For most of his career, Mike Schatzlein’s passion has been medicine—but not just practicing medicine and treating patients. He said much of his love for medicine lies in the relationships he builds with those he gets to work alongside.
As one of Trevecca’s newest faculty members, Schatzlein is looking forward to helping educate the next generation of health care professionals in the School of Graduate and Continuing Studies’ health care administration and management programs.
More than that, he’s looking forward to passing along some of the lessons his own mentors taught him.
“I had wonderful mentors going all the way back even into high school and particularly the folks who mentored me in surgery and health care administration. I was given so much advantage through my relationships with these folks, and I have treasured them and maintained them for many, many years,” Schatzlein said. “Getting to [pour into students] and enjoy their advancement and development has been [wonderful]. Seeing them enjoy the fruits of their efforts is the best part.”
Trained in cardiothoracic and vascular surgery, Schatzlein made a name for himself in the field, performing the first heart transplant in northern Indiana in 1985. In 1994, Schatzlein moved into health care administration and has since served in a number of high profile roles, including CEO of Lutheran Health Network and president/chief executive officer of Ascension’s Saint Thomas Health in Nashville. Most recently, Schatzlein served as the senior vice president at Ascension Healthcare, serving as group operating executive for Indiana, Tennessee and Jacksonville.
Since the start of the semester, Schatzlein has been working alongside Dr. Brandee Norris, director of Trevecca’s health care administration and management programs. Though Schatzlein has previous experience as a teacher, he’s looking forward to the challenge of reconfiguring his work and mentorship for the virtual classroom.
Health care is a growing field—roughly 270,000 jobs in the health care sector are created every year—and in Nashville, the industry is the largest and fastest growing field. Trevecca’s Master of Science in health care administration offers students the ability to earn a degree fully online while continuing to work or maintain ongoing commitments.
“If you look at the United States, we spend twice as much as other developed countries on health care, but still, we have worse health outcomes across the board,” Schatzlein said. “We’ve got brilliant doctors, the best equipment, and still, we don’t have the processes in place as a country to deliver the value. There are immense opportunities for improvement, and that’s what has fascinated me about health care administration. It sort of requires doing surgery on a whole organization. We can fix one person at a time in the operating room, or we can see what we can accomplish on a larger scale by examining our systems,” he said. “That’s what health care administration is about to me.”
Schatzlein says his 40 years of experience, both as a physician and an administrator, have taught him the value of truly working with others—something he believes will benefit him and his students.
“I’ve always enjoyed mentoring the people I’ve worked with,” he said. “My weekly mentee calls were always the highlight of my week, and even now, I stay connected with a number of the folks I mentored and advised. I crave the interaction, and I think I have things to share about health care operations. Though I’ve watched the field grow for 40 years, I still consider myself a student as well. Learning new things alongside the students is part of the appeal.”
For Dr. Brandee Norris, who serves as the director of Trevecca’s health care administration programs, adding Schatzlein to the faculty team is exciting.
“We are thrilled to have Dr. Schatzlein join [the Trevecca team],” she said. “His leadership is invaluable to all of Trevecca’s health care programs. He will be influential to our existing health care faculty while enriching the learning experience of our students. We are excited to work alongside him.”
Schatzlein is committed to finding meaningful ways to pour into students and encourage them to think “big.”
“For me, finding ways to optimize the processes within the health care world is the biggest opportunity in America, and the solutions are in the minds of our students, just waiting to be drawn out,” he said. “There are tremendous, exceedingly well-trained and system-focused practitioners throughout the health care system whose efforts are being stifled by antiquated systems. The opportunity and the ability to make a big difference is there at all levels from the manager of the respiratory therapy department all the way up to the CEO of the system. It’s all about the tinkering, the improving, adding in the different people and the creative vision to work towards that common goal.
“There are just so many opportunities to do good,” he continued, “and I’m grateful to be able to to contribute to those young people doing that good.”
By Bailey Basham, ’17