UBC SPPH’s MHA Alumni Pritma Dhillon Chattha (Class of 2008) shares her experience at MHA and how it helped achieve her career goal.
Pritma Dhillon Chattha – UBC SPPH’s MHA Alumni, Class of 2008
Co-Founder of Lavender
VP of HealthCare Innovation at Apploi
Adjunct Faculty at University of Calgary
WHY DID YOU SELECT THE MHA PROGRAM?
As a nurse and future entrepreneur (at the time), I wanted a program more encompassing of healthcare than a general MBA. It was important to me that every course have a healthcare focus, and UBC’s MHA provided this. With healthcare being such a vast and complex industry, I knew that I would never get bored and could never stop learning within it – it turns out, I was right!
WHICH ASPECT OF THE MHA DID YOU FIND MOST VALUABLE?
What stands out to me are the relationships I cultivated during the MHA and how much I learned not only from my professors, but from my peers. I looked forward to my MHA weekends and spending time with colleagues who had such unique backgrounds and roles within healthcare – a truly interdisciplinary learning experience.
HOW DID THE MHA PREPARE YOU FOR A YALE DOCTORAL PROGRAM?
While completing the MHA, I was working full time and commuting from Calgary for the program. The coursework was rigorous and I expected nothing less of UBC. My time here required a great deal of discipline and commitment to balance work, school & life responsibilities. This in turn, resulted in increased confidence and capacity in my professional and personal life.
Upon graduating in 2006, I focused on climbing the corporate ladder as an ‘intrapreneur’ and it wasn’t until 2015 that I returned to school to complete a Doctorate in Nursing Practice at Yale. Similar to the MHA, I commuted to Yale monthly from Calgary for 3 years while also working full time, and this time – while starting a family! I credit my experience at UBC for helping lay the foundation for my work at Yale, which was focused on developing a tool to improve the quality and safety of electronic health records: The eSafety Checklist .
WHAT WAS YOUR ROLE WHEN YOU STARTED YOUR MHA?
I had recently moved from a clinical role in a hospital to a corporate occupational health position with the Calgary Board of Education. It was a big shift for me and my first exposure to the business side of healthcare. I quickly realized how much I enjoyed working on projects, drafting policies, and developing programs.
AND WHAT WAS YOUR ROLE AT THE END OF THE MHA PROGRAM?
The month I finished my MHA, I landed my first management position. WestJet hired me to create an employee wellness and ability management program; I was the first nurse they had ever hired. The MHA program gave me the confidence to apply, and in my interview, I was able to respond to scenarios I didn’t have direct experience with, but could speak to from my MHA education, drawing on examples I’d heard in the classroom.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE DOING NOW
After completing my doctorate, I transitioned from being an ‘intrapreneur’ to an entrepreneur by launching a software company, Healthgig , which was recently acquired by New York based Apploi . I launched my second startup, Lavender, in May 2020 in response to the COVID crisis. Lavender is an online psychiatry and therapy office founded to increase access to high quality yet affordable mental health care for New Yorkers. From idea to implementation, we launched in 45 days and have been growing exponentially month over month. We plan to expand across the United States, and hopefully one day, to Canada.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR MHA STUDENTS AND RECENT MHA GRADS?
Keep an open mind, embrace blue sky thinking and remember anything is possible. I would encourage new grads to apply for roles they may feel under-qualified for – especially women. Neglect the urge to self-reject, and know that you belong here and have earned it.
WHAT IS ONE POSITIVE CHANGE WE CAN EXPECT TO SEE IN HEALTH CARE AS A RESULT OF COVID-19?
The pandemic is driving innovation in many ways. What I’m most excited about is the broad adoption of virtual care, and as a result, the increased access to healthcare.