(MBA, Health Services Management, '14)
Q & A:
- What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
I enjoyed and learned a lot from Dr. Lenaghan’s course on organizational behavior and leadership development and from Dr. Comer’s course on business ethics. In different ways, both courses were inward-focused –– forcing me to think about my own leadership skills and style, what kind of leader I wanted to become, how I make decisions, and the examples I set for my team. No matter what field you pursue or your subject matter expertise, you will face the kinds of human challenges that these courses explored.
The in-person residencies that were incorporated into the online MBA program were very valuable. As the rest of the world has found out over the course of the last year, remote learning can be isolating. The residencies gave us the opportunity to establish relationships with faculty and classmates in a way that wouldn’t have occurred as naturally if it had been a purely online program.
- What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing learned in that position?
I worked full-time throughout my MBA program as the chief operating officer for the Suburban Hospital Alliance of NYS and its two regional branches, the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council and the Northern Metropolitan Hospital Association. The associations advocate on behalf of more than 50 hospitals and health systems on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley. I continued in that role until this year, when I was appointed president and CEO.
My career would not have advanced if I had not earned a graduate degree, and I never would have earned a graduate degree without the flexibilities afforded by the Hofstra online MBA program. The most important thing I learned while doing both at the same time was that no matter how hard you think you’re working, you can always do a little more.
- What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
My background and expertise are in healthcare policy. I spent the first 14 years of my career in Washington, D.C., working for a congressman from upstate New York in a number of positions, including seven years as his chief of staff. I had the opportunity to work on a broad range of policy issues but identified early on that I wanted a career in healthcare. The chief reason I moved back to New York to take the job at the hospital association was that I wanted to see policy put into practice. I knew that my ability to make sound healthcare policy would always be limited if I didn’t also understand healthcare operations. The hospital association was the perfect opportunity to leverage my background and add to my skill set.
- What advice would you give Hofstra students?
You get out of your academic career what you put into it. You may make it to graduation day by doing the bare minimum, but what will you have accomplished, really? You won’t be as prepared as you need to be for a very competitive and dynamic economy. As someone who has been hiring and managing people for more than 20 years, it’s not hard to see the difference between candidates who put in the effort and those who don’t.
- In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
- How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the duties of your position?
Because I work in healthcare, COVID-19 has changed virtually everything about my job. The last 14 months have been a marathon, one we’re still running. In normal times, my role is to support hospitals so that they have the resources and operating environment they need to provide outstanding healthcare –– fiscal stability, regulatory flexibility, quality workforce, and education for their staff, among other things. COVID changed the playing field and increased the urgency for meeting all of those needs.
- What is the single most rewarding part of your career thus far?
It’s rewarding every time I see good healthcare policy put into practice to improve the lives of people in our community. I see that every day in my organization, where we have a team of staff who help individuals enroll in health insurance so they can get the care they need. We’ve helped nearly 70,000 people over the last two decades. And it’s happened over and over again during COVID, as the emergency planning, drills, and other preparedness activities that hospitals have practiced for years paid off. Even when confronted with an overwhelming surge of patients infected with a disease for which there was no treatment plan, they knew what to do.
- What sprung your dedication to improving healthcare on Long Island?
Access to quality healthcare improves people’s lives. It always seemed to me like the natural place to start if you want to better your community. A strong healthcare system is a fundamental element of a strong economy, good jobs, and safe neighborhoods. I also knew that I’d never be bored with a career in healthcare. There is always something new to learn, a new challenge to face.
- In what position throughout your career did you feel most in touch with the community?
My entire career has been spent in roles serving the community. In the congressional office, that meant listening to the needs of constituents, shaping policy to improve their communities, and making sure that our district got its fair share of federal resources. Now I work for member hospitals instead of individual constituents, but the goals are really the same. As nonprofit institutions, all of my association’s members are dedicated –– driven by their missions but also by law –– to serving the needs of their communities.
- What was a major obstacle you were able to overcome to perform your job?
When I started at this organization in 2007, I wasn’t just starting a new job in a new field; I was moving to another state. I expected the learning curve of a new job, but it took a while to get over the learning curve of living in a different part of the country –– building a whole new professional network, getting settled in the community, and making new friends.
Wendy D. Darwell is president and CEO of the Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State and its two regional entities, the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council and Northern Metropolitan Hospital Association.
The Suburban Hospital Alliance represent the interests of more than 50 public and not-for-profit hospitals on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley. In this role, she advocates for hospitals' interests before the state and federal governments, provides expertise on a broad range of health policy issues, and oversees membership and education services. She also directs grant programs that assist uninsured consumers in enrolling in health insurance, provide regional coordination of population health activities, and organize emergency preparedness efforts.
Prior to joining the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council in 2007, Ms. Darwell served for seven years as chief of staff to U.S. Representative Maurice Hinchey, who represented portions of New York's Hudson Valley, Southern Tier, and Finger Lakes regions. In that capacity, she directed the congressman's legislative, media, and political operations. From 1994 to 2000, she served in several legislative and communications positions on Congressman Hinchey's staff, specializing in healthcare, appropriations, and community development policy.
Ms. Darwell is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives and the Healthcare Financial Management Association. She also sits on advisory committees for the LIU Post School of Health Professions and Nursing and the Stony Brook University Master of Health Administration Program. Previously she served on the advisory committee for the Zarb School of Business at Hofstra University. In 2011, she was appointed to Governor Cuomo's Medicaid Redesign Team workgroup on Program Streamlining and State/Local Responsibilities, which focused on reforming the state's Medicaid enrollment and eligibility processes and bringing the system into compliance with federal regulations.
Ms. Darwell earned a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in health services management from the Zarb School of Business at Hofstra University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from American University.