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Greater Baltimore Medical Center Looks to Hopkins MHA for Future Leaders

 John Ellis (third from right) with a group of current and past residents now working with GBMC (image courtesy GBMC).

John Ellis (third from right) with a group of current and past residents now working with GBMC. (Photo courtesy GBMC)

Brain Trust

In the second year of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Master of Health Administration (MHA) program, students are required to complete an administrative residency. Many students opt to work with area health care institutions, and the Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC) in Towson has long been a strong partner with JHSPH.

Since 2009, GBMC has hired nine JHSPH residents upon degree completion—several of whom have moved into leadership positions—and currently supports two residents. In addition, GBMC has also employed four alumni who completed residencies elsewhere.

John Ellis, GBMC’s senior vice president and a JHSPH associate faculty member for over 20 years, was and is the preceptor for all 11 residents. He teaches Financial Management in Health Care in the MHA program and is therefore in an ideal position to seek out potential residents among his students.

“At GBMC, I recruit for ‘fit,’ as our residency is constructed to be fluid rather than structured,” he explains. “I recruit candidates who are team-oriented self-starters and residents seek their own niche in the organization based on their personal interests.”

Importantly, Ellis notes, “the village raises the resident at GBMC. The team will coach and mentor the resident and look out for future opportunities that match the resident’s skill and interests.”

GBMC CEO John Chessare, MD, MPH, says the partnership has been valuable on both sides. “The talent and the preparation of the students who have come to us have been exceptional. The residents have quickly become young leaders within our organization, and we have benefited from their work. Many have gone on to take important jobs with us.”

This mutually beneficial relationship offers students valuable on-the-job experience while providing GBMC with a fresh crop of new talent to recruit.

Two of the program’s first residents, Megan Priolo, DrPH ’17, MHS ’10, and Michael Finegan, MHA ’12, share their experiences and how their residencies led them to where they are today.

Megan Priolo, DrPH '17, MHS '10

Megan Priolo, DrPH ’17, MHS ’10

First resident of the GBMC-JHSPH partnership, COO of the Greater Baltimore Health Alliance (GBHA), the Accountable Care Organization founded by GBMC (Photo courtesy GBMC)

  • What is your role with GBMC and how long have you worked there?

I am currently the chief operating officer of the GBHA. I started at GBMC with my administrative residency in 2009 and have since held various roles such as project manager and director of operations with GBMC’s Accountable Care Organization.

  • Tell me about your residency at GBMC during your MHA.

My residency experience was very flexible and allowed me to see many areas of the organization. I was able to scrub in on surgeries and spend time in security, hospice, hospital units and practices. I also had the opportunity to create business plans and assist with various strategic initiatives. This experience gave me a broad exposure and helped me understand which areas I wanted to focus in on in my career.

  • How did this residency transition into a career at GBMC?

After I graduated, I actually left GBMC for a year and worked at Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services with a focus on hospital payment policy. My passion is in public health and my goal is to make an impact at a population level, so I enjoyed the chance to be part of the federal health care policy process. As soon as I learned that GBMC was implementing a population health strategy and developing an Accountable Care Organization, I was excited to come back and be part of this innovative opportunity from the ground up. The skills and relationships I built during my residency translated into a successful transition to a project manager for GBHA.

  • Why do you think this has been such a strong partnership for JHSPH and a “pipeline” to jobs for students?

There are so many opportunities to get involved in at GBMC, from inpatient, outpatient, ambulatory, post-acute, hospice … the list goes on. This allows GBMC to recruit a diverse group of students that may have passions in varying areas. Additionally, the size and culture of GBMC allow for an environment where motivated individuals can truly thrive.

  • What advice do you have for prospective students who are considering an MHA?

The MHA program was wonderful because it moved at a quick pace due to the eight-week course structure. I loved that the classes were multidisciplinary, which really prepares you well for work post-graduation. My classmates ranged from lawyers to nurses to physicians to accountants, which is reflective of the team I work with today. The residency experience is incredibly valuable as well, as it gives students the opportunity to become immersed in an organization and in many cases, like at GBMC, jumpstart their career.


Michael Finnegan, MHA '12

Michael Finegan, MHA ’12

Second resident of the GBMC-JHSPH partnership, Administrator of Surgery at GBMC (Photo courtesy GBMC)

  • What did you do prior to your MHA at Hopkins?

I worked immediately following undergrad as a health unit coordinator in University of North Carolina’s emergency room. I then moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, where I worked as a volunteer teacher, teaching remedial math and reading in a high school for underprivileged children with learning disabilities.

  • What is your role with GBMC and how long have you worked there?

I’m currently the administrator of surgery at GBMC. I have been in this role for one year but have worked for GBMC for six, including my one year as a resident. Prior to my current role, I was the administrator of medicine.

  • Tell me about your residency at GBMC during your MHA.

My residency experience at GBMC laid the foundation for the first five years of my career (and beyond, hopefully).

I chose GBMC because of its strategic focus on population health and innovative health care delivery models, strong sense of community and mentorship, and overall friendliness of the people already working here. As I was entering my residency, GBMC was just beginning its formal process of becoming the first health system-owned Accountable Care Organization in Maryland. I spent months learning about this new care and payment model established by the Affordable Care Act, setting up the infrastructure and even writing a portion of our application.

This experience allowed me to begin to think about the health care system in a new way, a way that was much more patient-centered. Additionally, I had many opportunities to hone skills that I knew I needed but did not yet possess. Coming from a pre-medical background was extremely helpful in understanding, at a high-level, the clinical basis behind the work being done at GBMC, but to be successful in the MHA program, I needed to develop my financial analytics and forecasting abilities. Working with our corporate strategy department, I picked up any project I could—and there were too many to count—where I could immerse myself in huge data files, draw conclusions, and present to [decision makers]. All this work occurred with excellent GBMC preceptors guiding me through questions and organizational politics, and hot washing my (numerous) mistakes.

  • How did this residency transition into a career at GBMC?

Because administrative residents at GBMC are given real work used to make real decisions for care delivery at GBMC, the opportunities to grow and present in front of decision-makers are myriad. When I was halfway through my residency, GBMC began to reorganize its services into service lines to give physician leaders the administrative tools and support to make decisions and implement new services for their areas. One of my residency projects was a business plan for a new service for our chairman of medicine.

  • Why do you think this has been such a strong partnership for JHSPH and a “pipeline” to jobs for students?

In addition to meaningful and real project work, GBMC offers a network of mentorship . Knowing that your preceptor and several other executives are seeking out opportunities for you to be involved, that purposefully allow us to develop new skills or position us to be successful in the next steps of our careers, makes the experience an investment into our futures. GBMC also has a powerful vision statement: “To every patient, every time, we will provide the care we would want for our own loved ones.” [I wanted to continue being part of an organization] working toward such a relatable vision statement. I felt like my work was just beginning.

  • What advice do you have for prospective students who are considering an MHA?

Choose a program, like JHSPH, with a vibrant didactic year and immersive residency experience. Focus your time on learning by doing. Create a network of new friends. Find as many mentors as you can. Don’t just expect to get better at the things you already know but learn new skills, making as many mistakes in the process as you need.


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