Faculty externship: Director of Corporate Planning for Grand Valley Health Corporation (GVHC)
Grand Valley Health Corporation is located in Grand Rapids, MI, and is structured as a privately owned holding company for four entities that provide health insurance and healthcare services for West Michigan residents: Grand Valley Health Plan, Grand Valley Surgical Center, Grand Valley Information Technology Services, and Grand Valley Facilities Corporation.
My tasks as an extern were quite varied, as I essentially assisted GVHC executives in researching, strategizing about, and implementing corporate projects. Each of the items I worked on provided me a deeper level of understanding and relevance for my understanding of the topic, and also provided me an opportunity to share something that was not as well understood by the staff before my participation in the project. This made my work at GVHC highly gratifying. Specific projects I worked on included:
- Developing data reporting and analysis methods to direct more effective management of healthcare provider costs. I worked on projects of this type for both Grand Valley Health Plan and Grand Valley Surgical Center .
- Helping train personnel in reporting data and interpreting data reports for more effective cost management.
- Researching the Consumer Driven Health Care movement and assisting in developing a now implemented High Deductible Health Plan option for Grand Valley Health Plan.
- Developing materials for helping school boards and staffs understand health insurance issues and managed care concepts. Presented to Sparta School Board.
- Attending weekly executive committee meetings, regularly discussing future directions in health care with the executive team, providing executives with summaries of economic research relevant for their plans, attending community meetings regarding health care trends and issues, and providing input and feedback for Information Technology marketing plans.
I am very grateful to the Spoelhof family for providing me what is in academia a rare opportunity—the opportunity to spend significant time learning in a corporate environment how valuable the academic understanding of my field is, and, in turn, to provide me a wealth of examples and experiences to make my courses and career advice for Calvin students more relevant. A couple of noteworthy examples include:
- Gaining experience working in the context of well-functioning work teams. This inspires me to reinforce the importance of this for my students and to structure my courses to give them this experience too.
- Seeing a variety of management styles in action at different levels of an organization. Insights from this have influenced how I manage students in my courses and the examples I share in class.
- Seeing the variety of uses of data analysis skills, data presentation skills, and general communication skills during my externship, this has given me greater passion for teaching what I teach, encouraging students to learn what I teach, and passing along to students the relevance of what they are learning.
All in all, my externship experience has been a great asset to my personal development as a researcher and teacher. It has opened practical, scholarly horizons I had not envisioned for myself. I encourage my colleagues to pursue an externship in their fields.