Carolyne Mukulo-Achienza

As a current Master of Science in Healthcare Management student, Carolyne Mukulo is a present-day example of how our graduate students are making personal and professional changes within the healthcare industry. Carolyne, who moved to the United States from Kenya, did not plan on being in healthcare originally but has found it to be a fulfilling experience in which she has seen significant career growth. Like many of our students, Carolyne is also a mother, wife, and full-time employee at OHSU who is successfully balancing life while still obtaining a graduate degree. Carolyne has shared her story below, giving us insight into her experience as a graduate student within the Division of Management.    

Why did you decide to pursue a degree in healthcare management?  "I started out at OHSU at the lowest of positions, which was a temporary office assistant position…At the time, I was looking for something that would enable me to put food on the table. As I continued to grow in rank, I started developing a passion for healthcare administration, because I loved how the system worked but felt like I knew little about the complexity of the system. So I would say that my decision was never a dream from the beginning, it's the dream that developed as I continued to test my possible self that way. I never dreamt to necessarily be in management, especially healthcare management, it grew as I studied and worked within healthcare."

What spurred your decision to continue on to the M.S. degree after receiving the certificate? "I liked the certificate program so much. I liked the content and the instructors. I liked the way…the curriculum has been arranged…so after I was done I knew that there was probably more that I needed to know to fully feel confident with the healthcare system, and secondly, I also wanted a Master's degree…senior management jobs don't necessarily look for certificate graduates, they look for masters graduates. So for me I was looking at an opportunity to get seasoned, really seasoned for leadership opportunities that lie ahead."

How did the transition from the certificate to the M.S. degree work for you? "The transition went really well. When I did the certificate, I took one class at a time because I knew that it was going to be very involving. I have two little children, a husband, a full-time job and a life and so I wanted to not overwhelm myself, but then after the certificate I felt prepared and I decided to start taking two classes."

What is the most important thing you have learned in the programs so far? "I think for me, because I didn't know much about healthcare…just knowing the system and how complex it is and how knowledge can help you navigate the complexities of the system has been really helpful. [Also] what I've learned and mostly because I already had a job in healthcare, was that most the things were practical and applicable to my current job…most of the things I would literally carry them and use them in my daily work, so that really made an impact. Everything we learn in this program is applicable to healthcare; there is nothing there to just build up your credit numbers. I think all the classes are needed and I just like how they have arranged the curriculum and how they have been able to select the course materials we use."

How has participating in these programs helped your career? "Once I joined the program…that is when my growth in my profession spiked even higher, because I moved from a non-management position right into a management position and obviously that is a big step. Being able to move from a position where you have never managed people to having someone trusting you enough to be in charge of a practice or employees, speaks a lot to the difference they have seen."

Why would you recommend the program to others? "I think there are many reasons… the fact that it's a part-time hybrid model gives students the flexibility to study while doing other things and… the opportunity to network with other people. [Also] the warmth of the instructors…they have a great sense of emotional connection and empathy, something that I really hold dear; so the instructors have always made me feel very valuable for sure. Additionally, I have made some really valuable connections with classmates working in different capacities at different companies."

What advice would you give to a future student thinking about getting into the healthcare management programs? "Just go ahead and get in. You'll be glad you did because as I said, I wasn't sure that I would be able to handle and balance work and school and family and other community involvements and everything else, but then when I started doing it I realized that it was actually doable and with focus, you can handle it."

Overall, how do you feel about the programs and your experience so far? "I think it's an excellent program, my experience has been really good. I feel that my voice has been heard and my opinions listened to. I was part of the learning process, I wasn't just there to be taught but I was also there to share my perception and my experiences…nothing is more fulfilling than to know that you were listened to and that your voice makes a difference."

Interview has been condensed and edited.