Student Spotlight, Jeffrey L. Brown, Ed.D. Program
Jeffrey L. Brown is an Ed.D. candidate in the Transformative Leadership program at UNE Online. The Ed.D. program is focused on transformative leadership and prepares leaders to transform themselves, their organization, and their community through focused, flexible study.
In this post, Jeffrey talks to us about his experience at UNE, and how he feels that UNE has helped him learn new skills to be even more successful in his role as a Chief Information Officer.
Can you tell me a little about your background, and what motivated you to pursue your Ed.D.?
When I entered the healthcare space 20 years ago, healthcare was just beginning to undergo a real digital revolution. Through that digital revolution wave, I climbed up the leadership ladder fairly quickly and at a relatively young age. I’m currently the Chief Information Officer for Martin’s Point Healthcare, and this is my third executive officer role.
There came a point where I felt that I had reached a growth plateau, so I evaluated my options. I wanted to get past that and continue to grow, so I did some research to determine what would be the best avenue for me to take.
After more than a year of research, I found UNE’s online doctorate program and it intrigued me. I loved the idea of a doctorate supplementing my professional life with an amalgamation of leadership skill acquisition, applied science, and applied research.
What aspect of the program have you found to be especially important to your professional development?
The program is structured such that there is a strong emphasis on integrating current work experience, leadership experience, past work experience, and your coursework, and weaving all of those elements through every class and discussion post.
It’s great because everyone brings their own real-life experiences to the program. I’m finding the process remarkable because we’ve all been through these same problems – but through the program and within each class, we are able to build on each other and accelerate the learning process.
It goes beyond being educated on leadership skills. From a research, real life, and applied science perspective, the impact is profound. Our cohort is comprised of leaders at varying levels within various organizations throughout the country – and of course, everyone considers specific leadership issues through their own lens. By taking advantage of the collective network effect of a cohort of leaders, and how we are all collectively dealing with the same leadership issues or growth issues, that perspective is powerful.
Have you been able to apply concepts from your coursework to your professional life?
Absolutely. I’ve actually gotten comments from my own executive peers on what a profound effect the program appears to be having on me as a leader. I used to consider challenges from just the CIO and/or IT point of view, but that has shifted. The way I look at problems, the way I analyze problems, the way I think about problems, the way I think about solutions, and the way I think about things at an enterprise level as opposed to just from an IT perspective – that has all changed.
This Ed.D. program has delivered exactly what I thought I would get out of the program, which is remarkable.
It’s been such a great experience. The professors are amazing, and it’s not an easy program. There’s a significant commitment that you have to make, along with personal sacrifice, but worth it. The way each class builds on the next within the program, it literally all comes back to myself as a leader in my organization. I’ve experienced rapid-cycle development, seemingly on a weekly basis.
Because of this program, I feel that I’ve accelerated my leadership thinking, comfort, and capability by leaps and bounds over the last two years. I can’t say enough about it. It’s been a remarkable experience.
How have you been able to incorporate health informatics into your Ed.D. process?
In my line of work, one major issue that keeps resurfacing is physician burnout. In fact, many people consider physician burnout to be an epidemic. A lot of the work I’ve been doing through this program has been researching, analyzing, gaining a better understanding of the components of physician burnout, and how I as an IT leader can do to help solve that problem.
In my role as a Chief Information Officer, what I find interesting is that one of the biggest variables that comes up for physician burnout is the huge administrative burden that the electronic medical record (EMR) has put on physicians. A lot of physicians feel that they’ve become administrators to this electronic medical record. If you think about it, EMRs have changed the relationship between the patient and the doctor, and I think in a lot of ways they have changed the way they practice medicine.
I’ve was able to take the knowledge generated by my research back to our team, and we set up things like an EMR optimization committee that has the goal of reducing the administrative burden that our physicians have with our current EMR system. This change is literally a direct result of my Ed.D. program, the research, and what I’ve learned.
I’m able to go back to my organization and really make an impact on the health and the well being of this entire provider community, so they can get back to doing what they were trained to do – taking care of patients.
What do you do as a Chief Information Officer?
As the Chief Information Officer at Martin’s Point Healthcare I’m in charge of all of the IT and technology for the organization. I also oversee certain segments of the business including clinical informatics, data and analytics, enterprise applications, development, and project management office for IT.
Additionally, I oversee the strategic project management office on behalf of the CEO and executive team. Much of what we want to do strategically requires a digital component to it, so it’s becoming more common for CIOs to have more of a strategic seat at the table. I’m fortunate in that I have a much more strategic role than many other CIOs are allowed to have, which is a testament to our CEO. It also tells you is how so much of a modern organization’s strategy now is tied to digital technologies.
IT used to be viewed as the people who were just kind of in the basement, working on the infrastructure, the phones, the computers, and the data centers. These days though, we’ve risen up and we are considered to be a strategic partner at the executive table. But again, that is very dependent on the organization, and the progressiveness of the CEO.
Our CEO at Martin’s Point, Dr. Howes, is very supportive of me being a part of this online Ed.D. He is also very supportive of me as a leader, and he continues to put me in positions where I can think strategically as a leader.
Has the leadership focus of this Ed.D. program allowed you to expand your role as CIO?
It has, yes. I think it’s unique for a Chief Information Officer, whose role is typically so technology-focused, to be allowed and empowered to step back and think of higher-order enterprise-level issues. At the enterprise level, it’s not just about technology. It’s about the way we engage providers, the practice of medicine, how the relationships are changing. I think if it weren’t for this Ed.D. program, I wouldn’t be able to bring that level of thinking and leadership directly back to the organization.
Another thing I love is that all of the classes have a strong foundation of ethics woven through them, and I think the professors in the program do a great job do a really great job producing upright, ethical leaders.
You mentioned you researched doctorate for more than a year – how did you decide on UNE in particular?
First, I knew that I wanted a program that was going to allow me to learn practical applications to my real work experience and integrate that into the program. UNE Online checks that box.
Second, I’m passionate about teaching. I’ve spent 10+ years as an adjunct professor at various universities, including Northeastern, Brandeis University, Washington University in Seattle. Teaching is something I’m passionate about, and I wanted to continue with it.
And then third, I really wanted an online program. Part of my master’s program was online, and as an adjunct professor, I had taught on an online platform so I saw the power of it.
What has been a stand out feature of the Ed.D. program for you?
Honestly? For me, it comes down to the great educators and a quality cohort of classmates. Someone unfamiliar with the online format might wonder how it’s possible to get such a rich experience with an online program. I’ve taken online courses in other programs before, but I have found this experience to be far more enriching, directly because of the teachers and the cohort of students that I’ve been placed in.
Our class discussion posts are personal and empowering. Some are literally tear-jerkers. You don’t necessarily get that level of intimacy with the professor or your fellow classmates in a classroom environment. At least I haven’t experienced that. This program at UNE has been very powerful and very real. My classmate peers are really amazing. They’re people who have amazing careers, amazing backgrounds, and who not only are really intelligent, but they’re also not afraid to expose their challenges.
If you think about it, the power of that engagement model, and feeling a part of a community with the professor, the school, the cohort of student peers, without that, I really personally I question where I would get the stamina and the engagement to do a three-year Ed.D. program.
I’m almost done with my two years of core courses, and I don’t feel burned out or exhausted. I never would have expected that I would be at this point, not feeling burned out – and that’s critical. As I enter into my third year, “dissertation year,” I feel like I’ve been given the tools and the foundation to make my dissertation process much more fulfilling.
Do you feel that UNE has helped you learn new skills to be even more successful at your role as CIO?
Absolutely. Starting right at the beginning of the program, we examined a lot of really great concepts around the differentiation between going from a tactical to a transformational leader. The curriculum is designed in such a way that you’re not just exposed to different leadership concepts through academic and cohort and industry, but you’re also encouraged to closely examine your own view on leadership in general.
The Ed.D. coursework also gives you the tools, the framework, and even the nomenclature, to formulate your own playbooks that are backed by a combination of leadership methodologies, research, and use cases. Where before I think my decisions relied more heavily on intuitive and qualitative information, now they’re backed by research and science. I’ve found that this program has been built on a foundation of what it really means to be a moral, ethical, consistent leader.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself discussing some of the various concepts that I’ve learned in school with my team – especially socio-political decision-making frameworks and ethical/moral frameworks. It’s so helpful to make decisions based on use cases and research. All of a sudden, your classwork becomes an applied framework.
Are you interested in evolving the way you look at workplace problems and solutions? Learn more about our online Doctorate of Education in Transformative Leadership: