Lola Grichendler, of Lake Charles, was awarded the first health systems management degree by McNeese State University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions at fall commencement on Saturday. Grichendler, center, receives congratulations from Dr. Peggy Wolfe, left, dean of McNeese State University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, and Dr. Amy Bufford, director of the health systems management program.
As family members watched Saturday morning, Lola Grichendler, of Lake Charles, was awarded the first health systems management degree by McNeese State University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions at the 149th commencement ceremony held in Burton Coliseum.
Grichendler knew growing up as a child in Paris, France, that she wanted a career in health care but she wasn’t quite sure what field. So, after high school graduation, she returned to Lake Charles where her family roots were – her mother and stepfather are Anna and Mark DiGiglia, her grandfather is former state senator and representative Bob Jones, her great grandfather was Gov. Sam H. Jones and her step grandfather was cardiovascular surgeon Dr. John W. DiGiglia, who worked at St. Patrick’s Hospital back in the early 1970s.
Lola enrolled as a nursing major at McNeese in the fall of 2013. “I knew that McNeese had a great nursing program and my family encouraged my dream,” said Grichendler. But after a couple of semesters, she knew that nursing was not the “right fit” for her.
“I went to talk to one of my professors, Dr. Amy Bufford, about my options and she told me about a new degree program that would begin in the fall of 2015 – health systems management – that would be a perfect fit for me and my interest in health care,” she said.
According to Bufford, director of the HSM program, health systems management addresses the growing demand for health care administrators and consultants.
“With an eye toward the continuously evolving field of health care, McNeese is preparing students for careers beyond those involved with direct care,” says Bufford. “Health systems management professionals are prepared to understand current and future health care trends and issues, to develop, communicate and manage resources and solutions to challenges for health care systems and to improve overall quality and outcomes of health care systems and services.”
McNeese offers students a Bachelor of Science degree in one of three academic concentrations—health care management, health care quality improvement and care coordination.
The degree plan allows students to complete program requirements in three years, but with hard work and dedication after changing her major, Grichendler finished her bachelor’s degree in two years, including an internship this fall at the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine of New York City, one of the nation’s leading fertility clinics.
“My twin sister, Eva, and I were conceived through in vitro fertilization, as well as my younger sister, Mia, which is why I am so passionate about the fertility field and its advancements,” said Grichendler. “Eva works in the fashion industry in New York City, so I applied and received this internship. I was able to live with her.”
Lola worked as a case coordinator for patients, walking them through the maze of laboratory tests and ultrasounds from start to finish. “I was able to observe the patient flow, cut the flow from 45 minutes to 15 minutes in most instances and provide statistics to the physicians that showed how to better manage the center’s resources and time. This internship allowed me to connect my classroom knowledge with hands-on experience that will make me more marketable to future employers,” said Grichendler.
The HSM program, designed in collaboration with Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, continues to be one of the fastest growing programs at McNeese.
The combined number from both campuses is currently 160 students, according to Bufford. The program attracts students from a variety of backgrounds, but she said they all share a common interest in the areas where business and medicine intersect.
“This program is a good fit for individuals like Lola who start out in nursing, radiology, respiratory therapy or medical technology but suddenly decide that these careers are not for them, but they want to stay in the health care field. This degree offers these individuals an alternative with much of their coursework transferring into the HSM program.”
Grichendler said she is appreciative of the professors in the McNeese College of Nursing and Health Professions who worked with her “to make her childhood dream of an exciting career in health care a reality.”