A couple of months before graduating from Antioch University New England (AUNE), Hermine Levey Weston was offered her dream job with Health Care Without Harm/Practice Greenhealth, an organization that promotes ecological sustainability in the healthcare industry.
Since then, as facility engagement manager, she has regularly consulted with a variety of healthcare organizations, hospitals, and hospital systems to help them meet their individual environmental sustainability goals. She supplies support, technical expertise, and suggestions for a host of initiatives from energy, recycling, and waste-reduction programs to providing healthier food for patients.
“I love it. I’m having a great time,” she said. “It resonates to me. It speaks to me. I’m very passionate about it.”
A Midlife Career Change
It’s a midlife career change for Hermine. An RN, she previously spent 25 years at Shriners Hospital for Children in Springfield, Massachusetts, as director of quality management and infection control.
Among her duties were working on safety matters, regulation compliance, and environment-of-care regulations, and implementing several sustainability programs, including an on-site community vegetable garden. “I really loved my job. It was a marriage of healthcare and sustainability,” she said. “I really, really loved the sustainability work. I wanted to work in the field, but I didn’t have the language of business. Then I heard about AUNE’s MBA program.”
She applied immediately, and once accepted she joined a small, diverse cohort of peers that included writers, engineers, and financial professionals. Besides completing class work, projects, and practicum, she participated in an optional study-abroad trip to Sweden.
“AUNE exceeded my expectations,” she said. “What I most got out of it was working with a cohort and the faculty. There was experiential learning as well as new concepts in finance and accounting. There was always something I could use when I went back to the hospital.”
“My managerial confidence went up exponentially every weekend,” she said. “I could take what I learned and apply it immediately.”
For her practicum, Hermine developed a business plan for a sustainability certification program at an institution of higher learning to help train healthcare professionals to make their industry more environmentally responsible. As part of her research, she interviewed the executive director of Health Care Without Harm/Practice Greenhealth, and ended up simultaneously being interviewed for a job at that organization. Soon after, she was offered the position and resigned from Shriners Hospital for Children to begin her new career.
“The whole concept of healthcare sustainability is a public health initiative,” she said. “There are so many benefits. The healthcare sector makes up eighteen percent of the gross domestic product. In many communities, healthcare is the biggest employer. If healthcare can do the right thing environmentally, it can motivate other industries.”
“I motivate people. I give them the confidence that they can do the work,” she said.
Also a community advocate, Hermine was recently elected chair of the board of directors of Jewish Family Services of Western Massachusetts, an organization she’s been involved with for several years. She credits AUNE with helping to prepare her for the leadership role.
“I came to AUNE with passion and drive, she said. What AUNE gave me are specific skills that totally translate to the real world. Everything from leadership to supply chain to presentations.”