“In my role, I am often working with the university’s innovators in health. While I am not directly innovating in the field of healthcare, I work with faculty and scientists who are researching disease or developing new treatments or technologies. It is important for me to understand how they navigate their work and specifically, how companies or foundations can help support their innovation efforts. I found these courses very valuable in my day-to-day.” – Sarah Pandoursky, Healthcare Innovation Online Graduate Certificate, Graduate Fall 2022

Sarah Pandoursky, a graduate of UConn's online healthcare innovation graduate certificateSupporting a Culture of Innovation

Sarah Pandoursky is not a healthcare practitioner, nor is that part of her career path. However, through her role as Senior Director of Corporate & Foundation Relations for Health Sciences at UConn Foundation, she is deeply enmeshed in supporting the innovative work of many healthcare researchers and practitioners. In her search for professional development, Sarah discovered the Healthcare Innovation Online Graduate Certificate at the University of Connecticut (UConn). Sarah values the insights, tools, and mindset she gained from the
program. Most exciting for Sarah was the opportunity to learn about innovation in ways that now strengthen her capacity to provide support to faculty, including connecting them with corporations and foundations to support their work: taking it all full circle!

Unique perspective

Sarah has long been a proponent of professional development. When she began her work with UConn Foundation four years ago, she was searching for opportunities to deepen her knowledge around healthcare. As Sarah explains, “I have always been committed to professional development. My career has primarily been in nonprofit and now, academic development. I’ve worked with organizations in health and food justice for many years, but I’m not a healthcare practitioner by trade. My education has been focused on nonprofit management and fundraising. I was looking for a way to dive a little bit deeper into health, also knowing the corporations we connect with are increasingly interested in innovation.”

Describing her work, Sarah explains, “At the UConn Foundation, our role is to raise philanthropic funds on behalf of the University and UConn Health. Specifically, I work with companies and foundations to garner support for the Health Sciences across UConn, often connecting them with specific schools, research, or initiatives that align with their organizational goals.”

Searching online to see what was available at UConn, Sarah discovered the Healthcare Innovation Online Graduate Certificate. She was excited that the program was not limited to healthcare providers, but open to a diverse range of professionals: “It was appealing to me that it was across the healthcare industry, so there are practicing healthcare providers, but also folks who are more peripherally engaged in healthcare. That was exciting to me. During my coursework, I was the only certificate student who was not on a path to be a healthcare provider. I was looking at it from a little bit of a unique perspective.”

Structure: Theory to application

Sarah began the 4-course, 12-credit certificate program in spring 2021. Taking one course each semester, she completed the program in fall 2022. This was just the right pacing for Sarah: “As somebody who is working full time and was doing this as a professional development opportunity, completing one course a semester was very manageable, and I felt like I wasn’t overwhelmed to the point where I couldn’t be  successful.”

While all courses are online and asynchronous, Sarah appreciated the opportunities to connect with other students via the Husky/CT Blackboard platform. “There was a lot of discussion built-in to the courses. Being able to share ideas back and forth was great. We also shared presentations with each other for specific assignments. Even though it was all virtual, you still have that connection, which was really nice.”

While Sarah says in general, “overall the courses were great,” the feature that stands out for her is the way the courses were structured: “I liked the structure of going from theory to application. As somebody who has been in the workforce for many years, it was nice to have both: to be able to think about it in theory, but also how this applies to specific innovations from start to finish.”

Innovator mindset: Entrepreneur vs. intrapreneur

There was an important distinction woven throughout the program that shifted Sarah’s perspective on what it means to be an innovator. As she explains, “I really liked that many of the courses looked at the difference between an intrapreneur and an entrepreneur. Being able to see the importance of innovators within an organization was eye opening. We often think about innovators as people who invent something brand new, but we can use the innovation mindset in our day-to-day jobs on process improvement or new initiatives. Being able to better convey how we might improve or change something is definitely a tool that I took away from the courses.”

Reputation for rigor

In addition to working closely with UConn faculty and researchers, Sarah is a proud undergraduate alumnus of UConn, earning her BA in Anthropology and Journalism, before shifting her trajectory and earning her MA in Public Administration from University of New Haven. According to Sarah, UConn’s reputation for rigor makes this graduate certificate credential exceptionally valuable: “In having this certificate from an institution like UConn, there’s a rigor that folks know goes into the courses that is absolutely valuable. I’m certainly proud of that, and I think it’s a resume builder.”

Full circle: Working with the learning from faculty

Uniquely situated, Sarah really enjoyed the opportunity to learn from many of the faculty with whom she already had ongoing working relationships. “Throughout the program, there were a lot of online opportunities to hear directly from innovators, many of whom were connected to UConn, either they had been students that had started a company, or they were faculty members. That was embedded throughout. I work with a number of the faculty in my day-to-day job as well, so I already had a sense of their expertise and depth of knowledge. To step out of my day-to-day and learn from them was really exciting. I have nothing but positive things to say about the faculty that were involved.”

In particular, Sarah appreciated the opportunity to learn from Dr. Tiffany Kelley, Director of the program and Instructor for all four courses. “Dr. Kelley shed light on readings and assignments as a faculty member, innovator, and entrepreneur. To be able to learn more about her own journey as an entrepreneur was valuable. Dr. Kelley is now Co-Director of our Nursing and Engineering Innovation Center at UConn, and I am working with her to engage potential corporate partners of that center. It has been wonderful to continue a working relationship with her.”

Insights to supporting the work of UConn healthcare innovators

The insights gained in the program have proven valuable to Sarah in helping her more successfully support the innovators she works with every day. “In my role, I am often working with the university’s innovators in health. While I am not directly innovating in the field of healthcare, I work with faculty and scientists who are researching disease or developing new treatments or technologies. It is important for me to understand how they navigate their work and specifically, how companies or foundations can help support their innovation efforts. I found these courses very valuable in my day-to-day.”

Further reflecting on her new lens for understanding the inherent barriers to innovating, Sarah adds, “I have the amazing opportunity to work with some of the most innovative people. UConn has renowned researchers, faculty members, and physicians. The certificate program gave me a small glimpse into the perseverance and barriers they might face on their innovation journey. That was emphasized a lot in the program: Innovation is not a straight line. It’s very often a difficult path. There are often barriers and people who don’t understand what you’re trying to do. Having that insight into what some of our innovators go through to get their work into the mainstream has helped me tremendously.”

Not just for healthcare practitioners

To those considering the program, Sarah encourages, “Even if you aren’t looking to become a practitioner, I encourage you to consider the program. The program has a lot of value for anyone in the healthcare or biomedical sciences industry across a variety of roles. Being able to better articulate innovations, propose systems change, or process improvement in an organization is beneficial. And of course, better understanding healthcare innovations specifically has been critical to my current role at UConn Foundation.”

“In a short set of four courses, you learn so much. It’s very comprehensive, and it’s extremely well thought-out. There was a very clear progression amongst the four courses. The progression matches what you would do in practice in terms of going through the process of making a change… A big strength is that it naturally takes students through that process and then gives you an opportunity to try it with your own idea. And it feels very organized in that way.” — Dr. Maria Latta, Healthcare Innovation Online Graduate Certificate, Graduate Fall 2021

Maria Latta, a graduate of UConn's online healthcare innovation graduate certificate

Optimizing Pharmacy's Clinical Role in Healthcare

As a Health System Pharmacy Administration and Leadership Resident, Dr. Maria Latta is passionate about strengthening and optimizing pharmacists’ clinical role in the larger healthcare system. Recognizing that pharmacy professionals are well-trained yet are often not fully utilized, Maria began questioning how to change the underlying processes and infrastructure to bridge that gap. After completing the Healthcare Innovation Online Graduate Certificate at the University of Connecticut (UConn), Maria feels empowered with the tools and strategies to be a leader and champion of that change.

Aligned with her unique goals

While earning her Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at UConn, Maria was aware of the large variety of graduate certificates offered, so she was always scoping out what was new. When she discovered the Healthcare Innovation Online Graduate Certificate program, she recognized an alignment with her own unique goals and interests. As Maria explains, “There are a few graduate certificates around clinical practice, like pain management. That was something I was interested in, so I started to look at that, and then came up with the Healthcare Innovation Graduate Certificate. That felt more aligned with my goals. Although I was interested in learning more about clinical practice, that’s so much of my regular program already. I was also involved in a lot of the undergraduate research programs at UConn. These programs really center around student-led projects, with the idea that you’re not just researching, but you’re really learning how to be a researcher, which includes principles of change management and implementation science. That’s why I gravitated towards the Healthcare Innovation Certificate. Looking at their curriculum, I felt it would really augment more of this component, which is not a focus of my pharmacy program.” With that impetus, Maria began the 4-course, 12-credit certificate program in spring 2020, completing the final course in fall 2021.

Program is wherever I am

Juggling a demanding schedule of PharmD classes and off-campus rotations, Maria appreciated that the certificate program courses were all online and asynchronous, enabling her the flexibility to work at her own pace, across a variety of locations. “Truthfully if this was an in- person program, I wouldn’t have done it. Throughout my time in the certificate program, I was taking a lot of other classes as a pharmacy student, so to fit it into my schedule would have been very challenging. However, it’s self-paced classes. You don’t have scheduled time blocks, so I could still get all the learning at my own pace, which was super helpful and made that possible. The other component is, as a pharmacy student, I have to do rotations, which were all over Connecticut: a month in New Haven, a month in North Haven, a month in Greenwich. I have to be all over – but I could still do this program because it’s wherever I am.”

Discovering and crystalizing her niche along the way

Maria explains that it was during the onsite rotations for her PharmD program that she began to realize where her passions lie: “A lot of what I gained during those rotations, combined with my research experiences, was the insight that I do love clinical practice, but more than that, taking a step back, I have a major respect for my colleagues in pharmacy that have an even greater passion for clinical, and their impact on their patients, and their intellect and ability. My interest is more ‘How do we strengthen that process?’ Pharmacy is a newer profession, sometimes a little bit left behind. In many ways, we’re still growing to have a larger place in healthcare. We’re very well trained, but we’re not always well utilized. That is my biggest passion in pharmacy: seeing all my colleagues being so strong but not always being utilized – and knowing that only changes when someone changes the process, changes the infrastructure, and changes how the hospital values pharmacists. Someone needs to change that. So that was, even in my research projects, a large part of my core interests.”

This passion is what led Maria to pursue the certificate program, and along the way, her career aspirations were further crystallized: “I felt this Healthcare Innovation Certificate would give me a foundational understanding of ‘How do you have an idea and make a change? How do you identify what needs to be changed in the first place?’ My career interest at that time was still growing. I felt like ‘If I can learn more about this, I’ll learn if I’m interested in it.’ And out of that came, Yes, the components of this are what I want to be doing full time for the rest of my career.’”

Our gap is the bridge between us

The interactive discussions with her classmates via the HuskyCT/Blackboard online platform were extremely valuable to Maria. “Even though it’s an online certificate and we didn’t have those in-person classes, a big component of the classes was doing discussion boards and replying to each other. A lot of people have that in their other classes, but with the cohort that I experienced within the certificate program, there was constant back and forth. There was a lot of in-depth conversations that happened through that. I think, especially the way this program is set up, it fosters that collaboration.”

Learning interactively with her peers was greatly enhanced by the diversity of student backgrounds and experiences. “Another major strength of this program is the variety of students. In my cohort, there was an athletic trainer, an oncology nurse, myself, and then a couple of other various healthcare practitioners. A lot of our work was to do projects or presentations, and then give each other feedback. In those discussions, you start understanding so much about the other components of healthcare. No one really lives in a bubble.

Functionally, a lot of us do because you can’t help but do your own work. For example, a pharmacist is looking at all the medications that the oncology patient is getting, and the nurse is administering all those medications. So, we might not always be calling each other or thinking about each other, but we’re both there all the time. By realizing their thought processes, the challenges that their experiencing, what they see as things that could be changed or improved or innovated on in their areas, it’s helpful to understanding that larger landscape. And then it triggers so many ideas for you as well, like, ‘Wow, maybe we need a better process between both of us.’ Because when you’re talking about your gap, and I’m talking about my gap, the gap is actually in between. It’s not just within our own departments. And that gap is really the bridge between us. So those discussions then come out with so much of that broader experience that most of don’t get in our training programs.”

Natural progression of courses matches innovation process

The four courses for this program are taken in sequential order, beginning with Healthcare Innovation Theory and Application (NURS 5111) and culminating in the capstone course (NURS 5114). This intentional organization of the courses stood out for Maria as another core strength. “In a short set of four courses, you learn so much. It’s very comprehensive, and it’s extremely well thought-out. There was a very clear  progression amongst the four courses. The progression matches what you would do in practice in terms of going through the process of making a change. The first course is around ‘How do you identify unmet needs?’ This included looking at innovations that weren’t successful because they actually didn’t meet anybody’s needs. So, understanding the basis of what makes a useful innovation and how to start there with identifying what’s needed. Then, for the next course, ‘How do you innovate? What is innovative? How do you create something?’ And then it goes on to: ‘How do you implement a change? Because now you’ve made the thing, and everybody needs it: How do they get it?’ And then finally, for the last course, it ends with a capstone project of you trying to do it yourself. A big strength is that it naturally takes students through that process and then gives you an opportunity to try it with your own idea. And it feels very organized in that way.”

All the tools you are looking for

Describing the unique comprehensiveness of the program, Maria says that regardless of leadership aspirations, the program provides the tools you didn’t know you were looking for: “It’s very hard to find this in other places so well-packaged. Maybe you’ll learn about a little change management if you do your MBA, or a little bit about creative thinking in some of your practice classes. But you’re getting pieces here and there if you choose to pursue all these various courses – versus going to one place where you get this start-to-finish full experience. And it elevates you so much, especially for people in clinical practice. Even if you plan to continue to be in clinical practice with no interest in leadership, no problem. You are in this position now, having all this background, where you are now equipped to come up and present ideas that will actually fix your pain points. So, it’s not just, ‘Oh, I want to be a leader’ It’s even for me, every single day, ‘This doesn’t make sense. How do I fix that?’ And that improves your life, as well as patients’ lives and all the people that you work with. It also helps you really be engaged with the work you’re doing. But if you are interested in any kind of leadership or mobility in your position, that’s what most people look for: people who have ideas and solutions. However, if you don’t know how to make that happen from start to finish, even if you have that interest, it’s so hard. So, this program is giving you all the tools that you need to be that person. I think a lot of people are looking for this – even if they don’t know they’re looking for this.”

Crux: Encouraging student ideas to thrive

For Maria, another highlight of the program was learning and interacting with Dr. Tiffany Kelley, who she explains has a special talent for nurturing student ideas. "Dr. Kelley is wonderful. She is extremely helpful. She has so much experience, especially as an instructor. Not every faculty has the ability to really encourage student ideas to thrive. That’s really the crux of this whole program. Even if your idea is not that good, or maybe it isn’t feasible, the point is to generate ideas and to throw them out to workshop them: encouraging the process of having ideas. She’s especially good at that, and really good at having those kinds of nurturing conversations. I think that’s a specialty.”

More than I ever thought I could learn

Maria’s relationship with Dr. Kelley also extended beyond the program in ways that further enhanced her learning at UConn. During the second year of the certificate program, Maria was one of 17 students chosen to participate in UConn’s 2021 University Scholar Program. Each student in the program is mentored by three faculty advisors. As Maria explains, “My research was around coming up with an innovation for opioids and how patients take them. I had one mentor from pharmacy who understands all about the pharmacy side. Because I’m at UConn and I made this connection to the graduate certificate, Dr. Kelley became my mentor and gave me a lot of insights from the innovation side. And then I ended up connecting with someone from the School of Management, who understood more of the business side. This is all something I couldn’t have done if I wasn’t at UConn specifically, because you’re already connected with everyone just by being there. Not only are you getting connected to everyone, but the people you’re getting connected to have so much experience and background that as a student, you’re like, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m learning more than I ever thought I could learn.’”

Tools and strategies to lead change

Maria is currently completing a 2-year Pharmacy Residency at Yale New Haven Hospital. The specialty area of her second-year residency focuses on Health System Pharmacy Administration and Leadership, and includes a Master’s in Healthcare Administration from the University of New Haven. The tools Maria gained from the certificate program are proving invaluable as she dives into her new career as a leader: “In my current position, as an Administration and Leadership Resident, I am essentially a first-time leader, so most the projects I’m given, I don’t have this feeling of, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve done that before.’ Much of it is brand new to me. I feel like I have a leg up compared to others in my spot. So much of what we do is creating new policies for the hospital, revising our processes as new technology comes out, implementing new technology. And a current project I’m working on is looking at a newer service that we’ve implemented fairly recently, but understanding that ‘go live’ doesn’t mean that it’s flourishing. Instead, it’s ‘How do you take something that we started and now make it into something really successful and thriving?’ One hundred percent I can tell you, that’s not something you learn in pharmacy school or in your typical clinical practice. A lot of that then comes down to change management. So many of these principles around innovative thinking and implementation science, which is, from my perspective, the core of this graduate certificate, then come into play when you’re trying to look at these larger projects, or even small projects, like smaller policy changes when you’re working on a team of 15 pharmacy technicians and ten pharmacists.”

Tasked with leading change efforts, Maria draws on the strategies she learned in the certificate program to shift her colleagues’ resistance to change into shared interest in finding solutions. “Nobody likes to change what they’re doing. That is inherently a difficult thing. You need to learn as the person leading that, which I’m put into that position all the time as a resident, to understand from others’ perspectives: understanding what the purpose of this change is, what need is it addressing, why are we doing this, what is the benefit of this, why do it? How do I convince you that you need it? Because I know that you need it, and I know you have pain points that need to be addressed. Then, all of a sudden, this process of change is less about making a change and more about facing a problem. Everyone’s way more interested in this. That becomes such a big component of my day-to-day work. I come into everything with that innovation thought process because this certificate program gave me so many of those tools, and I feel like that’s brought me to a much more successful place in handling these requests. Knowing where to start and knowing how to go about it has given me a really big boost.”

“The certificate program has been extremely impactful on my career. It was, by far, the most engaging and meaningful program I have been a part of. It was something I valued even more than many of my PhD classes because of what I gained from it. And that was part of why I did it. It was helpful and practical in many ways, not that my other educational experiences weren’t, but the value on this program was so much higher – and tangible.” – Dr. Kelsey Rynkiewicz, Healthcare Innovations Online Graduate Certificate, Graduate Fall 2021

Kelsey Rynkiewicz, a graduate of UConn's online healthcare innovation graduate certificateBecoming Part of the Solution

As an athletic trainer, Dr. Kelsey Rynkiewicz is passionate about sports medicine as an integral part of the healthcare system. While pursuing her PhD in Kinesiology at the University of Connecticut (UConn), Kelsey also earned three graduate certificates at UConn, including the Healthcare Innovation Online Graduate Certificate. For Kelsey, the program was a natural fit – for both her academic interests and her natural inclination to innovate to better serve her patients. Today, engaged in the career of her dreams, Kelsey attributes the new skillset and solution-focused mindset she gained from the certificate program to contributing to her success.

Kelsey is a powerhouse when it comes to learning, earning four degrees and three certificates. After earning a BS in Athletic Training (2016) from King’s College, she earned an MS in Kinesiology (2018), followed by a PhD in Kinesiology (2023) from UConn. During the last semester of her MS and first semester of her PhD programs, Kelsey also simultaneously earned a second MS in Health Administration (2018) from King’s College. And while engaged in her PhD work, she earned three additional certificates at UConn: College Instruction, Public Health, and Healthcare Innovation. All of this while also working for six years as a Graduate Assistant Athletic Trainer at Eastern Connecticut University, which included working with the 2022 Division III National Champion baseball team. Wow, what a ride! As Kelsey shares, “It was a lot. After the fact when I was done, I was like ‘Wow, what did I just do?’ I liked it a lot though, because I enjoyed working clinically as an athletic trainer, I liked the administrative side, and I also liked teaching. It was the trifecta of those three areas that I was able to combine and that was important for me moving forward.”

Natural fit

As Kelsey was pursuing her PhD in Kinesiology at UConn, she was looking for additional classes to maintain full-time status. Rather than fill her schedule with random, disconnected classes, she was in search of coursework that could benefit her future healthcare practice. When Kelsey learned about the Healthcare Innovation Online Graduate Certificate program, it felt like a perfect fit. “I am passionate about healthcare in general. As an athletic trainer, it’s important to understand how athletic trainers fit into the greater healthcare system, but also how the healthcare system works. With my Healthcare Administration MS, I really liked the administrative side, so when I found out about the Healthcare Innovation program, I was like, ‘Oh, this is still in the healthcare realm but gives me a different aspect of the field. This sounds awesome!’”

Kelsey further explains, “It was something I wanted to do that would not just help me, but help my patients as well. As athletic trainers, we’re always innovating, evaluating, and trying new things, whether it’s with a patient’s rehabilitation, determining an exact diagnosis, or designing something to protect the patient when they return to play. I feel I have that innate nature of always wanting to be creative and innovative to do things differently and find better solutions. We have such a high patient load, especially in the collegiate setting where you’re providing care to many different teams and student-athletes. On a football team, you may have 130 student-athletes, so how can you be more efficient while still providing high quality patient care? I already have this mindset, so for me, the program was a natural fit for figuring out: How can I learn these principles to help me innovate better and more intentionally?” Beginning the 12-credit, 4-course certificate program in spring 2020, Kelsey completed the last course in fall 2021. The flexibility to complete her coursework at her own pace was key for Kelsey. “Everything was asynchronous, which was great, because you’re able to do it at your own pace. If there was a day you wanted to get the whole week’s worth of work completed, you could. You were able to make it work best for your schedule and plan in a way that worked best for you. That flexibility was nice, especially while working in a demanding and busy role as a healthcare provider.”

Best faculty and best courses ever

With an extensive academic career as point of comparison, Kelsey exclaims, “The certificate program has been extremely impactful on my career. It was, by far, the most engaging and meaningful program I have been a part of. It was something I valued even more than many of my PhD classes because of what I gained from it. And that was part of why I did it. It was helpful and practical in many ways, not that my other educational experiences weren’t, but the value on this program was so much higher – and tangible.”

For Kelsey, a highlight of the program was interacting with Dr. Tiffany Kelley, Director and Instructor of the program. “Dr. Kelley is phenomenal. She was, by far, one of the best people I interacted with when I was at UConn. She was so kind and always so helpful and available, willing to chat, and there to support you as a student to help you learn. In my mind, that is what a professor should be. That’s what you hope for and look for. And that’s what I hope to be as a professor with my students. Because I think that’s why all of us get into teaching, to support students. Sometimes, unfortunately, things get lost in that: There’s research you have to do; you need to do service; you need to do all these other things, but at the core, we’re all there for the students. And I felt like she really embodied that.”

Reflecting on her coursework, Kelsey continues, “They were some of the best courses I have ever had, and I’ve told a lot of people that over the years. I really appreciated how well organized the program was, and how much effort Dr. Kelley put into planning out each component of the courses. Each subsequent course built upon the courses we had prior. I never felt like I was doing busy work or random assignments; everything had a very specific purpose. I reflect back on our various assignments, and at the end, the product I finished with was because of the scaffolding of courses and attention to detail in the coursework. That was something very unique about the program.”

Exposure to innovators in the field

Another element of the program Kelsey appreciated was the breadth of exposure to the real- world experiences of innovators in the field. “We had a lot of guest speakers who shared their own stories of innovation. Even though Dr. Kelley taught all four courses, we were exposed to numerous other people and connections she had as well. Dr. Kelley interviewed the guest speakers about various topics and essentially had conversations with them about their innovation journeys. It gave us a glimpse of that person’s experience and an opportunity to reach out, connect, and network with those individuals. We had a chance to learn about their areas of innovation, their different opinions, the different things they were doing, how they were innovating, and how they were becoming entrepreneurs. It was an opportunity to gain exposure to all that’s out there.”

Learning through diversity of perspectives

Because the courses for this program follow a specific sequence, students form a cohort that moves together through the program. Enrolled in the very first iteration of the program, Kelsey and her classmates comprised a cohort of three. The opportunity to interact with her classmates via the HuskyCT/Blackboard online discussion forum enabled Kelsey to learn from a diversity of perspectives: “Even with the program being online, there was a connection to others in the program, especially through the discussion posts – and from being with those same students for four semesters in a row. I felt like by the end, I really got to know the two other people that were in my cohort. I knew what they did and their areas of specialty, which were areas very different from mine. One of my classmates was in nursing; another was in pharmacy. I got to learn so much about their areas that I never would have otherwise. You’re relating healthcare innovation to your own individual field, so everyone had a different application of it, but then that allowed you to learn about other students’ professions. You were able to understand how they were applying concepts to specific tasks they do on a daily basis in the workplace that you might not otherwise have realized they’re doing as another healthcare provider.”

Emphasizing the relevance of this broadened perspective, Kelsey adds, “The interdisciplinary aspect of the program allowed me to gain a much better understanding of other healthcare fields. Because of this, I was able to further recognize the role and importance of various members of the healthcare team. We are in diverse professions, but we’re all still working together, and we all still have a common goal. Rather than having different silos, how do we all work together? We’re all trying to be better for our patients and deliver better healthcare services, so how do we do that?”

Takeaway: Tangible product

As Kelsey shares, “The courses all flowed easily and seamlessly, continually building off each other.” Still, the capstone course (NURS 5114 – Healthcare Innovation Development), with its culminating project, is particularly memorable for Kelsey. “I think the last class, where we worked on our own innovation, was the most important because it culminated everything we had learned throughout those prior three courses. We were using all the different concepts we learned to work on putting together a plan for our innovation and how we would execute that plan.”

For her capstone project, Kelsey designed an app focused on rehabilitation for athletic trainers and their patients. “By the end, I had this tangible product that I was able to look at and say, ‘Hey, this is something that I might want to go and do in the future.’ That’s something I did not get to do throughout my education as purposefully, whether it was undergrad, Master’s, or PhD: working on something where it’s so tangible that you keep building on it and progressing as you’re learning, and then you produce something in the end that you can utilize in the future.”

Additional skillset makes all the difference

Today, Kelsey is passionately engaged in the career of her dreams, serving as both an Assistant Professor of Athletic Training and Athletic Trainer at Springfield College. As Kelsey explains, “I have a split role where I work clinically as an Athletic Trainer for about 75% of my job, and then the other 25% is teaching in our Athletic Training and Exercise Science Programs. It’s fun, exciting, and every day is different which I enjoy a lot. I have the best of both worlds where I get to provide athletic healthcare to my patients and educate my students who are planning future careers in the field. This is what I wanted to do since I was an undergraduate student and I am very lucky and fortunate to be in this position, because it’s a role and model that not many schools have any more.”

Obviously highly qualified, with many degrees and years of experience, Kelsey credits this certificate program for giving her the extra skillset that set her apart from other candidates. “I think this program has already helped me in my career. It was something I talked about on job interviews, and it was something I felt impressed and intrigued others when I spoke about my experiences. The program has shaped my perspective a lot, and it ties into quality improvement, which is something that’s emphasized in healthcare all the time. I really think the program helped me get my current position, because at Springfield we place a high value and focus on quality improvement. I was able to talk about my coursework as part of the graduate certificate during my interview at Springfield, how I had come up with the idea for an app, and how it was something I want to move forward with in the future. My skillset gained from this program was a great talking point and something I was able to use to sell myself and my abilities.”

Becoming part of the solution

Embracing her inner innovator, Kelsey actively applies her learning from the program in her day-to-day work. “My goal for being in this program was to be more intentional about innovation. Now, I am constantly looking for what I would call ‘inefficiencies’ in the workplace. I am always recognizing and identifying when something is not working great or taking too much time and asking, ‘How can we change this? How can we make it easier?’”

As a specific example, Kelsey explains how she draws on her learning to help navigate her approach to quality improvement goals. “Last year, I did a presentation and workshop related to quality improvement in athletic training with a couple of my colleagues from Springfield College. As we were planning out our presentation and what information we wanted to share, I referenced some of the concepts and data I learned in the grad certificate program because it connected to quality improvement. Using innovation, how do we engage in quality improvement to develop solutions to the challenges we encounter and improve the provision of healthcare? This is an important question to ask ourselves and a question that guides my everyday thinking.”

To those considering enrolling in the program, Kelsey encourages, “There are so many different issues and challenges in healthcare that we all talk about and face on a regular basis. But how do you become part of the solution? I think this program is for people who want to be part of the solution. If you’re looking to challenge yourself to think differently, to think outside the box, and to shift to a solution-focused mindset, rather than saying, ‘Oh, this doesn’t work, and I’m sick of this,’ you should complete this program.”

As a nurse I found the program extremely helpful in understanding the theory of innovation, the importance of innovation in healthcare, and most importantly the steps to bring an idea to reality. 

The lectures, interviews with entrepreneurs, and networking possibilities have been instrumental in helping me pursue my goals in innovation. 

As a nurse and mom, the flexibility of the program was very appealing to me. The online format made it easy to learn despite working nights and having a busy schedule. 

— Molly, BSN, RN

My role as an athletic trainer in the sports medicine field involves critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity on a daily basis. When I heard about the Healthcare Innovation Online Graduate Certificate program at UConn, I was immediately intrigued and interested in pursuing education in this area. Innovation is something I encounter nearly every day as a healthcare provider, but I did not necessarily realize that before enrolling in the certification program. The program offered me the opportunity to further explore innovation in healthcare and develop a much deeper understanding of how we can positively impact the patients we serve. As healthcare practices continue to change with a shift to preventative medicine, innovation is vital. My natural tendency to be inquisitive has been enhanced. I am now always thinking, “How can this be done better?” However, instead of just posing that question, I am able to create actionable items to actually do things better.

Given that the program was fully online, I had the flexibility to complete coursework when was most convenient for me. I enjoyed the small class size and ability to not just interact with others in my cohort, but to get to know them on a more personal level. The interdisciplinary aspect of the program allowed me to gain a much better understanding of other healthcare fields. Because of this, I was able to further recognize the role and importance of various members of the healthcare team. Dr. Tiffany Kelley is one of the most helpful, kind, and knowledgeable instructors I have ever interacted with. All of her courses were extremely well thought out and organized with clear objectives and goals. I also appreciated the quality assignments that were applicable, practical, and useful. The program allowed me to develop my own healthcare innovation that I continued to build upon each subsequent semester. I have also been able to enroll in other innovation and entrepreneurial courses to help further my innovation. I am excited to one day be able to make this idea a reality and bring it to market!

I am so thankful UConn provides students with the Healthcare Innovation Online Graduate Certificate program. It was by far the most engaging and meaningful program I have been a part of. Participating in this program truly advanced my ability to provide support to the athletic training profession and impact the future of healthcare. I strive to be the best for my patients, this program has allowed me to do exactly that!


"This graduate certificate gave me the opportunity and structure I needed to develop my entrepreneurial skills within the healthcare setting. I was able to collaborate with other students from vastly different backgrounds and healthcare fields, which gave me the necessary perspective to build out a project that went far beyond what I could have dreamed. This is the perfect program for anyone who is looking to make changes in healthcare and is always looking for opportunities for improvement in their workplace or field."

— Maria, PharmD