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Washington Monument in Washington D.C.

In the Thick of ACA Action

In March 2017, people around the world watched as Republican lawmakers delayed a vote on repealing and replacing the controversial Affordable Care Act. Within Washington, D.C., the swirl of political maneuvering was constant and dizzying, and a cohort of St. Thomas Health Care MBA students and faculty had a front row seat for the whole thing.

“The timing was impeccable; Hollywood script writers couldn’t have written a better script,” said faculty member Scott Kulstad. 

Faculty members and students were in Washington, D.C. for an annual trip that marks the capstone for soon-to-be graduates of the 21-month MBA program. While each year’s trip promises to give students an intimate look into federal policy, this cohort in particular saw firsthand, as Poonam Kale ‘17 put it, “a lot of sausage being made.”

A deeper understanding and appreciation of that fact is built into the MBA's program framework. “We bring in people with significant health care experience who are experts in their particular field and show students how they can couple those skills to be a successful health care professional,” said program director Kate DiAna.

As a finishing note, this trip to Washington, D.C., pulls together almost two years of students delving into the many different areas of health care and its connections to business.

“The seminar ties all the different classes into a nice package and puts a ribbon on it,” Kulstad said. “You can see the interaction when you’re in the heart of [federal] policy.”

Kale, a senior director of product management for Optum360 in Salt Lake City, Utah, said the trip – and the program as a whole – helped her think about the world in different ways than she had before:

“Health care is not all business. At the end of the day it’s a person. You have to make money, I get it. Companies close if they’re not profitable. But it’s also about compassion. Health care is a human industry.”