Meet The Class Of 2022: Laura Block, Cornell Executive MBA/MS In Healthcare Leadership

Student Name:  Laura M. Block

Describe Yourself In 15 Words: Public health professional. Aspiring craft beer brewer. Feminist. Scuba diver. Advocate for global healthcare equity.

Hometown: New York City.

Fun Fact About Yourself: Post healthcare career, my dream is to start a women-led distillery in Mozambique near my favorite dive spot. Although COVID-19 and the EMBA/MS have interrupted my business planning research, I have been testing brews and will someday make it a reality.

Undergraduate School and Major:  Gettysburg College, B.A. Political Science & Africana Studies and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, M.Sc. Reproductive & Sexual Health Research.

Current Employer and Job Title: ICAP at Columbia University (Mailman School of Public Health), Senior Program Officer and Deputy Project Director, Coverage, Quality, Impact Network (CQUIN).

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far:  The transition from supporting on-the-ground health project implementation for various NGOs in other parts of the world (e.g. Papua New Guinea and Ethiopia) to managing a complex portfolio of global health projects from New York. This was under the guidance of Dr. Miriam Rabkin at ICAP, part of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. This opportunity has given me insight into the relationships between donors and nonprofits, showing me how strategic partnerships can influence program design for impact.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as a graduate student:  Although I missed the in-person elements of the program the first year, I was fortunate to be part of a phenomenal team and would cite our collective achievements. Together, we had many shared learning experiences and rich project collaborations that have been implemented in our professional settings, including a policy brief for a youth mental health project and a hospital emergency decision framework for COVID-19.

What led you to pursue an EMBA at this point in your career? I had arrived at a crossroads in my career where I needed to choose between pursuing a path in healthcare management or working towards a Ph.D., as my educational background is research-oriented. I have always been drawn to the managerial and operational challenges of health service delivery, so an EMBA focused on health care provided the framework I needed for future career steps.

What was the key factor that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I applied to a few EMBA programs, but the healthcare focus at Cornell was very appealing. Most of my classmates share a similar mindset about improving healthcare delivery worldwide, and I found this particularly fitting. After attending an in-person class as a prospective student, I immediately felt a connection with the program, for its ethos and focus on evidence to drive decision-making in healthcare.

What is the top item on your career bucket list? I would like to direct a large-scale health program that has a meaningful impact on communities and shakes up the current standard of care.

How did your classmates enhance the value of your business school experience? Although women tend to be underrepresented in EMBA programs, the Cornell program is very diverse and attracts highly impactful women leaders in healthcare. It has been inspirational to navigate balance sheets and marginal utility curves with women who are both intellectually savvy and leaders in their fields. I was also fortunate to be placed on a team with men who want to level the playing field and to value collaboration and diverse perspectives.

Who was your favorite faculty member and how did this person enrich your learning? It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I am especially grateful to Cornell Johnson Professor Beta Mannix, who taught our course on healthcare leadership. She designed the curriculum to help us reflect internally on our leadership styles and how to build our careers with intention through case studies, class discussions, and personalized assessments. Although the format was virtual, she was a master engager, providing personalized feedback that helped me navigate the next steps in my career. I have shared some of the course readings and self-assessments with my team at work.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s EMBA program? Coming from a nonprofit background, I did not consider myself the typical applicant to business school. Do not doubt yourself and make a commitment to apply. If you have more technical skills (e.g. clinical, academic) but seek a framework in the financial, operational, and strategic aspects of healthcare management, this program is for you.

What was your best memory from your EMBA program? One of our classmates and my teammate, Elizabeth ‘Lily’ Cabezon, navigated a stage-four cancer diagnosis, and treatment while juggling a career as a medical professional during the program. Our class met in-person for the first time in Ithaca last summer, and during our Innovations & Transformations class, she revealed that she had a complete response to treatments. It was emotional for us all, after a year of virtual engagement and the hardships suffered by many of our cohort during the pandemic. We had been through a lot together without physically meeting in person, but Lily’s story reminded me to have courage, grit, passion, harness the moment, and to stay focused on the objective at hand.

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