A Look Inside the WHA Leadership Academy: Alumni Success Stories

health care professionals talking happily

In 2021, the Wisconsin School of Business Center for Professional & Executive Development (CPED) partnered with the Wisconsin Hospital Assocation (WHA) to offer the WHA Health Care Leadership Academy. 

The immersive, five-month program is designed to help participants understand the business side of health care to meet the rapidly changing demands of the health care industry.  

Three years into the program, several participants have graduated and are incorporating what they have learned from the Leadership Academy into their professional careers. Three graduates from the 2023 WHA Health Care Leadership Academy shared their stories with us. 

Andy Olivares
Administrator, COO
Lakeview Specialty Hospital and Rehabilitation 

Andy OlivaresAndy Olivares has been working in the health care industry since 1994 and firmly believes in the importance of lifelong learning, especially for leaders. The WHA Leadership Academy was an ideal platform for continuous education and practical application of knowledge, he says.  

“My experience with the Wisconsin Hospital Association Leadership Academy was profoundly enriching. The Academy was pivotal in my professional development, particularly in leadership and finance. The hands-on approach to imparting knowledge in an easily understandable format was highly beneficial.” 

“The interactive nature of the sessions fostered an environment where both students and instructors could exchange ideas, regardless of their level of experience in health care. The relevance of the topics covered to the contemporary health care landscape further motivated my decision to participate.” 

Andy highlights two key takeaways from his Academy experience. “I gained insights into the art of effective decision-making and understanding the importance of action and restraint in leadership roles,” he says. 

He also took away invaluable strategies from the finance presentations that he has already implemented into his role, resulting in mutually beneficial outcomes for all stakeholders, he shares. 

“The most significant value of the Leadership Academy lies in its emphasis on current trends and practical utilization of technology. The focus on nurturing influential people’s leadership skills is paramount. The Academy equips health care professionals with the tools and knowledge necessary to excel in their leadership roles.” 

“I wholeheartedly encourage others to seize the opportunity to participate in the WHA Leadership Academy,” Andy adds. “It offers a dynamic learning environment where knowledge exchange flourishes. The format facilitates seamless collaboration and camaraderie among participants and instructors. The experience is enriching and essential for anyone aspiring to thrive in the health care leadership landscape.  

Amar Ambardekar, DO
Local Practice Management Committee Chair and general internal medicine
Aurora Healthcare  

Amar AmbardekarAmar has more than 14 years of experience in the health care industry. He chose to participate in WHA Leadership Academy because he wanted to continue to improve his leadership skills and prepare for more challenging roles that may be in his future.  

“The WHA Leadership Academy has been a great way to help boost my leadership skills in several different ways. It has helped me be more effective in running meetings, completing group projects, helping in crucial conversations, and understanding my innate strengths as a leader as well as identify areas in which I can improve,” he says.  

“Learning to be an influential leader has been particularly helpful at the bedside with patients to help them understand treatment plans. Similarly, with leading physicians, it has helped me help them to understand and accept process changes coming from the enterprise level and also be open to new ideas to help improve processes.”  

After graduating from the Academy, Amar says it has definitely helped him become a more confident and influential leader. “I highly recommend the WHA Leadership Academy. I thank Aurora Healthcare for allowing me to participate in this program.” 

Molly Vandervest
The Bellin Health Foundation 

Molly Vandervest Molly entered the health care industry in March of 2020 without any prior experience. While learning a lot about the operational world of health care during those first few years, she completed the WHA Leadership Academy in 2023.  

“It really helped give me the big picture perspective and exposure to all of the areas of the industry I am not exposed to on a daily basis,” Molly says. “My experience in the WHA Leadership Academy was one of the most effective trainings I’ve done to better prepare for my current role. The content covered was incredibly valuable, and the connections I made with fellow health care professionals from across the state was the cherry on top.” 

“Whether you are a clinical staff member or a support team member, the topics and areas of content you will be exposed to will help you gather a better understanding of what your teammates go through on a daily basis.”  

In her role as president at The Bellin Health Foundation, Molly works with nearly every area of the health system and needs to have a general understanding of the needs and challenges of clinical teammates. 

“The Academy offered an intense deep dive into understanding not only those clinical worlds but also the business side of health care. I found it incredibly valuable and worthwhile and have applied multiple learnings to my daily work.”  

She also found the “Life Styles Inventory” exercise of particular value. “Many leaders have gone through different skills and personality assessments,” she says. “The difference with this one was that they surveyed people I work with to gather their perceptions of my leadership and communication styles, which I then can compare with how I view myself.”  

“It is a very productive assessment that can, and did for me, help develop areas I can continue to work on to improve my leadership skills.”  

“I think the biggest value of the Academy is two-fold. First is the combination of being exposed to every area of health care while simultaneously building a new network of clinical and administrative leadership throughout the state. You learned from both the content itself and the ensuing discussions from fellow participants,” Molly says.  

“I can recall a really productive discussion during the financial ‘Apples and Oranges’ simulation where we had a nursing leader and a physician discussing opposite viewpoints on a decision we needed to make as a group. It was a valuable teaching moment to understand the different mindsets and experiences that would not have been as effective watching a video or reading about it.”  

“I am without question a better leader in my Foundation role because of the experience I had at WHA. It is time investment in yourself and your organization that will pay dividends down the road.”  

Leadership Development for Your Health Care Organization  

Programs like the WHA Leadership Academy are a great way to advance your individual leadership skills. If you’re looking for additional ways you can reskill or upskill teams within your organization consider custom solutions designed for your health care organization’s needs.  

Want to learn more? Book a meeting with Health Care and Life Sciences Solutions Advisor Mark Seifert to learn about CPED’s custom health care offerings. 

Book a Meeting with Mark