Alumni spotlight: Sarah M. Pavelka, M.H.A.’01

Sarah Pavelka
Sarah M. Pavelka, M.H.A.’01

Professional background

I have more than 11 years experience teaching and coaching in organizational performance and 13 years as an occupational therapist. My background includes speaking and facilitation engagements in business, industry, education and healthcare. My previous employment experiences include service as a quality management director for the Iowa Foundation for Medical Care, director of business and industry relations and director of the occupational therapy departments for Pella Regional Health Center in Pella, Iowa. I am currently a senior staff member for the Iowa Quality Center in Marion, Iowa and serve as a faculty member for the health care administration and public health programs at Des Moines University. For the Iowa Quality Center, I coach and facilitate organizations (mainly healthcare) through organizational development and change. I work with organizations all over Iowa (some national and international) and the main areas of focus are leadership, strategic planning, process management and results. This is contract work, so I work closely with an organization for maybe only hours up to many days per year.

Favorite part of my job

I love the freedom, the ability to make a difference across the state and country and the ability to use many skills all in one day. Every day, every organization is different with no two days alike; it keeps me on my toes. I also enjoy seeing the reality of making an impact for staff, leadership and the customer in each organization.

Why I stay involved with DMU

I like getting to know the representatives from each of the programs. We have such a wonderful group that is hardworking, fun and dedicated. Also, I enjoy the interaction for personal and professional learning.

Advice to those just starting out in the profession

Get a mentor … many of them … and listen, listen, listen. Learn from your mistakes. Study why something went the way it did (right or wrong). Learn something new everyday.


Being outdoors, camping, hunting, gardening, sports (now mainly watching them), traveling (not for work), and spending time with my family (including my greyhound and lab).

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