2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Gina Calder, Yale SOM

Gina Calder

Yale School of Management, EMBA

Age: 41

I engage, empower, and elevate others to drive transformation and breakthrough performance.”

Hometown: Forever a Jersey girl, I currently live in Chesterfield, MO after many years living in New Haven, CT.

Family Members: Eric Johnson-Charles (my sweetheart), Cedric Calder, Sr. (dad), Virginia Bryan (mom), Marcia Calder (stepmom), Michel Smith (stepdad), Dr. Cedrina Calder (sister), Gyasi Bryan-Smith (brother), Eboné Smith (sister in love), Cadence Jae Smith (niece), Cedric Calder, Jr. (brother), and Suzette Graham (stepsister).

Fun fact about yourself: Inspired and encouraged by my mother, who is a poet and author, I am now an aspiring author. Currently, I am working on my first children’s book, which celebrates and affirms leadership qualities in young girls. As my mom and other role models and mentors did for me, I hope to inspire young girls to see and develop the leaders within themselves, the future leaders we need.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Arts, Psychology, Yale University

Master of Public Health, Yale University

Master of Business Administration, Yale University, May 2022

Where are you currently working? BJC Healthcare, President, Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital and Progress West Hospital

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I began the EMBA program during the pandemic, and within six months, I was moving over 1,100 miles to transition to a new role, new organization, and new community. I am an active member of my church, Greater Grace, and my faith and church family have played a significant role in smoothing my transition and making greater St. Louis home for me.

Community service has always been important to me, and I am grateful to serve on the St. Charles County Community College Foundation Board as we support our students and faculty in achieving their dreams. I also serve on the Barnes-Jewish St. Peters and Progress West Foundation Board and BJC Medicare ACO Board, elevating the care and health of our community. I was elected by my fellow EMBA students to serve as a Class Advisor, advocating for our class with faculty and administration as well as partnering to problem-solve and support our class in the face of pandemic challenges.

As a Fellow of the Carol Emmott Foundation and member of our Alumnae Network Governing Council and The Equity Collaborative, I am leading efforts to elevate women to the highest levels of healthcare leadership and impact. Board certified in healthcare management, I am a longtime Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and member of the National Association for Health Services Executives and The American Hospital Association Roundtable, committed to improving and advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in our field.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? In April, I was named in Becker’s Hospital Review as one of “75 Black Healthcare Leaders to Know in 2022.” I am deeply honored by this recognition and believe that even though I only started my role as President in February 2021, my leadership, our team, our hospitals, our system, and our community have already been tremendously enhanced by my EMBA experience. It was especially meaningful to be named among so many longstanding impactful leaders, some of whom have served as my mentors and sponsors. This achievement inspires me to continue my commitment to mentor, sponsor, and coach leaders and future leaders.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The achievement I am most proud of launched my professional career. I was pivoting from consulting to healthcare delivery and wanted to leverage my MPH program to pursue hospital leadership roles. Faculty ensured we understood the importance of the summer internship in positioning us for postgraduate Administrative Fellowship opportunities as a proven path to leadership.

I leaned into my community and was able to meet the then-President and CEO of Yale New Haven Health System, Marna Borgstrom. Marna was an alumna of my program, and my goal was to follow the trail she had blazed and one day become CEO of a large integrated health system. She asked how she could help me, and I courageously asked for a summer internship role at Yale New Haven Hospital. She secured the internship, which led to my selection for the Administrative Fellowship, and Marna has mentored and sponsored me throughout my career.

That experience taught me the power of my community and my voice in effectively advancing my career. It has also been critical in helping me develop a community of mentors and sponsors. I have since coached and encouraged other leaders and aspiring leaders to do the same, especially women and people of color, and have enjoyed supporting and sponsoring the evolution of their careers as well.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I was touched by each of our amazing faculty, and I am absolutely a better leader because of their ability to broaden, deepen, and even change my perspective. Three of our faculty were truly instrumental in encouraging me to apply to the EMBA program and equipping me for my future. Dr. Howard Forman was my favorite professor at Yale School of Public Health because of his passion for teaching and his belief that change was possible. I am tremendously grateful that he has been one of my greatest champions as a student, legislator, colleague, and leader. A physician, economist, and policy expert, he gave me the tools to deconstruct and hopefully one day redesign healthcare financing. As our Faculty Director, he designed a world-class EMBA program and healthcare track that exposes us to leaders shaping and transforming our industry. He has always made me feel like I could be among them someday.

Dr. Heidi Brooks served as Faculty for the Connecticut Health Foundation Health Leadership Fellows, which introduced me to the great opportunity and great need to drive health equity as an executive leader. Dr. Brooks manages to activate and multiply the strengths of everyone she interacts with. She inspired me to want to have the same impact on others that she had on me. Her research and teaching on power has helped me better wield my power as a leader to empower others.

Dr. Marcella Nunez Smith is a national health equity expert, champion, and role model who has opened my eyes to the wide variety of spaces where I can advance this work. Her energy and infectious enthusiasm for the work has helped keep me going and growing even in the face of difficulties and setbacks like continued challenges to our recent expansion of Missouri Medicaid.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I was on my way to achieving my career aspirations; however, I was asking myself some key questions: Was I was truly on the path designed for me—the path I was designed for? Would my current set of tools equip me for transformative impact? A true-blue Yalie, I found that Yale School of Management’s mission to educate leaders for business and society called and compelled me. After talking with alumni, current students, and faculty, it was clear to me that the rigor and integration of SOM’s EMBA curriculum would prepare and propel me to the forefront of change. The crises and failures of business and society require us to develop sustainable solutions and make impacts that will outlive us. The tight-knit SOM community would give me full access to needed solutions, the strength to endure, and the insights to innovate as a leader.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? When I started my President role, I was walking into a major crisis with organizational exposure to grave operational, regulatory, reputational, and financial risks. A first-year EMBA, I convened a session with both classes of my fellow EMBAs for advice. With their support, I integrated learnings from our Managing Groups and Teams, Power and Politics, and State and Society courses to complete internal stakeholder, non-market actor, and risk analyses and develop change management and non-market strategies to mitigate these risks.

I dove deep into the strengths and weaknesses of my power profile and my transformational leadership style, as well as research on networks, to increase my likelihood of successfully navigating and supporting my organization and community through crisis. After engaging nearly 200 internal and external stakeholders for over four months in implementing two dozen process and system changes, we successfully resolved near-term concerns and effectively mitigated our long-term risks as well.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I remember one several-day whirlwind where I flew into Connecticut early to enjoy several social activities with my classmates. I used my flight time to finish assignments for that class weekend and worked remotely at the hospital once I arrived at my partner’s home. Saturday evening, he and I enjoyed some quality time and pulled an all-nighter to enjoy a movie marathon. He then took me to the airport to catch a 5 am flight to Chicago for a national conference where I was presenting. Again, I used the flight time to make progress on coursework. I was recruiting for one of the roles on my executive team and did virtual interviews in between conference sessions. I created time to catch up and celebrate with Chicago-based friends. Finally, I pushed up my returning flight so I could a dinner in St. Louis with a physician practice we were beginning acquisition discussions with. Looking back, I am awed at this example and many other stories of the balancing act that I and my peers become so adept at during the EMBA experience.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? My stepsister completed her graduate degree while working full-time and advised me to reserve one day a week for myself where I was not doing anything EMBA-related. This was the best advice ever! Following her advice required me to be organized and purposeful in managing my time and productivity. It allowed me a much-needed day to rest, decompress, and spend time with my family and friends so I could refuel for the days ahead. 

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? One popular myth is that if you have a graduate degree and/or a rewarding career, there is no need to go back to school. I had earned the terminal degree and was advancing progressively in my field. As far as I was concerned, I was completely set, and it was never my plan to pursue another graduate degree.

However, I am so grateful that conversations with top leaders in our field convinced me otherwise. Going back for my MBA has been the most valuable academic experience I have had. I have gleaned and applied something from each discussion, each question, each reading, each assignment, and each connection with professors and classmates. My perspective and has been completely transformed, and I am leaning into my leadership like never before. The best part is that I have a new community of people to lean on and lean into that I would not have if I had never embarked on this amazing journey. What a huge miss that would have been.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I have no regrets. There was a moment in spring 2020 when I contemplated deferring enrollment due to the uncertainty of the pandemic and the resulting intensity of my responsibilities. I decided to press forward and never looked back. I fully maximized the experience, and I am forever grateful and forever changed. The best part is this is only the beginning. I have built bonds that will never be broken and have started a process of elevating my leadership that will continue.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Fatimah Loren Dreier is like my sister from another mother. She is a dynamic leader with an amazing perspective on life and leadership. I am in awe of all she has done and is doing—it is truly world-changing work. She was recently chosen by Dean Kerwin Charles to receive the Dean’s Mission & Impact Award for the example she sets and the impact she is having on our community and nation. Fatimah is my coach, mentor, inspiration, and most of all, a great friend. I am blessed that she is in my life and that she can fully understand and empathize regarding some of the victories and challenges we experience as powerful black women executives.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? First, I was choosing Yale with its demonstrated rigor, access to the best minds, and commitment to in-person learning. I learn and contribute most and best in community, and it was important to me to experience the type of connection that can only happen in person. Although constrained and limited during the pandemic, I was still able to establish deep connection and create a long-lasting community that will ensure we continue to learn from each other and build a legacy of transformative change.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To lead an integrated health system has been my long-term goal since my first master’s degree. That goal has not changed, but how I envision it absolutely has. The possibilities for the design and definition of the system I will lead have been infinitely expanded thanks to all I have learned and everyone I have met throughout my EMBA experience. I will continue to maintain an open perspective so the solution sets and partners I employ and the model itself can shift and evolve. This program has also positioned me to better lead and contribute no matter the global geography. I am thrilled about what my future holds!

What made Gina such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?

“Gina Calder has been known to me since 2006, when she was an MPH student at the Yale School of Public Health and took my Health Policy core class and earned the top grade of Honors. I have stayed in close touch with her since that time and have been overjoyed to watch her career, watch her great accomplishments, and have her return to Yale for her MBA, noting her graduation this year. During this time, I have watched her in public service as an alderwoman in my New Haven city; as an administrator in the hospital where I work; as a leader in one of our acquisitions, where we worked together to harmonize and improve care across the system; and met with her in numerous advisory sessions. In the EMBA program, I have seen a standout, stellar student, once again.

She is now the President of a hospital in the BJC healthcare system, and I know how fortunate they are to have gained her experience, talent, and compassionate leadership: I know this because I have witnessed it first-hand.

We need more leaders like Gina: those who are willing to roll up their proverbial sleeves and lead by example, lead with love, lead by values.

She is a rare talent who will continue to succeed; who will continue to grow; who will continue to improve healthcare, decrease disparities, and always put the patient at the center of her decision-making.”

Howard P. Forman MD, MBA
Faculty Director, Executive MBA Program (Healthcare)
Professor of Radiology & Public Health (Health Policy)

Professor in the Practice of Management
Professor of Economics (joint by courtesy)
Director, YSPH Health Care Management Program
Director, MD/MBA Program
Co-Host, Health & Veritas Podcast


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