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1.21.2011

Office of Planning and Analysis Launches Apprentice Program

The Office of Planning and Analysis is looking for a few more good men and women within the UHealth system and the Miller School to join its new “Apprentice Program,” which begins this month.

Unlike the popular television reality show, apprentice hopefuls are not at risk of being fired. Rather, the junior or middle managers selected will get an opportunity to devote 10 percent of their regular employee hours over a six-month span (about 100 hours) to learning one of three tracks: business planning, faculty recruitment or market analytics.

Under the leadership of Elaine Van der Put, Ph.D., assistant vice president for the Office of Planning and Analysis (OPA), the apprentices will spend about half their commitment under the tutelage of OPA mentors. During the other half, apprentices are expected to draw on their new skills to tackle some of the 40 UHealth projects that Van der Put and her two-person consulting team are working on with various departments. To participate, applicants must have the approval of their supervisor, and list their interests and their competencies.

The Apprentice Program is the brainchild of Van der Put, who wanted to develop a growth path for administrative employees interested in gaining broader project management, analytical and planning skills, then using them to help propel UHealth’s strategic growth. Those are among the reasons William Donelan, vice president for medical administration and chief operating and strategy officer, approved the program.

“I did my Ph.D. work here and trained as a researcher on a clearly defined path,” said Van der Put, who earned her doctorate in immunology after a successful corporate career, which included marketing and strategic planning jobs at companies such as Coca-Cola and IBM. “Our medical doctors also follow a set career path. But there isn’t anything similar for our talented, motivated administrative people. Given the nature of what we do here, I wanted to create an on-the-job training program that would allow junior and mid-level managers to develop or expand on skills which are crucial in the business of health care and research.”

The first three apprentices, Melissa Gerdes, Andrew Vinard and Irene Hung, have already been selected and two more slots are still available for this first round of rotations. Applications are being accepted now.

Gerdes is the human resources and faculty affairs manager in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Vinard is manager of facilities and shared resources for Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. They will be mentored by OPA staffers Sheela Dominguez, C.R.A., assistant director of medical business development, and Robert Chavez, M.B.A., director of medical business development. Hung is the operations manager in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health and will be mentored by Van der Put.

According to Van der Put, apprentices and their home departments or institutes stand to benefit immediately when the employees return with improved awareness of UHealth management strategy and goals, and training in the planning and analytical methodologies that UHealth leadership hopes will become standard across the medical school. Knowledge of such methodologies is proving crucial as more interdisciplinary projects get underway and employees involved in planning and analyzing them must consider the benefits not only to their individual divisions, but to all of UHealth. Projects could range from starting a Crohn’s and Colitis Center to preparing business plans for recruitment packages for new chairs and top scientists.

“Most departments, of course, have their own planners and financial people, but we’re moving towards all of us speaking the same language and looking at the big picture,” said Van der Put. “When we’re all using consistent methodologies, and Dean Goldschmidt or Mr. Donelan has to make an important decision, the information we provide will allow them to compare apples to apples.”

“We need to be in the talent development and performance delivery business to meet the institutional opportunities at hand successfully,” Donelan said. “I’m grateful for Elaine’s leadership in fashioning this initiative, which is right in line with growing our talent.”

Vinard, who has a bachelor’s degree in environmental planning from UM, is looking forward to the business planning track he expects will help him more effectively plan for and meet the resource needs of Sylvester researchers, who generally hold appointments in various Miller School departments.

“The OPA has experts who do high-level analysis and have a great grasp of where we are now and how we move forward as one unit,” Vinard said. “My intent is to learn some of those skills to help me work more efficiently and plan more astutely for the benefit of Sylvester, and the medical school as a whole.”

While only a limited number of apprentices can be part of each program cycle, Van der Put is considering forming an “apprentice community” if there is high demand. This community would meet on occasion, engage in talks with experts, and become an audience for “graduating” apprentices to make presentations. Future apprentices would also be chosen from the community.

For more information or to request an application for the Apprentice Program, please contact program coordinator Ana Claudia Mazzini e Drigo at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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