An inside look at the McGill Graduate Certificate in Healthcare Management: Dr. Mohammad Basem Saeed Saeed

In 2021, McGill Desautels launched its Graduate Certificate in Healthcare Management in collaboration with the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, a unique opportunity for leaders in the healthcare field to receive formal managerial training and learn from renowned McGill professors. As the inaugural cohort embarks on its final module, hear from current students about their experience in the program.

Introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about who you are and what drives you.

My name is Mohammad Basem Saeed Saeed. I am 37 years old and I’m the father of three great kids, and I am currently the Head of the Department of Endodontics at Dr. Sulaiman Al Habib Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I'm also the Post Graduate Program Director for the Saudi Board of Endodontics. I've been working for three years now. I consider myself self-made. I am ambitious, and eager to learn new things. I like to become an expert on things that I’ve learned, and I like to do things even when it is outside of my scope of practice. I like to learn, and I like to teach what I have learned.

What made you decide to go back to school, to get this type of certificate?

Actually, it's my practice that directed me in that direction. I have been in this hospital for nine years as a practitioner, and I was elected as head of the department in 2016. And in 2019, I was appointed by the Saudi commission of healthcare specialties as program director as nominated by the Hospital. After that, I knew that there are things that I needed to correct in my practice. I knew that management and leadership are two different things, but I didn't know the difference. And to succeed, I must guide my team into a clear path, and I must know how to manage people and all their differences. I realized that there are certain things I must learn from the people that know what management is for a healthcare provider, and that I should know that the principles of management are first, then try to apply them to my practice and to become an expert in it. I knew that I need to have the ability to lead and advise.

When you were looking at potential programs, what stood out to you about the Graduate Certificate in health care management at McGill?

Honestly, there are two things that I saw in the GCHM. The first thing is that it’s a well-structured program, even though it’s new, as a graduate certificate but the original master's degree has been there for over 10 years. I saw what I was looking for, and I saw the program. The pedagogical approach to learning is unique, and it was mind blowing for me, because as a person who came from a medical background, we’re used to the spoon-feeding way of teaching, where you learn, and then you have an example of what you learned. But, in this program, you have group discussions, and you have to be prepared for these discussions. These discussions are not things that you will be studying for, but actually it is part of your practice and experience. At the same time, you have to set your mind to accept opinions as part of this program. That’s something that is very unique, unlike any other programs which is thought-based. The second thing was the mentorship. My mentor, Dr. Martin Koyle, was very helpful for me as a doctor, as a person and as a friend. He guided me throughout the way, and he helped me to see things as simple as they were. He told me what is important and what is not. Mentorship in this program was a very important aspect in terms of learning, because it helped you to see things clearly from other person's point of view and it gives the mental and moral support which we need in tough times.

Going into the program, what did you hope to gain out of this experience?

To tell you, honestly, I didn't have any expectations. I knew that there was something missing, and I had to learn about it, and I knew that studying at McGill would be reliable as I knew that they would know what they must tell me. I knew that this program was being held for the first time, unlike the International Masters. As a person who is very busy in his practice and in my personal life it's a great step to go with a program that is only one year, and it is structured very well into the things that I really need in my practice. So, I registered.

What has the experience been like for you? You've been in Saudi Arabia this whole time the program has taken place, mainly on a schedule that is set up for eastern Canada. How have you been able to manage the time difference, and have you noticed that there is a cultural difference in the material that is taught?

Honestly, it’s been hectic for me to manage between my practice, work, and family at the same time. One thing that was very good for me was that it was starting at 9 AM in Canada, but in Saudi Arabia, it's 5 PM or 6 PM. I talked with my superiors and the hospital CEO was very helpful and he was very supportive. He told me take the leave that I needed on these days but to schedule them from the start of the year. I managed to know the modules and I cleared my schedule during the whole year.

From the first day, I knew that we are learning from each other and rom each different countries, cultures and backgrounds, mainly from people who are working in Canada or any other country. The fact that you compare your healthcare sector with every healthcare sector, from each experience that every one of us is [sharing, you get to see how] your system in health care is different or unique from any other practice. We saw how every culture is different, and you will have to think about think out of the box.

How have you been able to apply what you’ve learned in the program to your practice?

Every single note I took from the program, I have applied it in my practice.

The briefing memos, case presentations, the business case or business plan, formulating how to read financial statements, every single one of these, I have applied to my practice. I changed the way I do my presentations with my superiors, or the way I discuss work with the owner or the CEO of the company, or the board members, my presentations are now unique and different and more professional more towards the point. I have done a lot of things in operation management, like Lean Six Sigma, and process mapping of problems I am facing in the Academic program or in management of the endodontic department. That helped me to get to the point much clearer and in a way that is more professional. So, any decision when it's given, it's given based on a lot of processing, and explanations, that is up to the point that wasn’t wasting the time of the superiors but in fact it was beneficial for me how to be able to communicate more efficiently, and the same time, I know how to get to that point.

What would you say has been your favorite part about the program?

Up to now I have two favorite topics: operations management and managing people. Operations management, it's really affected me personally. As a head of department, I have a lot of interactions with operations, whether with operation managers and branch managers in our dental departments. I was communicating with them previously as a dentist, only the senior dentist in my group of doctors. But now I'm a senior dentist who knows what the link between medical and operation management is and how to get things done from both sides. There are things that they are asking to learn from me, because I know how to apply business into the medical practice which is uncommon to be taught in medical school but rather doctors think they know it by seniority or by age only, while it's a science. You need to read and learn it, and they are now willing to learn and willing to share the ideas with me in a way that is well integrated. We can get to the profitability or the services that we need for our products in a much clearer way. Not like when I was only getting my medical background. So, it's this and managing people. This was a topic that I was searching for and helped me to find ways to talk with people and how to know how to deal with people who are in different cultures. I loved [these topics] because I really knew from the start that I was missing a lot in it and there was part of me saying that management of work and people are hard, but it is harder when you learn by the hardest way, I mean trial and error.

Do you have any advice that you would offer to somebody who is considering a program like this one, but is maybe a little bit hesitant?

Okay, share your ideas and experiences. You will learn from yourself and others to apply what you learn into your practice, your personality, and your life. My second advice is to have a journal. Beside you write your notes with a pen, and your colleagues’ opinion as well, discussions and everything single thing, it will be a very good thing to look at in the future.


GCHM Program

The McGill Graduate Certificate in Healthcare Management is a joint initiative between the McGill Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and the Desautels Faculty of Management. The GCHM is an 8-month, 15-credit graduate certificate program which takes place entirely online.

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