care providers is evolving. “In the past, it’s been more of a transactional relationship,” she explains. “Now we’re moving towards an outcomes-focused approach to health. We’re going to see healthcare providers and medical devices suppliers work together in a new way to solve problems as a team.”
It’s not enough to simply acknowledge or react to these trends, says Chalmers. Strong leadership is needed to guide the industry in a direction that makes sense. It’s this thinking that motivated her to serve on the Healthcare Leadership Advisory Board at Rotman, which has shaped the design of the new Global Executive MBA in Healthcare and Life Sciences program. She wants to see courses and conversations that push healthcare professionals to think innovatively.
Ultimately, transforming healthcare and making the system sustainable in the long term is going to take incredible change makers, says Chalmers. To start, she advises any aspiring leader to think big and consider how influencers — in healthcare and other in other sectors — have found success.
"Make your job bigger than it was originally intended. If you do that good things will come."
Heather Chalmers, (Morning MBA ’04), Vice President and General Manager, GE Healthcare Canada
“We should be studying past great leaders who have really made an impact and consider why and how they’ve done it.”
Speaking more generally, she advises anyone looking to make the leap into management to enroll in an MBA program, while working full time.
“As a person who hires leaders, I’m always looking for someone who can work quickly, under incredible time pressures and pick out the salient points. Completing an MBA while working will demonstrate this ability. Your work experience will give you the extra context for what you’re learning.”
Above all else, it’s about working hard.
“Make your job bigger than it was originally intended. If you do that good things will come.”
Written by Rebecca Cheung