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First came the urgent, mysterious phone call to drop everything and run to an emergency meeting. Then a mandate was given — put up signs saying "Stop if you have any of the following symptoms." Then came the order — go into lockdown mode within 24 hours.
Breaths are audibly drawn and heads shake in the Bronfman Building sixth floor classroom as Derek McNally tells what it was like to manage a Hamilton hospital during what came to be known as the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak.
What he describes sounds like a TV show, replete with screaming sirens, gurneys being pushed down brightly lit hospital corridors and seasoned health-care administrators being sorely tested.
But it was real; a real-life lesson from which 17 other health-care professionals are learning — doctors, hospital administrators, nurses and others from Canada, Kuwait, Uganda, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The 18 will meet five times over 12 days during the course of a year-and-a-half as part of the first International Masters for Health Leadership — the world's only such instruction for top-notch health leaders. The brainchild of Desautels Faculty of Management Professor and business school legend Henry Mintzberg and Sholom Glouberman, philosopher-in-residence at Toronto's Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care and adjunct professor at McGill and the University of Toronto, the IMHL combines management and medicine to transform not only health-leadership education but the health care system itself. It does this by bringing into an intensive forum the best of practicing leadership from all aspects of health and from all regions of the world.
Last week, participants were given hands-on tours of Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vt., Centre de santé et de services de la Montagne in Montreal, and the Montreal University Health Centre, where they met with its leader, Dr. Arthur Porter. When they gather next spring, it will be in London. By the time they complete their degrees, they will have been taught by no fewer than 50 faculty members from across the disciplines of business and health, including Antonia Maioni, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, and Ted Marmor, Yale School of Management professor.
Ambitious and visionary, the program focuses on key front line organizations in the participants' communities, be it a clinic in Montreal or a World Health Organization office in Uganda.
Designed to allow participants to continue working while completing their masters, the IMHL fosters collaboration. A crucial and unique feature of the program is the managerial exchange that will take place next spring. Participants will pair up and take turns being at one another's places of work. Another singular component is the program's focus on promoting health and preventing disease, so much so that it enjoys the support of Fondation Lucie and André Chagnon, Canada's biggest foundation, which aims to help develop and improve health by preventing and poverty and disease.
No wonder outgoing Dean of Medicine Abraham Fuks says, "This is a wonderful joint project of Management and Medicine and this first class is a superb and diverse group. I truly believe the IMHL will have an impact on healthcare internationally."
By the time the second module ends on Thursday October 27, the 18 participants will have been taught by instructors from the Faculty of Medicine and Desautels, read and discussed Albert Camus' The Plague (for insight on outbreaks) and deconstructed the Kevin Costner Cuban Missile crisis drama "Thirteen Days" to learn how to manage during a crisis, in keeping with the second module's theme "Navigating the system."
That's exactly what Derek McNally is talking about, from experience:
Every pair of eyes in the room is on him. He takes a deep breath.
"It's not the plan that matters it's the planning and the testing of the plan."
The eyes shift; people start taking down notes.
For a full description of the program, including application information, go to www.mcgill.ca/imhl.