Shadowing a Dean: 4 Lessons in Healthcare Leadership
School of Medicine Interim Dean is a case study in how to be influential and successful

As a Bay Area MBA student, I get the best of both worlds.

As a working professional, I apply class lessons and experiences to my work at a major pediatric healthcare delivery system while continuing to advance a career I love.

As a student, I am learning from my peers and fabulous teachers like Jim Olson and Associate Professor Gina Dokko. I am also gaining valuable experience by leading my peers in the School’s healthcare business club, the Healthcare Council.

Jen Burstedt Correa MBA 19

And I have been immersed within real-world business challenges through opportunities like the UC Davis Job Shadow Program. The program partners students with senior campus leaders for a day that often includes observing and participating in meetings, attending events and meeting staff and faculty.


I recently had the unique opportunity to spend half a day with Interim Dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine and Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Lars Berglund, who leads one of the top schools for primary care training and research.  

In applying to the shadow program, I knew it was a chance few working professionals have: to observe and compare another workplace to my own. I hoped to better understand my industry, while networking with professionals in my field. I was elated to be selected, especially since this program’s selection pool spans every program and school at UC Davis.

Shadowing Dr. Berglund was fascinating, especially since I am advancing my healthcare career by pursuing an MBA. As a fly on a wall in meetings with him, I gained deeper insights into healthcare leadership and the complexities of running a large academic school within a nationally ranked medical center.

Even though my time was short, the day’s meetings and my conversations with him left me with profound takeaways:


After our shadow session, Dr. Berglund had a stack of medical journal articles to read and review. This was not part of the dean’s job description, he told me, but something he does to cultivate and grow budding researchers, along with the university’s reputation. Even with an incredibly packed day, Dr. Berglund emphasized how important it is to build these bridges and go beyond one’s job description to help others.


Throughout my day with Dr. Berglund, I saw him interact with peers and subordinates, conveying the utmost respect to all colleagues. This engaged them more as partners, allowing him to cultivate better ideas and contributions. Within the group meetings and one-on-one sessions, team members and staff all appeared to feel empowered and highly engaged with their work.


Healthcare professionals deal with a complexity of stakeholders with competing goals. It’s easy to identify these barriers, but having the humility, patience and foresight to get people to collaborate takes real leadership. While witnessing a taskforce committee meeting for the school’s 50th anniversary celebrations, I witnessed the type of connection and honesty that only happens when groups have formed bonds of trust and are rowing in the same direction toward a shared goal.


Even with Dr. Berglund’s busy schedule, he took the time to meet with me and let me shadow him during a busy day of meetings. Not only that, I was the second student to shadow him this quarter.

The Job Shadow Program was one more brick for the foundation of my professional career. I appreciated the chance to see how the School of Medicine is run. It’s rare that a mid-career professional gets to be a fly on the wall, listening in on the challenges and successes of another health system.

UC Davis and the Graduate School of Management offer a treasure trove full of so many cool opportunities for students.