14:11 PM

UHCL alum, now hospital CEO: Relationships were key

Simone Boulet envisioned her life as a doctor — either a veterinarian or perhaps a medical doctor. She worked as a vet tech and did a lot of hospital volunteer work, but although her heart was with the animals, she felt emotionally drained by what she saw in her work.

"I asked myself what would give me joy to come to work and be happy," she said. "I spoke a lot with mentors I had along the way, and I found a good niche for myself in health care administration, and I'm very grateful to be here."

Boulet, who completed her joint Master of Healthcare Administration/Master of Business Administration at University of Houston-Clear Lake in 2017, began weighing her options and found that a graduate program in health care administration could combine all her skill sets. "I love health care, the science behind it, and I had the skills in marketing, patient advocacy, and project management," she said. "I wanted to see how I could merge all these things that I love into one strategic path, and found that health care administration was just perfect."

Upon further research, she found that UH-Clear Lake's program was very well known in the Houston community, and that many prominent people in health care administration were alumni of the program.

"I went to an open house and met some professors and thought it seemed like a really good program," Boulet said. "It's a different feeling when you're in the 'Mecca' of health care, with the location in the heart of the Houston Medical Center. That's where all the really revolutionary changes are being made in health care and for patients, in that location."

She said she was very excited to be accepted into the program and the professors she met along the way still check in with her and show they're still there to support her. "It's what every student should have," she said. "I didn't have that relationship with professors anywhere else. Any student would love to have professors like them and receive those benefits from what they have to offer."

Among her most useful experiences while in her program, Boulet said, was the opportunity to present at the American College of Healthcare Executives conference under the guidance of (Professor of Healthcare Administration) Ashish Chandra.

"Since that initial presentation, I've spoken at other ACHE conferences," she said. "I advise prospective students to develop good relationships with their professors, as they will guide them and be the support they need as they navigate their career in health care."

Boulet got a job as area director of Marketing and Sales for Kindred Healthcare, and continued working at Kindred all the way through her master's program. "I started as a clinical liaison for Kindred while I was still in college, and I went through Kindred's leadership training program," she said. "I progressed to STAR Leadership Fellow, director of business development, executive fellow, then assistant administrator."

Just eight years into her career in hospital administration, Boulet became CEO of Kindred Hospital of Tampa Bay, Florida. "The first job I got at Kindred, I received the letter of acceptance standing outside (Professor of Healthcare Administration) Femi Ayadi's office," she said. "Dr. Ayadi told me to take 24 hours to make a decision. In that time, they came back with a second, better offer. I didn't even have time to respond to the first one," she said.

She ultimately took both Dr. Ayadi's advice and the job offer. "I've now had five jobs in Kindred, and some early moments were right there at UHCL," she said. "My professors congratulated me. I started in marketing and transitioned to operations. The key courses I took while at UHCL were in operations, marketing and finance. I refer to those to this day."

To date, Boulet has worked at six different Kindred Healthcare locations, including Sugar Land, Spring and Northwest. "I just moved a few weeks ago to Tampa," she said.

Now, as CEO of a hospital, Boulet says she thinks back upon the advice her UHCL professors gave her. "They said to find a way into health care in the system you want, and just find a place to grow and start navigating," she said. "That's what worked for me. When people ask me what I did, I tell them to just find a way in."

She never dreamed she'd reach the position of CEO. "I thought I would just be the director of something, but as I kept pushing and working, it happened," she said.

"Becoming CEO was very unexpected," she said. "I learned how important networking is. I met the best minds in health care administration and got to meet them. Through the guidance of my professors and the Healthcare Administration program, I got these opportunities and now I'm a CEO, which is a dream I had but never thought I could reach. I often reflect on the advice of my professors, and I'm truly grateful for my experience at UHCL."

For more information about UHCL's MHA/MBA Program, go online.