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Excerpted from a story originally published in the fall 2018 edition of Business Class magazine, by Natalie Bruckner. 

Michael Caesar, MBA ’01, did not set out to build a career in healthcare data analytics. And yet, with data analytics among the fastest-growing industries in the tech world (estimated to be worth around $1.45 billion in Canada in 2018), and the healthcare industry booming, it was a wise, if unexpected, career path.

Today, Caesar is Executive Director, Data and Implementation Science at the University Health Network (UHN). With 18 years’ experience in the field, Caesar leads a team of experts in both change management and analytics on a variety of projects to help improve patient outcomes, health system costs and access to care.

Q: How did you become involved in healthcare data analytics?

I honestly thought I would end up in a completely different industry, but when I came out of the MBA with a specialization in service management, it opened my eyes to a larger potential to get involved. My father was a physician so I was exposed to the healthcare environment from an early age, and that struck a chord in me. Straight out of my MBA, I was recruited as a senior analyst in Toronto before moving into change management at University Health Network (UHN). I would often spend the day with care providers and that hands-on experience helped me understand the complexities involved in the healthcare realm as I transitioned from project manager to executive director.

Q: How did your MBA prepare you for this career?

I was fortunate enough to be one of the first cohorts through the MBA service management specialization at UVic and this program has been invaluable to my journey in healthcare. The program is structured around teamwork, and healthcare is a team industry. The MBA teaches you to be adaptable, which is essential due to the sheer complexity of the healthcare environment.

Q: What is an indicator of an award-winning or highly functioning team?

I’ve had the incredible opportunity to be part of teams that have won local, national and international awards. These awards include being recognized for business transformation, change management, project management and innovation. One of the most important characteristics of an award-winning team is the collective desire to seek genuine, impactful improvements for the organization. I see this come to life in a team’s willingness and courage to pull apart and put back together ideas, to put historical paradigms aside and grab a whiteboard marker and walk through new ways of thinking, to be able to show the organization, with data and passion, where “better” lives. It’s one part a way of working and one part a deep desire for improvement.

Q: How do you create such a team?

Good question. I’m not sure it is such a simple answer. Every team is different, working on different problems and bringing different skills to the table—every single time. There are a few things that I think are important in positioning a team properly, however. First, it’s about goals: clarity in purpose and a direct link between purpose and the team is essential. Helping the team remain laser focused on those goals, surfacing data that support those goals and helping the organization learn about those goals is essential. Second, it’s about setting up an environment for the team to debate, discuss and sometimes, yes, argue. These are all incredibly important traits for a team. If they aren’t debating and challenging each other then they aren’t learning together and dealing with core, impactful issues and solutions. With clarity of goals and passion they can do anything. Lastly, a team needs support from a leader who knows there are going to be twists and turns, ups and downs, and create an environment that knows when to protect the team and when to challenge them.

Photo credit: Sue Holland