Adela Bajric and Ashley Vanorny each have specific career goals that motivated them to pursue a master of health care administration (M.H.A.) degree at DMU. Adela, an MRI assistant at Des Moines Orthopedic Center in West Des Moines, IA, wants to have a “dual role in patient care and administration” by becoming a physician assistant; she has been accepted by DMU’s PA program and plans to begin it in 2020. Ashley, a registration manager with Mercy Cedar Rapids, IA, has a “dream goal” to become a chief operating officer of a health care organization.
Both students are also motivated to serve their communities, even though they work full-time on top of their graduate degree studies.
“That is obviously challenging, but it reflects that our students – as is DMU – are committed to community engagement,” says Rachel Reimer, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of DMU’s department of public health, which houses both the M.H.A. and master of public health programs. “Having a heart of service, a commitment to the community, is central to leading health care organizations with compassion.”
Adela and her family moved to Des Moines from Bosnia and Herzegovina when she was two years old; she now volunteers on a weekly basis with Lutheran Services of Iowa, a nonprofit organization whose services include providing education, family services and economic development programs refugees and immigrants.
“I help tutor former refugees who are studying to pass the naturalization exam,” she says. “This particular volunteer opportunity has been really important to me because my parents and I were once refugees ourselves. The Des Moines community was there for us in our time of need, and I feel that this is one of the best ways I can return the favor.”
Tami Swenson, Ph.D., assistant professor of public health and Adela’s academic adviser, says, “From our first advising meeting in my office, I have been impressed with Adela’s commitment to prioritizing her volunteer service and balancing it with her commitments to work, school, and family. It is exciting to see how she is developing as a future health care leader in DMU’s learning environment of competence, compassion and community.”
Ashley began her volunteer service as a Brownie in Girl Scouts, continued in college through her sorority and remains active today.
“Servant leadership has always been my modus operandi,” she says. “After college, I joined Junior League of Cedar Rapids, which led to boar memberships and other philanthropic causes like caring for children in foster care, which has become my main cause to support.”
She’s also a member of the Cedar Rapids City Council, an elected city-wide position. “Any time I’m not working in health care, I am looking for ways to serve my community and neighbors,” she says.
Dr. Reimer praises Ashley’s service on her local city council.
“Her dedication to serving her community is commendable and is a great example of the type of future health care leaders we have in our M.H.A. program,” Dr. Reimer says.
Adela had other reasons for pursuing her M.H.A. degree beyond her career goal – her experiences working as a certified nursing assistant for more than five years.
“I felt that the voices of nursing staff and other health care providers were under-represented in administration. Decisions were often made to change supplies, vendors, etc. without sufficient consideration of the effect that the change would have on the staff and patient care,” she says. “I want to be able to apply what I have learned to actual health care teams and help make patient care more efficient and effective.”
For their volunteerism, Adela and Ashley were among the 111 DMU students to receive 2019 Service Awards. These awards recognize students who complete 50 hours of service and complete a final reflection on their most meaningful experiences, resulting changes in their understanding of the community or themselves, and ways to make their experiences better. For Adela, helping people new to Iowa and to the United States has been most meaningful.
“This opportunity has been very rewarding. It is a wonderful feeling when the students pass their interviews and become proud citizens,” she says.
Incorporating the spirit of service in one’s routine can benefit everyone, Ashley adds.
“I think it’s important to note that we have an opportunity every day to help those in our daily environment,” she says. “We can change every day for the better simply by being kind – smiling and saying hello, asking our patients and customers if there’s anything else we can help them with, and understanding that we all collectively have a chance to exercise patience and empathetic compassion that will help our patients focus on healing.”