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How My B-School Experience Is Helping Me Run a Hospital During Covid-19

ESMT Berlin alumnus kate gaynor

The healthcare sector is a fascinating industry to be a part of, but few could have prepared for the chaos the Covid-19 pandemic would bring – with hospitals taking the brunt of it on the frontline.

Dr Kate Gaynor ESMT Berlin alumnaDr. Kate Gaynor, ESMT Berlin Executive Transition Program alumna (Class of 2019), is the managing director of the United Family Healthcare hospital in Guangzhou, China.

TopMBA spoke with Kate to find out what it’s really like to run a hospital in the middle of a global pandemic.

Initial contact with the disease

As a novel virus, healthcare professionals across the globe were thrown in deep water in how to handle the disease.

Kate said they became aware of the gravity of the situation in the first week of January: “At first, given my background in public health and epidemiology, I was fascinated to watch the emergence of a new infectious disease, but as more concerning reports came out about the sad situation in Wuhan, we all became more worried about the potential impact on us in Guangzhou.

“We held a drill on January 10 to practice how we would handle a patient with cough and fever coming from Wuhan.”

Hospitals in China were the first to come into contact with the deadly disease, and Kate said the Lunar New Year holiday – an important holiday where millions travel to be with family – at the end of January really saw the outbreak take off.

She said: “The government extended the official holiday, but most of our staff that had been away still came back to work.

“While many people were staying home and businesses were closed, we were working every day. Our purchasing team was working all night to secure personal protective equipment. Everyone was an essential part of the response, including our housekeepers who need to follow strict infectious disease control protocols to help keep us all safe. Everyone has been extra supportive and appreciative of their colleagues.”

For now, Kate says community transmission is under control in China, with the focus shifted to preventing imported cases.

She said: “Things are gradually becoming more normal and we have been able to resume many routine services. Still, we remain vigilant and maintain enhanced screening procedures. A second wave of infections could spread if protections are relaxed too soon.

“Throughout the crisis we have continued to move forward with our plans for a new hospital in the nearby city of Shenzhen, which we still intend to open in 2021.”

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The day-to-day at the hospital

Kate enjoys her role at the United Family Healthcare hospital whereby she contributed to its development and design and worked through the challenge of leading it through a rapid growth phase.

She said: “I thrive on the diversity of the GM role. It keeps your brain nimble when you have to pivot from working on a budget spreadsheet in Excel to dealing with a sensitive staff management issue with HR to discussing the design of an upcoming marketing campaign.

“And at any point during the day you might be interrupted by the news that the MRI machine has just gone down or that a government delegation has arrived for an unannounced facility inspection.

“I am also a licensed physician and still see patients one afternoon a week. This helps keep up my skills in clinical medicine, but also provides perspective on how our providers and patients experience the hospital.”

Is the ETP worthwhile?

ETP came to Kate’s attention when she was about to step up from managing the clinic operations into the role of hospital GM for the new facility. She said: “The description of the target student was pretty much me. The timing seemed almost uncanny. I can honestly say that I feel more capable and confident as a GM after ETP.”

Kate appreciates why busy executives may contemplate whether it’s worth taking three one-week periods away from their job for training – but she says ETP packs in the value, and spending time at ESMT Berlin is an added bonus.

She said: “The structure of the modules was quite logical and effective for me. Remember that the goal is to get you ready for a higher level of management.”

Kate summarizes the course as such:

  • The first module is basically a review of core managerial competencies
  • The second module gets more intellectual, focusing on strategy and decision-making – how to think like a GM
  • The last module focuses on leadership and personal development – how to act like a GM

Although the professors and material are excellent according to Kate, she said stands it’s the students themselves that really stand out and are a tremendous resource.

She said: “Classmates come from all around the world and bring great depth and breadth of professional experience to the table, so we got to discuss many real-world problems and examples from a variety of industries.

“ETP cultivates a supportive and open learning environment where participants can give each other honest feedback. I still run things by some of my classmates when I have an issue, and many of us are looking forward to reuniting at ETP’s yearly salon.”

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Niamh Ollerton, Deputy Head of Content at QS
Written by Niamh Ollerton

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (TopMBA.com; topuniversities.com), creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  

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