Although mother-daughter duo, Kathleen McAllen and Erin Winders earned their master of health administration degrees decades apart, they are both attracted to the field for the same reasons.
Kathleen chose the MHA program after switching her original plan to attend medical school. “I loved biology and chemistry in high school and went to Purdue with plans to go to medical school,” she said. “I got to my sophomore year and realized that likely wasn’t the plan for me, but completed my studies.”
To Kathleen, the MHA degree seemed like a great way to be in health sciences, as the business aspect of it aligned better with her gifts and passion. In 1990, she graduated within the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI with her MHA.
“I couldn’t have picked a better path – I have loved my career and have been blessed with so many opportunities.”
Over the past 30 years, Kathleen’s career has blossomed. She has served in a wide variety of leadership roles at both Bloomington Hospital and Community Health Network. Today, she is the Chief Strategy Officer for the Giving Hope Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to create a first-generation delivery model of comprehensive and integrated health and related services to individuals with unique physical, intellectual, and emotional needs. She is also adjunct faculty at the Fairbanks School of Public Health, teaching healthcare information management this past semester.
A true advocate of the field, Kathleen steered her daughter, Erin, in the direction of health administration when her daughter decided to expand her career.
“I was thrilled and honored when Erin, mostly on her own – with maybe a little persuasion – came to agree that an MHA is a perfect blend of where the helping profession meets business,” Kathleen said. “Health care does and can, all the more, benefit from strong women leaders, especially at the senior - executive levels.”
Erin had reached a point in her career where she needed to further her education to increase her career options. She had always been interested in healthcare, but much like her mother, she wasn’t sure of which direction to take. “I thought I wanted to work directly with patients and quickly found out this was not my forte,” Erin said.
Luckily having watched her mom throughout the years, she knew of an alternate route. “Without my mom’s past, I don’t think I would’ve heard about an MHA degree, so I’m very thankful for her push in the right direction.” Erin said. “Healthcare administration has been the perfect fit for my skills, interests and abilities.”
Erin excelled as a student in the MHA program and was most proud of the fundraiser for Gennesaret Free Clinics that was part of a first year vs. second year student competition to see who could raise the most amount of money to purchase socks for the homeless of central Indiana.
“Between both classes, we raised about $800, which is amazing! I was so proud of our program,” she said.
While in the MHA program, Erin also served as president for the MHA Student Association. She found out she was expecting a baby the day after she was elected, and said her classmates were both encouraging and understanding of her situation.
“I was missing in action for a bit of time during labor and maternity leave, and my fellow team really picked up the pieces for me during this time,” Erin said.
Erin remained dedicated throughout her program, making time to accompany her mom to various events. “We’ve often attended networking events together, which has been fun and helpful. I tend to get nervous, so it’s nice to have a partner by my side.”
A partner indeed, Kathleen says she has long been committed to mentoring fellow health leaders, reflecting on the influence that the late Roland (Bud) Kohr had on her. Kohr was CEO of Bloomington Hospital for over 30 years and a pillar in the health administration community.
“My first boss and life-long mentor, Roland Kohr, taught me early and well that our work is a calling, a noble profession,” Kathleen explained. “I have strived to live that out in my 30+ years and share that approach with those I've had the privilege of helping to develop.”
During the Fairbanks School of Public Health commencement ceremony this spring, Kathleen had another opportunity to inspire future healthcare leaders, including her daughter Erin, who was a graduate of this year’s MHA program.
“It is always about the patients and their families – if we serve them well, all other aspects will be right. Not easy, but right,” said Kathleen during her commencement speech.
Kathleen is now embarking on a new path of service she is excited to see unfold. In 2017, she cofounded Healthcare of Tomorrow, a healthcare incubator that strives to radically improve healthcare by building a collaborative platform of innovation – connecting entrepreneurs, investors, and healthcare providers.
“I am inspired by my mom on multiple levels,” Erin said. “I’m proud to share the same interests as her – we are a great team. We get along so well, and now she is a Grandma (Gigi) – so we love hanging out!”
Kathleen is a proud “Gigi” and hopes to encourage her seven-month-old granddaughter, Leigh Ann Rae, and others – especially women leaders – to reach for their dreams.