The President’s Desk

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


Dear Alumni and Friends,

Let me begin by sending my hope that you and your families continue to be well in this year of uncertainty and challenge.

Last year at this time, I wrote about the experience of healthcare. It always amazed me that somehow the expectations of availability, experience, and value we demand in every other transaction in our lives do not translate consistently to how we experience and consume healthcare – one of our most fundamental needs. And as this year goes on, we become increasingly aware of the gap and how it is widening.

Recent estimates of individuals losing their health coverage this year range up to 20 million people. In the U.S., about half of individuals have health insurance tied to their employment and as we know, there are many who have lost jobs or are furloughed, etc. In my own research with patients, individuals are making more conscious choices to delay or reprioritize elements of health because they are deciding the risk is greater than the benefit in this moment, they cannot afford it, they do not see the importance, are making trade-offs on the definitions of urgent (this varies of course with diagnosed diseases), or they do not have access to it. In addition, this year has called to light the increasing socioeconomic and racial disparities in healthcare.

Lewis Dartell in a BBC article in June said, “while being enormously disruptive and painful, crises also invariably nurture the emergence of a great common purpose, solidarity, creativity, and improvisation.” I was speaking to an HCP last week who said his institution moved to telehealth as did many amidst the pandemic, but he has many patients who live without access to strong WIFI to do a proper telehealth visit. So, they invested in WIFI in their parking lot, giving those who need it a place to go to complete a visit.

There are many stories that have emerged in 2020 – from small, local, focused efforts for a community like this example to corporations shifting their core capabilities to support gaps in services and equipment. Improvisation has abounded, but, as we look forward, an important question is how we will we make meaningful and lasting change on these dimensions. The new class of HCM students is already thinking about this critical question, and I was energized by their focus on understanding the challenges of the moment when I was with them in August for orientation. I sincerely hope this is a place we as a community of healthcare leaders will put our energies, passion, and expertise behind solving through action. And we are committed to enabling that progress.

In a normal year, we would leverage our annual Alumni Conference to create a forum for information exchange and connection on the most important topics of the moment. We are sad an in-person conference is not a possibility this year, but we also see the incredible opportunity the virtual forum creates to reach a wider breadth of Alumni, in increments of time that work for our lives and this moment.

To that end we are bringing to life a series of mini-summits over the course of the coming months. Each mini-summit will begin with a fireside chat or TED-style talk from a keynote, followed by a moderated  audience Q&A, and then end with small virtual break-outs to debate, discuss, and network. Matt Ridley, the author of How Innovation Works - And Why It Flourishes in Freedom asserts that innovation is an incremental, bottom-up, fortuitous process that happens as a direct result of the human habit of exchange. Our hope and intentions are to foster innovation and create opportunities for natural collisions of ideas with more of us virtually building awareness, challenging the thinking, and sparking change.

Our first WHCMAA Mini-Summit will feature a fireside chat with Conrod Kelly, an expert on social determinants of health (SDOH), about the intersection of racial disparities in healthcare and the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. For more, visit the Upcoming Events page of our website. We hope you will join us there.

As always, we encourage you to keep the dialogue going. Bring your thought leadership, research, experiences, and ideas to our community:  


Stay safe, healthy, and happy. We hope to see you soon.

Kind regards, 

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

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