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Nicole Washington

Nicole Washington

Attending Physician, Division of General Pediatrics, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Education:

Master of Science in Organizational Dynamics, University of Pennsylvania '24—expected
Doctor of Medicine, University of Virginia School of Medicine '11
Bachelor of Arts in Spanish, University of Virginia '06

When Nicole Washington took on her current role at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, she had plenty of clinical experience under her belt, but wanted additional training for her new administrative and operational responsibilities. “As a young faculty person, I found myself in a room with colleagues who were much more senior than me, and I could feel and see my knowledge gaps,” she says. Though Nicole considered a master’s degree in disciplines such as health administration or business, Penn’s Master of Science in Organizational Dynamics felt like the best fit. “My work is very people-oriented,” she explains. “I am talking to others, explaining situations, building awareness and buy-in for hospital initiatives. The study of organizational cultural and hierarchy fit with what I was doing in my day-to-day work.”

Nicole chooses courses that work with her demanding hospital schedule, with the help of her program advisors. “The administrative staff are a really fabulous resource,” she says. “I’ve emailed them about classes and finances, and they are so knowledgeable, a pleasure to interact with, and extremely responsive.” So far, Nicole’s course topics have varied from storytelling to race and dynamics to strategic thinking, and Nicole always finds something she can immediately apply to her workplace. “All of my classes have been wonderful and super helpful,” she reflects. “What I love is that you go to class and learn a concept or term, and then you go to work the next day and get to see it in action and then you understand how it fits within the dynamics of your organization.”

For example, when the COVID-19 pandemic presented pressing challenges for both her patients and colleagues in its early days, Nicole found herself drawing from a foundational course called Perspectives on Organizational Dynamics. “When I think about the competing values framework from the course, I remember there are so many different ways to see a situation or a problem. That has been really helpful for me any time I’m presented with a dilemma at work,” she says. “With COVID-19, I have to be able to think about what patients and families need, and what healthcare workers need, and what we need to do operationally. I have needed to step out of my own way of thinking, and think about the many perspectives of each one of those groups in order to make meaningful and effective decisions.” Under the circumstances, she adds, “None of these decisions are really optimal, none of these options are great; but it has been very helpful to have a framework to utilize while making such difficult and complex decisions.”

As a mid-career medical professional, Nicole is in what she calls a “transformative” stage of her medical career, so she enjoys exploring the applications of a broad range of courses. However, given the option to focus her master’s degree with her capstone project and, optionally, a degree concentration, she’s considering a few different research topics with direct applications to her field: for example, interventions to recruit and retain underrepresented minorities in academic medicine, or advanced curriculum to train and coach residents in leadership strategies. “As a physician, medicine can sometimes feel like a solo career. When you’re in training you get feedback constantly, but then you become an attending or assume a leadership position, and a lot of your interactions are one-on-one with minimal feedback,” she explains. “I've learned so much from the classes I have taken so far, and I would love to take what I have learned about organizational dynamics and leadership and teach it to others in medicine.”

Multidisciplinary perspectives

Several concentration and certificate options are available to help focus your learning experience.

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Meet our faculty

Derek Newberry is a lecturer at Penn and a leadership development consultant in the areas of interpersonal communication, collaboration and corporate culture.