Todd DeFreece always knew he wanted to work in healthcare. Along the way, his career goals pivoted from clinical work to the business side, focusing on finance. Today, he’s the senior vice president of operations at Essentia Health in Brainerd, Minnesota, and he also teaches healthcare strategy in the Creighton Healthcare Executive Education (CHEE) programs.
Healthcare is a dynamic industry, and in DeFreece’s strategy class, students learn to step outside of daily operations and think strategically in order to set their organizations up for long-term success.
“I teach students how strategy is created and how it translates into the day-to-day operations,” says DeFreece.
Practical Healthcare Strategy Insights
DeFreece has taught this class since the program’s inception, and he draws on his work experience as a healthcare executive to help his students learn. For example, early in his career, he was tasked with leading his organization’s acquisition of a local hospital. Today, he uses key aspects of that experience in his class. “I try to offer that system-level view of strategy and how to operationalize it throughout the class. Leading a merger or acquisition starts with pure strategy which then has to be broken down into individual administrative and operational tasks, and providing an overview of that process introduces our learners to practical examples that are formative in preparing them to lead,” he says.
A Chance to Hear from Others
While DeFreece’s expertise is an important part of the class, his aren’t the only experiences that matter. “Our students learn from the faculty; but they also learn from each other,” remarks DeFreece. “These learners come from diverse backgrounds, and they’ve achieved a vast amount in their respective disciplines within healthcare. The richness of experiencing the curriculum through the lens of multiple learners, from unique roles and organization types within healthcare, is invaluable.”
Students in the Executive MBA in Healthcare Management and Executive Fellowship programs come from a variety of areas, including medicine, dentistry, physical therapy and more. Cohort members come from private and public healthcare systems, and their experiences add to the rich learning environment.
Diverse Perspectives are Crucial
Reflecting on some of his favorite parts of the program, DeFreece says the interactive discussion and case-based learning are key for adult learners in an executive graduate program. For example, he enjoys creating hypothetical scenarios in his class. “I challenge members of a cohort to come up with their own plan and response to the type of circumstance that can present within a healthcare organization. It’s very interesting for myself and the other students, because it requires them to think beyond their current scope and start thinking outside the box, at a departmental, organizational or system level.”
Another important aspect of his role as a faculty member? Mentoring students. Todd often works one-on-one with students, both during the program and after they graduate and continue on in their leadership journeys. It connects him to the Jesuit values of Creighton University: service, excellence, and equipping others to “go set the world on fire.”
Creighton Healthcare Executive Education (CHEE) programs include the Executive MBA in Healthcare Management and the condensed non-degree counterpart, the Executive Fellowship. Both are designed to help mid- to upper-level leaders elevate their expertise and advance in their careers.