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HIT Bridge Builders: Walnut Hill Medical Center

As a part of our HIT Bridge Builders series, Aaron Miri, Chief Information Officer, and Dr. Rich Guerra offer their advice for healthcare students on the verge of entering the field. 

(Editor’s note: To hear audio excerpts of this interview, click on the media player buttons that run throughout this article.)

Free: It’s the time of year when many students are returning to their academic pursuits. If you had the opportunity to speak to students seeking a career in healthcare, what would you tell them?

aaron miri walnut hill
Aaron Miri, Chief Information Officer, Walnut Hill Medical Center

Miri: The biggest criteria that I look for when I select people to come join us at Walnut Hill is a conviction that we can do everything that we can do, and we can do even more. To join us, you have to believe in our mission. You have to believe in the patient. You have to believe in what we’re accomplishing in terms of patient engagement that is, quite frankly, very different from almost any other hospital that I have ever seen. So, if I am looking at a class of graduated students, I would offer the following advice:

 Volunteer for everything that you can in your community. Be part of a Rotary club. Go join a local church group. Go out there and understand what makes people, people. Be creative. Be dynamic. Be something for the community. Do something beyond just, “I get up. I go to work. I do X,Y, Z. I come home, I go to sleep.” Go be part of something. Go believe in something.

Outside of your work in school, I would say that students should go volunteer for everything that they can. I do not know if that is told often enough to college students. They need to spread their wings. They need to learn as much as they can from as many different experiences as they possibly can before they start their professional careers.

Free: Many students feel apprehensive about their futures, and they are uncertain as how to proceed after graduation.  Dr. Guerra, how would you advise students who might be unsure about how best to transition from academics to the professional world?

Dr. Rich Guerra, Walnut Hill Medical Center

Guerra: When you’re trying to find your passion, no matter what field you choose to pursue, you have to have a passion for learning. You have to be creative in how you approach the things that you think matter the most to you. Sometimes during this process you find out that what you thought was your passion wasn’t really a passion of yours at all. But when you do investigate an area of your life from as many different angles as possible and you find that that area is something that motivates you to become a better person, that motivates you to help others, then you are on the right path to enter into the field.

One of my favorite aspects of my own career has been that it has always allowed me the opportunity to learn. I love to learn. I love to learn from different experiences. I love to learn from different people in completely different fields. I always seek to learn something from them that I can take back to our organization.

For example, when I speak to Jack Bogle, he always talks about how character is important. When he created Vanguard, a mutual fund company, their vision was all about stewardship. It was not about making money. It was about the stewardship of the money of their investors, taking good care of them and how important it was to find the right people with that kind of mindset.

In healthcare, it’s important to always be looking for other perspectives. By doing so, you get to see the universal truths of business. For example, Walnut Hill administrators have spoken with leaders in the food services industry – very big, multinational companies – and they helped us to understand the importance of culture. Just like any other successful organization today, they are mindful of the importance of people. Graduating students heading into their professional careers with a mindset not centered on people will have a very tough road ahead of them.

If I were to tell people what to do, I would say, “Go out. Increase the range of your experiences. Find a way to connect the dots in ways that no one else has thought of. Find something that is totally outside of your field that is where you are going to really find an idea that you may be able to bring back and do something very different. If you’re stuck in one mindset, one viewpoint, one path you are never really going to be truly creative. We see time and again, is when people draw from outside that path and connect the dots, that creates something new and special.”

They should also seek out people who are smarter than they are. Ask them about what their thoughts are on issues that matter the most to your work. Ask them what are they doing within their own field, no matter how foreign it may seem. By doing so, you might bring a new perspective to your organization that you might have never thought of otherwise.

Finally, you need to know how to create a true collaboration with others. Everyone here at Walnut Hill believes that collaboration is critical in healthcare. You need to learn how to network. You need to learn how to communicate. These are core life skills that are necessary to do things that are out of the ordinary.

Miri: I would add one more small thing.

My very first job was when I was 14 years old living in Mississippi. I was a bagger at a local grocery store. I had a very demanding boss. If I was one minute late, I was docked one minute’s pay. It was very arduous. I promised myself, at age 14, I will never be mean. I will always be fair. I will always be compassionate. I don’t care what happens. I don’t care if I am stabbed in the back or walked over, I will always be nice. I would tell this to the group of students who wish to enter into the healthcare industry that they too must remember to always be nice.

Don’t ever compromise who you are. Be nice. Be human because everybody else around you is human too, and you don’t have to be a jerk to get ahead in life. You have to be human. And that’s really, at the end of the day, what matters. So, I think that is an important lesson that I don’t hear often enough.