The Cohort Model: From Theory to Practice

The Cohort Model: From Theory to Practice

Terese Wallack Waldron (Saint Joseph's University, USA) and Joe DiAngelo (Saint Joseph's University, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7576-4.ch003


This chapter is written through the reflective and analytic lens of a Business School Dean with 35 years in higher education and focuses on the trends and future of the healthcare industry. Specifically, the chapter examines the planning, implementation, and identified outcomes of a cohort designed Executive MBA program. The issues highlighted in the first half of the chapter relate to 1) investing in individuals and the organizations they serve, 2) enhancing organizational capacity, and 3) implementation of pragmatic strategies to ensure an organizational leadership pipeline. The second half of the chapter suggests strategies as to how Chief Executive Officers, healthcare organizations, and partnering higher education institutions can develop both individualized MBA programs and professional training to ensure the development and retention of an energized healthcare leadership pipeline consisting of individual team leaders and change agents.
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Reflection should be considered in a framework of self-awareness, context and in the perception of health and healthcare issues. (Craft, 2005)



In order to grow and to achieve enhanced capacity, leaders need to be prepared for the future by investing in top individuals and in the organizations they serve. The days of “doing things the same way they have always been done” create their own compromises. Wall Street, Main Street and stakeholder groups have little patience for lackluster results.

To truly effect change, a commitment to investing in your organization’s human capital – in this case – your top physicians and your high potential administrative talent -- is an imperative. Additionally, retraining your top physicians and emerging leaders may also factor into the retaining of top physicians and leaders.

From a Higher Education perspective and after planning for, producing and delivering five different healthcare “cohorts” in the past five years to Lancaster General Health (LG Health), the Pennsylvania College of Osteopathic Medicine and its alumni, Inspira Health Network, and most recently the American Osteopathic Association, I1 have witnessed immeasurable intellectual growth, collaboration at its finest, the leveraging of best practices, innovative planning for the future that embraces today’s and tomorrow’s technology, impressive return on investment (ROI) for individuals and organizations, and a solid strategy that may be critical to future success.

Let me be clear by what I mean when I talk about the program's cohort. I am referring to a group of students who study with each other in the same academic model, starting and ending the model in a lock-step manner throughout the months needed to complete the required academic credits. The rationale for the development of this model is associated with higher student retention rates as well as the optimal shared educational experience of the cohort members. Research suggests that the cohort model develops mutual and intellectual stimulation, forms social ties, and enables the institutions to organize the programs in effective ways. Below are the benefits of developing a cohort based on the experience of our program, faculty, and the partner healthcare organization:

  • Immeasurable intellectual growth;

  • Collaboration at its finest;

  • The leveraging of best practices;

  • Innovative planning for the future that embraces today’s and tomorrow’s technology;

  • Impressive return on investment (ROI) for individuals and organizations; and

  • A solid retention strategy.

Saint Joseph’s University’s (SJU) business faculty has observed that in recent years, some of our very top Executive MBA students (concentrating in this healthcare curriculum) are physicians with 15, 20, and even 25+ years of clinical experience. Whilst they may have been attracted to the biology and biochemistry sciences as undergraduates, they have a remarkable commitment to excellence and learning. We have also collectively observed that many physicians who become MBA students tackle quantitative courses (Accounting, Finance, and Forecasting) with the same fever pitch as their medical school years or residencies.

As a result, the desire to earn an MBA degree in a specialization like healthcare is an ideal way to heighten the performance of a multi-talented physician. No doubt, the mettle and competency of physicians are well tested. Not surprisingly, however, the ability to connect healthcare to a business curriculum happens cohort after cohort. Any hesitation regarding the success that a physician may have in business school may be unwarranted. SJU faculty has witnessed excellence and award-winning submissions most recently at final Capstone presentations at Inspira Health Network especially in our Business Ethics, Health Policy, R&D/Innovation, Forecasting, Healthcare Systems Strategy, and Capstone courses (See Appendix for more details on 6 of 24 courses noted above).

By definition, graduate school and Executive MBA programs also foster a culture of immersed strategic and critical thinking, ideation and research and development, unbridled opportunity; improvement steps to enhance the status quo; and the emergence of true growth.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Reflexive Praxis: A learned skill that facilitates exploration of our personal context in order to identify our assumptions, biases, and the way we think. Understanding how we think and the sources of our individual way of thinking allows us to be more mindful of the way we communicate with others and make decisions.

Pedagogic Practice: Forms of social practice that shape and form the cognitive, affective, and moral development of individuals. Pedagogic practices influence the formation of identity as well as learning outcomes.

Experience in Action: Real-life decision making in the leadership arena with accountability for decisions and outcomes.

Facilitator's Role: Guides and manages a group event to ensure that the group's objectives are met effectively, with clear thinking, good participation, and full buy-in from everyone who is involved.

High Fidelity Simulation: Provides participants with a learning environment in which to develop non-technical skills, that is safe and controlled so that the participants are able to make mistakes, correct those mistakes in real time and learn from them, without fear of compromising patient safety. Participants in simulation are also able to rehearse the clinical management of rare, complex or crisis situations in a valid representation of clinical practice, before practicing on patients.

Experiential Learning: Experiential learning theory (ELT) provides a holistic model of the learning process and a multilinear model of adult development, both of which are consistent with what we know about how people learn, grow, and develop. The theory is called “experiential learning” to emphasize the central role that experience rather than cognition or behavioral plays in the learning process.

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