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Healthcare Overhaul: How one GEMBA-HLS grad is tackling Canada’s patient flow and capacity problems

February 22, 2024

When your new job has no predecessor, your ability to be innovative matters.

That’s how Judy Jung (GEMBA-HLS ’23) approaches her current role as director of clinical capacity, access and flow at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).

Judy Jung (GEMBA-HLS ’23)

Jung has long worked in and advocated for the healthcare industry - including throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Before graduating from the Rotman School’s Global Executive MBA Healthcare and Life Sciences (GEMBA-HLS) program, Jung was a clinical manager with a background in nursing, clinical research and organ donation. She says that these varying and dynamic roles provided her a bird’s-eye perspective on patient care and helped her to understand that there were serious problems in the Canadian system. Despite the hard work and good intentions of she and her colleagues, Jung explains that problems with hospital patient flow and health human resource capacity were increasing. She saw firsthand cases of patients waiting longer and staying longer in the system than they needed to, and healthcare providers feeling increasingly burnt out and disillusioned about their work environment.

To learn even more about these issues and in the hopes of helping to tackle them, Jung enrolled in U of T’s Master of Science in Health Administration. “At that point, I was an emerging leader with a clinical background, and I wanted to do more. It was good for the career stage I was at to understand the Canadian context.” She graduated in 2018.

While supporting patients and large provider teams through the COVD-19 pandemic, there were two outstanding educational components Jung wanted to expand on further.

The first was gaining a stronger international perspective. For her to further understand structural problems in Canadian health, she says she had to study what was happening in healthcare in other countries, which would provide a framework for comparing and contrasting systems. “That's partly why I went looking for the Rotman MBA,” she explains. “The program was strong on that international perspective and emphasized that each healthcare system boasts different strengths – no one system is perfect.” She gives the example of Singapore, which has reformed its healthcare system several times in a short frame of time to adapt to needs. “We could learn from the collectivist mindset that helped the country adopt rapid change,” she says.

The second platform Jung wanted to expand on was in personal leadership and growing her professional network. “I realized that in order to make a difference, I really needed access to a community of experts,” she says. “I knew the technical education of the MBA would hold weight, but continuing to engage with like-minded professionals with expertise in specific areas of the health industry would be even more important.”

Rotman’s GEMBA-HLS program fulfilled both Jung’s top priorities, and more. The program is designed to help students develop the expertise they need to create system-wide change in healthcare and draw on best practices from centres and experts across the globe. During the 18-month program, students participate in healthcare modules in Toronto, London, Singapore, and San Francisco. Curriculum topics are large-scale and vary widely, from strategy and leadership, to operations and business development, to digital health. Students can also bring their own workplace challenges into the classroom, which become part of the discussion.

"The program offers a strong international perspective, and emphasizes that every healthcare system boasts different strengths."

—Judy Jung

Jung says Rotman’s GEMBA-HLS program was helpful in another aspect of her career that she describes as much more personal in nature. She says as a woman,  a nurse, and raised as an immigrant, she is still a minority in healthcare leadership. “Finding a voice with my background has always required a more strategic approach to barriers along the way,” she explains. "We’re stewards of our own tax dollars that fund our healthcare system. Having worked in it as a clinician, understanding good business practice to manage finite resources well seems very necessary to me.”

Jung graduated in June, 2023. She says overall, the GEMBA-HLS program provided her with stronger business acumen, as well as the confidence to take on more complex and sensitive problems with healthcare providers and senior leaders.

That confidence played out in real time when Jung saw an opportunity to take on a new position at SickKids. To contend with the risk that patients would wait longer for critical services and that the hospital would not be able to meet demand, SickKids created a role that would focus exclusively on hospital-wide capacity and patient flow – a relatively young entity in Canadian healthcare.

“The stars seemed to align,” she says. In fact, her program capstone at Rotman was built around answering the question of how to ensure hospital systems have ample capacity while facing a dramatic change in the workforce and an overall uncertainty in the healthcare environment.

“I really felt it was a valuable opportunity to connect data analytics, human resources, providers in practice and hospital operations to work in lockstep to stay ahead of our healthcare capacity challenges,” Jung explains. “I worked with supportive mentors who shared that vision and luckily, they had faith that I had the right preparation.”

“The timing was perfect.”

Written by Meaghan MacSween | More Student Stories »

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