We all know that a professional network is critical to achieving career goals and impacting the healthcare industry.  But to many of us, identifying and making these important connections often seems like a daunting task.  In this interview, find out how Heather Marshall, M.D., southwest associate regional medical director for Island Medical Management, leveraged her Brown University Executive Master of Healthcare Leadership (EMHL) network to help secure a national appointment on the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) Task Force on Health Care Financing.

Why did you think it was important to build your professional network and raise your profile at the national level?

The conversation about new alternative payment models did not originally address the specific needs of emergency room services. I joined Brown University’s EMHL program to spearhead this conversation and knew that I had to build my network in order to join this conversation at an impactful level. The professional diversity of the group from across the industry and the country played an instrumental role in shaping my policy expertise, opening doors and inspiring me to seize opportunities to advance healthcare for all.  

Can you tell us how you built this network and how the Executive Master of Healthcare Leadership program helped?

A great way to network is through your professional associations. I was already on the Washington State Board of Directors of the ACEP where I had shared my ideas about alternative payment models. When the ACEP announced the Task Force on Health Care Financing, the state chapter submitted my name as a candidate to this national level appointment.  It just so happened that a fellow EMHL student was able to personally connect me with one of his colleagues on the ACEP National Board of Directors.

These connections got me the opportunity to talk to ACEP’s national leadership about why I was a good fit for the task force.  In the end, ACEP appointed me because of my subject matter expertise and interest, but it was my Brown University EMHL network that helped get my foot in the door and made me stand out.

You recently accepted a new position. What role did your network play?

After I completed the EMHL program, I wanted to implement in a real-world setting the alternative payment model policy recommendations I developed in the program.  Doing so at my previous job was not a possibility.  I leveraged my network to land a senior-level position in a cutting-edge medical management organization.

As the Southwest Associate Regional Medical Director at Island Medical Management, my responsibilities include establishing integrated emergency medicine and hospitalist programs as well as running existing emergency department contracts in New Mexico.  Moving from Washington to New Mexico for this position was a big undertaking for my family including my two young children, but it was worth it.  I’m thrilled to be working in the area of my EMHL studies and implementing policy based on this expertise.

I’m deeply grateful for the support and input from my Brown University network – the faculty and my fellow students.

Why is networking particularly important for women?

Traditionally, professional women have not used networking to expand their careers to the same degree as men.  Barriers still exist for women in the workplace. These barriers are multifactorial and can vary situationally.  Building your network can greatly help overcome such challenges.