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Insights: A Mayo Clinic professor’s blueprint for professional success

Insight Article - September 9, 2019

Professional Development

Leadership Development

Culture & Engagement

Andy Stonehouse MA
Rochester, Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic is arguably the gold standard when it comes to medical care in the United States. Not surprisingly, the institution spends a considerable amount of time helping its employees and administrators develop their craft – many of which are applicable to any healthcare professional looking to further their career. 

Ronald Menaker, EdD, MBA, CPA, FACMPE, is an Assistant Professor in Healthcare Administration in the Mayo Clinic’s College of Medicine. He recently spoke to MGMA Sr. Editor Daniel Williams on the MGMA Insights podcast about strategies for achieving personal success and management excellence, using a variety of models implemented at the world-famous medical center.

Specialty group expertise

Menaker has worked with the Mayo Clinic since 2004. Prior to his current role as radiology administrator, Menaker worked with the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin, where – like Mayo – administrators are rotated through dozens of different specialty groups in order to experience their unique working styles and operational challenges.

“I remember starting off in internal medicine, geriatrics, oncology, and then I rotated into cardiology and then pediatrics and geriatrics. I did those two at the same time … on both ends of the life spectrum,” he said. “In my 11 years there, I was involved in 18 different clinical areas. As a result, it gives me a wonderful opportunity to see how different practices operate. They all have their different cultures and nuances … and different types of allied health staff that support the practice.”

Action learning

Menaker said the job-swapping strategy is the ultimate embodiment of action learning, a field he studied further during his doctorate in organization development. He says the ability to learn on the job afforded him a wider range of skills, as well as the understanding there’s no place for ego in such a quick-changing and demanding environment.

“I’m blessed with those experiences, (and) what I learned in one specialty, I apply to the next – and that might be applicable to the next specialty as well,” Menaker said. “It’s been absolutely instrumental for a variety of reasons. One is, frankly, humility. When you become an administrator at a brand new practice and you don’t know anything about it, you are instantly dumb – and that forces you to ask a lot of questions. And when you ask questions, you learn.”

Menaker encourages healthcare professionals to consider the active learning model the Mayo Clinic broadly advocates – 70% of learning comes from experiences, 20% from coaches and mentors, and just 10% from going to classes. 

“There’s only two ways of learning – it’s what you read and who you talk to and interact with,” he said. “If someone wants to really learn and develop their acumen as a leader, I think rotations are an excellent way.” 

Never stop exploring 

Menaker said that his career actually began outside of healthcare, in equipment manufacturing, but that a keen interest in learning and making personal connections has helped him enjoy a varied and rewarding career that’s absolutely never the same – a lesson he says other administrators can adopt. 

“When I advise people, I’m constantly (suggesting to) them to explore other options, to be more effective,” he said. “Another reason is to explore their passion. I did not have a passion for water meter manufacturing. But I developed one, and every career move I have made, it has moved me more and more in the direction of what I am passionate about. Find your passion, and you will find your capability.”

For those interested in actively advancing their careers, Menaker said education is still key, and the electronic era makes it easy to keep up with various aspects of healthcare. He recommended to keep your smartphone ringing. 

A big piece of advice, he said, “would be to read about the industry, find out what’s going on. Every day, I probably get 20 emails from various industry sources that allow me to understand and monitor what’s going on in the government, what’s going on in business and industry, and in medical group practice. So, when we do strategic planning, it’s an environmental assessment.”

The networking edge

Closer to home, Menaker also suggested that networking, from national industry events to local business meetings, is also key to expanding one’s professional horizons.

“Another would be coming to MGMA meetings, because when you go an MGMA meeting, you’re going to bump into people that are different, that are still like you. And when I advise people to develop their career, meeting people who they don’t know” is a big part of the equation, he added. “We’re networking with people who may be able to open up some ideas and ways of doing things that you’re not doing, or that you could be doing better. Or (they) may offer some opportunities to explore potential career moves that you would have never even contemplated.”

Hear Mayo Clinic professor Ronald Menaker share strategies for achieving personal and professional success starting at the 12:56 mark of this MGMA Insights podcast

About the Author

Andy Stonehouse MA
Freelance Writer and Educator Colorado

Andy Stonehouse, MA, is a Colorado-based freelance writer and educator. His professional credits include serving as editor of Employee Benefit News and a variety of financial and insurance publications, in addition to work in the recreation and transportation fields.


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