Student Strives to Change How Healthcare Organizations Work: Jeff Larson ’23 PhD (Management)
Jan. 4, 2019
Jeff Larson ’23 PhD (Management)
After years of working in the healthcare industry, Jeff Larson ’23 PhD (Management) is ready to tackle the big-idea problems facing modern healthcare organizations.
Larson’s passion for the healthcare industry can be traced back to Bill Clinton’s presidential election in 1992. “A major part of his campaign was on healthcare reform” says Larson. “That is when I thought, maybe this is a field where my career can have meaning by impacting people in a positive way or even saving lives.”
While the passion was there, it was a struggle to find a job in healthcare after Larson completed his undergraduate degree. The only job he could get at the time was as a clinic receptionist on Saturday mornings.
Larson’s strong work ethic helped him to quickly rise through the ranks. Eventually he established himself as a prominent healthcare executive in Oregon, with experience serving as the foundation director for PeaceHealth, the vice president and chief development officer at Samaritan Health Services and, most recently, as the chief development officer with the PeaceHealth Oregon Network. Over the years, he has run departments of medical research, served as a business development analyst and managed several hospital foundations.
One of the most impactful parts of his career was when he had the opportunity to open a number of Ronald McDonald houses to help support the families of hospital patients.
“When I started opening these facilities it felt more like a side project; something to get done,” says Larson. “But once I started to sit down with these families who had traveled from all over the world to be with a loved one and saw the struggles they were going through, the daily tasks and challenges of my job seemed to pale in comparison. It gave me a deeper perspective of what is truly important.”
Once Larson reached the vice president level, however, he started feeling as though he was doing too much day-to-day problem solving at the hospital level and not enough strategic thinking at the organization level, where his passion really rested. That’s when pursuing doctoral studies began to look like his next logical step.
While researching programs, Larson came across an article featuring the Eller College’s Center for Management Innovations in Healthcare, which grabbed his attention due to the focus on both healthcare and business management.
In 2018, after living his whole life in Oregon, Larson and his family moved to Tucson so he could start the program—and he is already seeing the benefits.
“This program has given me pause to think about what type of leader I am,” he says. “My classes are challenging me to stop thinking myopically about issues and to start looking for bigger trends in why certain problems arise or exist. Looking back on my career now, I am ready to stop being the leader I think an organization needs and to start being the leader that is true to my personal strengths.”