On a late-spring evening at Des Moines’ Jasper Winery, people sipped wine and noshed on appetizers while discussing their careers, organizations and steps to their success. It was the quarterly meeting of DMU Health Leaders and the type of event the group’s new president and chief executive officer had envisioned.
“I was really interested in the networking opportunities the group could offer,” says Pam Elbert, a student in DMU’s master of health care administration (MHA) program and a project manager and supervisor for the business solutions company SourceHOV in Urbandale, IA. “So much of our program is online, which can be a benefit, but I missed that face-to-face interaction.”
DMU Health Leaders was established years ago as an honorary society for MHA students. Last year, they gave it a makeover to take advantage of today’s social media options and increase networking and collaboration with other campus organizations, alumni and other local health care professionals. They elected a leadership team, revamped its bylaws and brainstormed on ideas for activities.
Now DMU Health Leaders offers monthly informal gatherings and networking events with individuals working in health organizations, from hospitals to retirement communities. While geared toward students in the MHA and master of public health program, the group is an inclusive one.
“We’re trying to reach out to a lot of different people,” says MHA student Samantha Brower, Health Leaders vice president and chief operating officer and a physician human resources specialist with Des Moines’ Mercy Medical Center. “It helps us a lot to learn how various professionals got to where they are and what they do in their roles. Sometimes we students don’t know all of our options.”
Health Leaders offers advantages to DMU alumni as well as students, says its chief financial officer and MHA student Bill Koller. They include an opportunity to “give back” by sharing their expertise and experiences with students and a way to “stay involved with minimal personal and financial commitment.”
Koller adds, “As alumni, you can stay directly connected to your DMU program as a mentor or financier” for the group. Another benefit: “access to a qualified and eager pool of potential intern, capstone and field-based learning candidates.”
Elbert says the benefits go beyond purely professional.
“After our events, I always find myself more fired up,” she says. “Our guests always give us good information and encouragement. I find that so motivating.”