The President’s Desk

Contributor: Maria Whitman, WG’05
To learn more about Maria, click here.


Dear Alumni and Friends,

We held our 2nd virtual board meeting of the 2020-2021 WHCMAA fiscal year a few weeks ago over two nights. Being virtual has had its benefits, especially as we have made significant progress to expand the diversity of our board, including geography, which I am proud to say now stretches evenly across the U.S. and all the way to Singapore. But I admit I miss my nostalgic early morning walk up Locust Walk to Colonial Penn Center on board meeting Saturdays. Sitting in the auditorium, coffee in hand, as I did over 15 years ago. Catching up in between sessions with dear alumni colleagues and friends on their amazing professional and personal pursuits. Talking about the issues of the moment with people who share the same passion for healthcare has always brought me true joy, and no one knows it, discusses it, and debates it better than our alumni.

We always have too much to cover in our time together. A working board, our committees make significant progress in between so our board meetings are about the critical discussions and decisions that help us move forward in service to you, our community. This has been true since I started on the board in 2015 when we were deep at work on a fresh and forward-looking strategy for WHCMAA. Having subsequently served as Vice President, when I took on the President role in July 2019, I thought I had a vision for what we should accomplish in my two years. It covered all pillars of our mission to:

  • Support the Wharton Healthcare Management Program and its students
  • Contribute to the lifelong learning of its membership
  • Contribute to the healthcare sector through service, leadership, and education

And we have been living that vision:

  • We wanted to be stewards of connected value among our graduates. We significantly increased our membership while enhancing our programming and social connection. In doing so, we have been recognized as the largest dues-paying members club in the Wharton community by more than double the network average.
  • We wanted to deepen the connection between the alumni and the students and HCM program. We have established a committee focused on the program and students now, created an established program of alumni calls to new admits, and generated more alumni participation in recruitment and campus events than ever. The connection of students to the WHCMAA starts before day 1, and students have an even more direct line for their voices and needs to be heard.
  • We wanted to deepen our service to our global alumni and the global health community. We have strengthened our ties with the Wharton Global Healthcare Venture student group, providing double the funding we ever have, supporting them through virtual transitions, and connecting them with alumni resources and speaker sources for global programming. We have an appointed board member living in Singapore who will focus on increasing our voice and community globally.
  • We wanted to advance our content and events in service to what our alumni and current students told us in recent surveys they needed most. We have enhanced many career development resources, brought in exceptional speakers and programming, and are holding hands across committees to deliver value to you. This content is always available to our members here.

Reflecting on this time, however, I am most proud of the “adaptagility”this board has shown in pivoting to serve you and our mission in this past year – a year that challenged all of us as individuals, as citizens of the world, as leaders, and as committed professionals in healthcare. South African high-performance business leadership speaker Tony Dovale talks about “ADAPTAGILITY capacity,” that limitless leaders focus on Adaptagility “to thrive in uncertainty, ever-changing, challenging, complexities, AND opportunities.” We not only adapted, but through action, created new opportunities to serve and serve well. Some examples, in this year of pandemic and social movement we:

  • Spearheaded collaborations across alumni groups around critical pandemic issue response like PPE needs, sourcing, and distribution
  • Created a mini-summit series to educate and discuss critical in-the-moment issues from social determinants of care to policy and practices to advance healthcare in this time of challenge
  • Held sessions and connections for students and alumni seeking jobs, needing to network, etc.
  • We have challenged ourselves on diversity and inclusion, taking a critical look and improving our own processes (e.g., we were already looking at board diversity, but for example, scholarship selection, etc.), amplifying the discussion of core issues, in particular related to our mission of advancing health for all, and are engaging with the university to be active in driving change
  • Increased our social connectivity with new channel options, enhanced content curation, and focus on socially engaging and connecting more alumni than ever
  • We listened and are focused in career development to what many of our members needed most – job boards, career resources, skills training, etc.
  • Created more virtual social moments to bring us together – because being together matters more than ever

I want to express my gratitude to our 21 board members, who, while navigating their own personal and professional challenges in this intense time, showed resilience, adaptability, and sustained commitment to make this possible.  I have had my share of “adaptigility” moments during my 6 years on the board - I have taken on 3 new roles in an intense consulting career, had 2 children, and remarried. But this last year challenged us all in unique and meaningful ways. All I can say is you inspire me.

My term as President will end July 1st, and our Vice President Heather Aspras (WG’08) will take the mantle. She is the former head of the Philadelphia alumni chapter, and a dear colleague and friend. I have no doubt she and the Board will push our mission further with excellence.

Because in spite of all we do, we are not done. Our endless commitment to our mission means we will never be. So keep an eye out for our upcoming events and initiatives. Next up is our Career Development Webinar with Simmi Singh on how to be your best self in a post-pandemic world on April 22nd.

And keep communicating with us. We can’t wait to dig into your thought leadership, research, experiences, and ideas: 

I close this, my last letter to you as President of WHCMAA with gratitude for the opportunity to serve you. I send my thoughts and wishes that you and your families remain healthy and safe, and that you continue in passion and success. I look forward to the next time we meet.

Kind regards, 

Maria Whitman, WG’05
President, Wharton Healthcare Management Alumni Association

Contact Maria at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @MariaWhitman