The Charger Blog

MHA Candidates Reflect on Experiences Participating in Leading Healthcare Conference in Chicago

Recently, four candidates in the University’s Master of Healthcare Administration program attended the 2023 American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) National Congress in Chicago, serving as program assistants. They say it was a meaningful and exciting way to learn more about the field and to network with industry leaders.

April 13, 2023

By Lais Aguilar ’23 MHA, Mrunal Hathi ’24 MHA, Afrah Kazi ’23 MHA, and Ines Licata ’23 MHA

April Yoder, Ph.D., celebrating with fans on the baseball field.
Dr. Pavani Rangachari (center, in blue) with students at the conference.

Recently, several Chargers had the opportunity to attend the 2023 American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) National Congress on Healthcare Leadership in Chicago, Illinois.

The ACHE National Congress is a premier international event dedicated to advancing healthcare leadership excellence. This year, more than 5,000 industry leaders from around the globe gathered to participate in the Congress, with a focus on innovating positive change in a rapidly evolving industry.

Four students in the Master of Healthcare Administration program had the opportunity to attend this event as program assistants. In this capacity, they had the opportunity to gain administrative experience in program implementation, while benefitting from access to hundreds of solutions-focused educational sessions providing candid perspectives from leaders on the most critical issues facing healthcare today. Concurrently, the students also had the opportunity to network with thousands of the best and brightest leaders.

Below, the students – and their professor – share their experiences and reflections.

Lais Aguilar ’23 MHA

In my final semester as a graduate student in the Master of Healthcare Administration program at the University of New Haven, I had the great privilege of attending the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) 2023 Congress in Chicago. I applied to participate as a program assistant, which was a very affordable way for me to attend the ACHE congress. As program assistants, students volunteer 5-6 hours of their time, and, in return, ACHE covers the fee for attendance. When you are not volunteering your set hours, you are encouraged to attend talks, professional networking events, and other activities.

Lais Aguilar ’23 MHA in Chicago.
Lais Aguilar ’23 MHA in Chicago.

I attended many great educational speaking sessions, but my favorite was listening to the leadership team from BJC Healthcare in St. Louis, Missouri, talk about the importance of safety preparedness. Their organization had recently suffered an active shooter tragedy, and they shared with us their story of strength, courage, and resilience. It was an eye-opening session for me to learn what it means to be a leader and how to create a safe environment for staff to do their jobs and for patients to heal.

Another event that I really enjoyed was the fellowship fair. At this fair, I spoke with several fellows and representatives of different healthcare systems around the United States. It was a great way to learn about the application process and what each one offered. It was also a great way to make new connections.

I highly encourage my University of New Haven colleagues to attend the 2024 ACHE Congress, as it was truly a great networking and professional development opportunity that will enrich their graduate student experience. If you are still not convinced, I will give you two additional reasons to visit the Windy City next March: the food and the sightseeing!

Mrunal Hathi ’24 MHA

My favorite activity is meeting new people. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in the 2023 ACHE National Congress as a program assistant. Opportunities like this help me develop better as a young professional, provide me insight into how to integrate successfully into the U.S. healthcare system, and enable me to stay current with emerging trends and advancements.

Mrunal Hathi ’24 MHA.
Mrunal Hathi ’24 MHA.

There were many educational sessions offered by ACHE, but two caught my attention: Amer Kaissi's "Leading in Tough Times," which stressed the importance of being self-aware, appreciative, and open-minded to be a great leader. Paul Vitale also contributed one, in which he discussed the prospects available to us as early-career professionals. You have the chance to participate in a one-on-one mentorship session during the conference for a set amount of time, followed with professional photos for LinkedIn.

The conference typically takes place all day, and you can choose which sessions to attend. Following the sessions, you can go to professional dinners, parties, and other events. I always try to attend with a different group each day, since it helps me learn how the curricula at other schools vary and what measures they take to promote professional development in general. I strive to adhere to them and use those methods in my study. Attending enjoyable events like this gives you the chance to interact with many budding healthcare professionals like us and helps understand different strategies they follow!

Overall, it was a terrific chance to network, and I highly recommend participating in such knowledge sharing and networking conferences. As the saying goes, "It's not about how many people you know, it's about how many people know you."

Afrah Kazi ’23 MHA
Lais Aguilar ’23 MHA, Mrunal Hathi ’24 MHA, Afrah Kazi ’23 MHA, and Ines Licata ’23 MHA at the conference.
Lais Aguilar ’23 MHA, Mrunal Hathi ’24 MHA, Afrah Kazi ’23 MHA, and Ines Licata ’23 MHA at the conference.

I had the privilege to attend the Congress hosted by the American College of Healthcare Executives in Chicago, IL, this year. It was undoubtedly a remarkable experience. It was an enriching platform to hear from industry leaders and academic experts, and, most importantly, connect with future healthcare leaders.

The sessions were very diverse and multi-focused. One very interesting session I attended explored how the healthcare industry would be looking at including drones for the delivery of healthcare. This would help enhance the quality of care-delivery. I believe technology can do wonders, and anything that helps with patient satisfaction is a boon. As future leaders, we must keep learning about these advancements.

I also had the opportunity to work as a program assistant for the Congress. It helped me connect and understand perspectives of the U.S. Healthcare system from individuals from all around the country. It was an experience worthy of an encore!

Ines Licata ’23 MHA
Ines Licata ’23 MHA at the conference.
Ines Licata ’23 MHA at the conference.

For the first time, I had the opportunity to be part of the largest Healthcare Congress in the U.S. commissioned by the American College of Healthcare Executives. I am so grateful I had the chance to serve as a program assistant at this event. It was a unique experience because I was able to help at the event by scanning QR codes at the entrance of each session and helping attendees who were mainly executives, such as the CFO or CEO of large healthcare organizations.

I was able to get out of my comfort zone by being present, helpful, and using my professional skills. Also, in addition to serving as a program assistant, I had the opportunity to attend multiple sessions and networking events over the five days of the Congress. During these sessions, I learned a lot about specific subjects such as leadership, how to enter the “job world” as an early career professional or a graduate student. I also attended a wonderful event focused on “Healing the Healers: Our Journey to support workforce Mental Health and Well-being Following an Active Killer and Incident,” and many more programs.

One session that had a huge impact on me was the session about how to support the mental health and well-being of the workforce. This session was very useful because I had the chance to learn from healthcare executives about the implications of increased workplace violence and active shooters and their effect on workplace stress and trauma, and how to respond to that. Hearing real stories in the work environment was very helpful. In addition, I had the occasion of meeting a lot of new people from all over the U.S. and connect with them by sharing our points of view, experiences, and professional development. This is an experience I will always cherish! I’m grateful for this opportunity.

Dr. Pavani Rangachari, Professor & MHA Program Director

It was a pleasure attending the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) Annual National Congress on Healthcare Leadership in Chicago, and benefiting from the amazing continuing education, networking, and professional development opportunities the Congress has to offer!

This was my first-time attending the ACHE Congress. I was under the assumption that this event was entirely focused on healthcare industry practice with little relevance to academe, including healthcare management research. For over 15 years in academia, my primary affiliation has been with the Academy of Management (AOM) Health Care Management Division (HCMD). I have presented my first-authored scholarly papers at AOM-HCMD over at least 12 of these years.

I was pleasantly surprised to note that the ACHE Congress could be an equally effective outlet for health services research endeavors that carry direct implications for healthcare management practice. On a related note, an underlying theme of the educational sessions at ACHE this year was “evidence-based decision-making to make healthcare more equitable, efficient, and patient-centered.” I intend to leverage this outlet for scholarly dissemination in future years.

From an MHA teaching and program leadership perspective, the benefits of attending this conference were immense! One session I attended that was directly relevant to strengthening our MHA program was the Association of University Programs in Health Administration’s Academic Program & Practitioner Workshop, which included an interactive panel discussion on ways to incorporate content related to data analytics and experiential learning into the MHA curriculum.

I have already shared several insights gained from this panel discussion with our newly established MHA Development Workgroup, an eight-member workgroup (composed of MHA faculty, staff, students, and alumni) that began meeting in February 2023 to discuss opportunities for strategic development and continuous improvement of our MHA program at the University.

It was also a pleasure networking with representatives of the CT Chapter of ACHE at the event, including Stephen H. Liebowitz, MHA, Michael Novak, Robert Weiss, MHA, Kimberly Lumia, FACHE, Leslie Zucker, FACHE MBA MT.

Finally, yet importantly, it was wonderful attending this event with four MHA candidates who were selected to serve as program assistants at the Congress this year: Lais Aguilar, Dr. Mrunal Hathi, Afrah Kazi, and Ines Martina Licata. Congratulations!