Beth Grabowski, MBA, MPH, began her career in health care management at a small consulting company, helping to reduce costs and improve outcomes for various public health services. She credits it as the place where she discovered her passion for easing patients’ experience with navigating, accessing, and understanding their health care.
“The U.S. health care system is complex, from how patients access appointments and how insurance works, to the length of time it takes to get a patient admitted,” says Beth. “I realized that I could make a positive impact for patients, even without being in a clinical role.”
As the executive director of the Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, Beth is a leader in enhancing the department’s operations in service of its patients and providers. Below, she shares more about her journey, her vision for the future of the department, and her advice for others hoping to build a career in health care administration.
What brought you to Mass General?
I was in graduate school earning my MBA when a previous manager asked if I’d be interested in helping with data analytics and operations improvement projects at the Mass General Emergency Department (ED). I said yes and it turned out to be one of the best decisions. I got to learn about the ED, analyze data, and make recommendations to improve processes. I was surprised by how open people were to hearing recommendations from a student, which really speaks to the culture here.
This along with the mission and the people have kept me here. I am proud to work for an organization whose vision is centered around the patient, regardless of who that patient is. I have been able to take part in numerous initiatives that have a positive impact on patient care, all of which are successful because of the dedication and collaboration of employees. Even in the most extreme, stressful circumstances my colleagues always rise to the challenge.
What initiatives did you help lead in the ED that you are most proud of?
The ED can be a challenging environment with patient overcrowding. Despite this, our team at Mass General constantly found innovative ways to relieve capacity challenges. One area that I’m proud to have played a role in was creating alternative pathways to inpatient admission. While many ED patients are acutely ill, there are some patients who can safely be treated in other settings. We created protocols for patients to receive care at home through a virtual observation unit—what is now called the Mass General Home Hospital Program.
What is one challenge you’ve experienced and how did you overcome it?
One of the more recent challenges was adapting to a remote workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. We had to learn new ways to stay connected as a team, and I was concerned about being accessible to my staff. Communication became a lot more formal, requiring an email or scheduled meeting rather than dropping by someone’s desk. I found ways to overcome this by using team chats, regular check-ins, and virtual activities—our research admin staff even regularly competed in the MGH trivia nights (Team Stat!).
Fast forward to today, I think the ability to work remotely is a positive outcome. It provides more flexibility and work-life balance for employees, and also enables us to recruit more extensively from other parts of the country.
What are your current focuses in the Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Management?
One area I am focused on is how to accommodate the growing needs for anesthesia services across Mass General. In addition to staffing the main ORs, procedures that require anesthesia outside the main OR continue to increase post-COVID. This comes at a time when recruitment is challenging due to a highly competitive market.
With hospital and procedural leadership, we have implemented a formal process to evaluate anesthesia service expansion requests to assess staffing needs, financial impact, and alignment with institutional priorities. This will help prioritize where to expand and ensure it is in line with department and hospital goals.
What advice would you give to others with similar career aspirations?
Don’t turn away opportunities. Try something new, even if it pulls you out of your comfort zone. This has really helped me figure out what aspects of health care I wanted to work in, as well as understand my strengths and weaknesses.
Also, building relationships with employees, colleagues, and leaders and listening to their perspectives is equally as important as performing well individually.