An agent of change is tasked with bringing people to the realization that change is necessary for success.
—Kathy McGuire, Senior Vice President
Kathy is the Senior Vice President, Behavioral Health, Home Care and Managed Long-Term Care at the Rochester Regional Health System. She is both a founding member and the former chairperson of the National PACE Association, a membership organization of over 100 Programs of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly Association (PACE). She has received the Molloy College Veritas Medal and several Rochester Business Journal Healthcare achievement awards. Kathy is also a mother of two who supercharged her healthcare career with a Master’s Degree in Health Systems Administration at RIT.
Kathy is the Senior Vice President, Behavioral Health, Home Care and Managed Long-Term Care at the Rochester Regional Health System.
Kathy’s passion for taking care of people–particularly the elderly—began at a young age. She learned to manage and motivate her peers while working with student government in high school. This passion to work with and help people led her to study nursing as a bachelor degree, which gave her a broad education and a solid foundation before entering healthcare management. Her innate desire to lead in the healthcare industry was also encouraged by her mentors at Rochester General, and she received a Master’s in Health Systems Administration at RIT. As both a full-time mother of two and a rapidly rising healthcare executive, Kathy chose to be part of the inaugural RIT Online Health Systems Administration class of 1995. Kathy learned about every facet of healthcare integration in the evenings, and she applied her newfound skills during the day. While attending RIT, Kathy was also running the innovative Rochester General’s innovative PACE program, now called ElderONE, and was implementing skills in managed care and integration while learning about managed care at night. Upon graduation, Kathy was asked to coordinate and lead some of the health system integration efforts after two Rochester hospitals merged.
MS, Health Systems Administration (1997)
- What led you to choose RIT?
I was originally attracted to RIT for its reputation as a leading technical institute. The newly available online Master’s in health system administration looked intriguing, and the applied learning environment provided a unique angle to its curriculum. The fact that I could get a degree that was so relevant to my work, in less than 2 years while working full time and raising two young daughters, was too exciting to pass up.
- Tell us about your experience at RIT
At the time, distance learning was principally a dial-up Internet connection combined with books, journals, and video/audio tapes sent to my door. At RIT, we had content to read and assimilate after each class. Questions were posted online Sunday evening and students were expected to contribute answers as part of their grade. As soon as the first person in the class responded, everybody would add to the answer. It made for a very collaborative and interactive environment. Team projects were also assigned and students were expected to connect from wherever they were located geographically over the phone and via email. Today, these same RIT classes assign projects with real companies and solve real problems as part of the team experience. This applied learning infrastructure grounds students with real-world problem solving, data analyzing and interpreting.
- How did RIT prepare you for your professional career?
I was fortunate to learn skills during class that could be applied the very next day. I quickly mastered how to create and manage projects and people successfully in today’s environment. I was prepared when asked to lead a merger transition team just one month after graduation. This event actually helped propel my career because I got the opportunity to coordinate all of the activities of consultants, working to integrate the team members and cultures, and measuring our integration efforts and outcomes, while reporting directly to the COO. I used my newly acquired knowledge and continued to learn new skills by jumping in to this important project which needed to find synergies, savings and common ground for building our organizational future.
- What keeps your inner flame burning?
From the start, I have been motivated to really help people and I feel lucky to work in a profession where I can make life better for individuals. Now, at this stage of my career, I enjoy encouraging aspiring executives to become better leaders by mentoring them with the best practices I learned during my years at RIT. Some people have natural leadership skills and just need a nudge in the right direction to shine, while others may have less natural abilities but are good at implementing processes and evidence-based management behaviors. I believe that everybody can learn to be a good leader and contribute excellence in his or her own way.
- What does it mean to you to be an agent of change?
Change is hard for humans …communicating effectively to help individuals and teams understand the need for change, their motivations for change and the impact that change will have are the keys to managing change. Five key questions to ask are: (1) What’s in it for individuals and organizations? (2) How do we communicate the need for, or the benefits of change? (3) What are the barriers? (4) How do we bring disparate groups together by finding the common solution? And, (5) How do we learn from each other? An agent of change is tasked with bringing people to the realization that change is necessary for success. The pressure to change, innovate and grow is the one constant—and we must become strategic thinkers who embrace change.
- What are some of the key qualities of a leader?
Leaders know that there is no way around change. They read constantly, identify trends, become proficient in the conversation, and assign initiatives. They know that they need to either keep up or lead the industry. I recommend that you read, join webinars, and attend as many conferences as possible. Invest in the betterment of your leadership skills and connect to other best practices. Consider learning new technology as your night job. Discover how to use this newfound knowledge and put it into action right away. This focus goes along with thinking ahead of the status quo and adapting to new forces. We used to put our strategic plan in a drawer and look at them once a year or every few years.. Now plans need to be kept front and center and and referred to regularly to assure that the fast pace around us hasn’t changed key elements that will require a plan refresh.
- What advice do you have for working mothers or aspiring health systems professionals?
It used to be hard to justify putting your life on hold to get your Masters. But those barriers have vanished. Busy people can pursue their degree while maintaining full-time employment–anywhere in the world from the comfort of your own home. And, in this dynamic program, you will learn how to lead change with sound principles and build confidence to navigate policy, people and projects.