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MBA grad helps Ontario in fight against COVID-19

  • Communications
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  • May 27, 2021
MBA grad helps Ontario in fight against COVID-19

Amy Hilliard, MBA ’21, is one of the outstanding graduates in the Class of 2021

Dealing with crises is nothing new for Amy Hilliard, MBA ’21. The former registered nurse became used to adapting and responding to new situations at a moment’s notice while working in Mississauga Hospital’s emergency department.

Now she is again saving lives while helping Ontario through its most challenging health crisis to date – the race to vaccinate people against COVID-19 amidst a devastating third wave of the virus. Hilliard is on the Ontario Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 vaccine implementation team, which helps the province’s 34 public health units to operationalize the government’s vaccine policies. She took on the role part time in February 2021 while finishing her MBA at Ivey, and has continued full time since late March.

“As crazy as this year has been, it has allowed me to step into this role that’s honestly like a dream come true,” said Hilliard. “I’m applying all these new skills from the MBA, combined with my background knowledge, into this role that I feel is really impactful and, hopefully, will provide a lot of help to Ontarians.”

The job requires her to speak with many leaders in health care and government and convey complex information concisely – a task that might have seemed daunting a year ago. But Hilliard said she learned to speak with clarity and confidence while defending her views in Ivey’s case classes.

“At first, I was very intimidated about speaking up in class, especially being from a non-business background and a field that’s completely unrelated to anything I was learning, but I found I shouldn’t feel shy because my peers were always helpful and supportive,” she said. “I feel much more confident expressing myself, especially to a larger group of subject-matter experts or individuals in areas of higher leadership. I think a lot of that comes from having to contribute in class and being in such an intense program where you have to juggle so many competing priorities.”

Learning about the business of health care

Hilliard said she did an MBA to learn the hard and soft skills related to business and the administrative side of health care so she could eventually pursue a leadership role related to health care. The program has given her a broader perspective of health care and experience working with diverse teams, which she said will go far in her new role.

“All the technical skills or hard skills that I learned have allowed me to look at things from a systems perspective, whereas before I was very locally focused, trying to solve my patients’ problems,” she said. “The teamwork aspect was also important. At Ivey, every project is a group project. Being on the vaccine implementation team involves bringing different groups together and managing different priorities. We’re trying to work with a lot of people to achieve a common goal, and Ivey helped me learn how to do that effectively.”

In addition, Hilliard came out of the program with some lifelong friends. Although COVID-19 limited many of the in-person experiences, she said the MBA class met at the start of the program and then made an extra special effort to connect safely throughout the year.

“One of the amazing things Ivey is really known for is creative discussion inside the physical classroom setting so that was a bit impacted by COVID-19, but we overcame that as much as we could given online class and social distancing. Our class really rose to that challenge both individually and as a group. We were still able to make connections,” she said. “People made more of a thoughtful effort to connect because normally those opportunities would just be presented, but in this case, you really had to put yourself out there.”

Hilliard said going virtual had some perks, especially because it eliminated travel for job interviews or coffee chats and made it easier to network, which eventually landed her a dream opportunity. While initially unsure what she wanted to do after Ivey, Hilliard said she is thrilled with where the MBA has taken her so far and excited about the future.

“I knew that I wanted to have a role that was impactful and where I was able to be a leader and I feel this opportunity [to work for the government] would never have come up had I not gone to Ivey. Or, even if it had, I wouldn’t have felt as prepared. Ivey gave me the skills to navigate this,” she said. “I’m excited to see where this journey takes me. I feel like the doors are really open to me now after having gone to Ivey.”