EJB Talks Podcast

Moses Salami

EJB Talks Alumni Spotlight: Healthcare Communicator – Performing a Vital Function

November 22, 2022

This week on EJBTalks Stuart Shapiro welcomes Bloustein alum and current Bloustein School Advisory Board member Moses Salami EJB (Public Health) ’11. As the Director of Business Development and Marketing at St. Michael’s Medical Center in Newark, NJ, Moses describes his path into the health administration and marketing fields. He details how a class during his senior year with Bloustein School Professor Vince Joseph opened his mind to a non-clinical health career. He talks to Stuart about healthcare marketing — from service information to community engagement, focusing on population education and prevention practices. The two also talk about how marketing and communications were integral in keeping the hospital community, both internal and external, safe and informed during the COVID crisis. Stuart and Moses then look toward the future of health care and the biggest challenges the industry faces. Moses ends the discussion with some great advice for current and future students and alumni.

Stuart Shapiro
Welcome to EJB Talks. I’m Stuart Shapiro, the Interim Dean of the Bloustein School, and the purpose of this podcast is to highlight the work of my colleagues — this season, in particular, our alumni — in the fields of policy, planning, and health are doing. This 30th anniversary year for Bloustein, we are focusing on our alums and the contributions they’re making around the world.

Today, we’re talking to Moses Salami, who received his bachelor’s degree in Public Health from Bloustein, and is now pursuing a Health Administration career. Welcome to the podcast, Moses.

Moses Salami
Thank you, Dean Shapiro. I’m happy to be here. Super excited. Thank you for having me.

Stuart Shapiro
Excellent. That’s the enthusiasm we like here at the podcast. So let me start by asking you a basic question.

Moses Salami
Yes, yes.

Stuart Shapiro
What led you into the career of working in marketing for hospitals?

Moses Salami
See, I love those questions, because if my path wasn’t a linear path. You know, I didn’t grow up and say, oh, I want to go into healthcare marketing. But it’s interesting how I got into it. And I think each point in my life connected me to this moment, you know.

Stuart Shapiro
Uh huh.

Moses Salami
Growing up, I wanted to be a pediatrician. You know, I love kids and everything like that. And then I get to college, you know, you take a class that a lot of people know, organic chemistry. And then…

Stuart Shapiro
Oooo, I took that.

Moses Salami
So, organic chemistry is one of those classes that really weeds out those that are really serious that they want to be a doctor or not. And I always knew I wanted to be in healthcare. Healthcare has always been very interesting to me, especially when you look at Grey’s Anatomy, I’ve always been very enamored with hospital administrators and CEOs on the show. So it was a great switch for me that when I was in my senior year, at Rutgers University, I took a class called Intro to Healthcare Administration. And that was with Professor Vincent Joseph. And that class really opened my mind to different avenues and career paths outside of the clinical. And once I took that class, you know, had a great conversation with, with Professor Vincent Joseph, you know, I took my first step into getting into healthcare administration, by applying to different hospitals.

And my first job was at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. And then from there, you know, my understanding of operations and management and leadership and healthcare grew. So much so that I was presented with the opportunity to work in marketing at Holy Name Medical Center. And they were really looking for someone that kind of had an understanding of how physician practices run, as they have a large physician medical group that continues to grow. And I seemed to be a great candidate. So through the power of networking, having a great friend from graduate school that was there, you know, also recommended me for the position as he thought that I would be a great fit, because, you know, I have practice administration skills, management skills, and that can bring them into a marketing team that’s looking to evolve and grow.

Stuart Shapiro
That’s great. And that’s a good lesson for a lot of people, most of our careers, were not linear, I took organic chemistry because I wanted to be a chemical engineer.

Moses Salami
Oh really?!

Stuart Shapiro
Look what I’m doing now.

Moses Salami
Right. ((laughing))

Stuart Shapiro
((laughing)) So we all end up in places different than what we often expect when we get into college, or maybe even when we get out of college. So glad to hear you share that. So I do have to ask, you know, I’m going to ask the naive question. Why do hospitals need marketing? It seems like they have a pretty captive client base.

Moses Salami
Yeah, I mean, you would think so. I think, you know, marketing is so important, because there are so many different avenues that you can look at it. Especially where we are in the northeast, you know, the northeast, there’s no shortage of health care organizations, no shortage of pharma companies. There’s a lot of competition, we’re a very dense area, there are a lot of people. So, therefore, competition is fierce, you know. So it’s important for hospitals to really showcase their values, what they believe in, and what makes their organization special from the competitors.

And that’s what marketing teams really do. They really help present that big picture that hospitals have, and condense that down into bite sizes that the public can understand and consume, whether that’s via social media, newspapers, magazines, or digital marketing. Marketers really are at the core of doing that. And this also goes beyond just, you know, a graphic ad or things like that. You know, community outreach, working with elected officials, and developing different health fairs and events that can really connect the hospital to the community are so important. In this day and age, community engagement is super important for the public, the community to really know that, you know what, this hospital this healthcare organization wants to be a community partner. They want to understand what’s going on in the community and be a valuable partner. So marketing has really evolved over the years.

Stuart Shapiro
So are you marketing… you’re not just marketing to potential patients, but also to your community at large.

Moses Salami
Yes.

Stuart Shapiro
Doctors, to others, am I getting that right?

Moses Salami
That’s correct. I’m marketing to patients in the community, the community at large, as well as the other physicians to encourage them to work with us. You know, my role is dual business development and marketing. So, in some capacities, I’m recruiting physicians to work with the healthcare organization to really grow our service lines and to bring more medical offerings to the community. One service line that we were able to get up and running here at St. Michael’s Medical Center was the start of our stroke care line, where we had intervention neurologists now at our hospital able to provide stroke care to our hospital, our patients to the community, especially in this part of Newark, and the central ward.

Stuart Shapiro
Gotcha. I’m glad I asked because I did not pick up on that from the job description there.

Moses Salami
It always changes.

Stuart Shapiro
Yeah, absolutely. So how did all this change during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Moses Salami
Yeah… man, COVID. That was a busy time for the whole world, I would say. I think, particularly at Holy Name, at that time, because I was at Holy Name when… at the start of the pandemic happened, and even through the hight of it. And, you know, the response from our leadership team, from our CEO, down to everyone in the hospital, was amazing. Everyone stepped in, helped out, volunteered, doing what they can to play a valuable role. And all that was happening.

Particularly for myself, especially with the marketing team, it was like we were working around the clock.

Stuart Shapiro
Sure.

Moses Salami
Because the first thing, the first thing that we had to develop was a toolkit. Now, a COVID toolkit is what we develop as a way to communicate to the public, what is COVID? What are the symptoms that we’re currently seeing? How is it spread? We used this as a primary way to debunk a lot of misinformation that was going on, as you can imagine, when the pandemic happened, there was a lot of, you know… It was scary. A lot of people believed this and that not sure what was happening. So as the hospital is the respected entity in the area, you know, it’s important to provide educational information out there.

So we worked on a lot of that, to put that out there to educate the public that maybe, you know, these are the symptoms, this is what you can see, at the same time, letting them know, what are the treatment offerings that we do have, like the monoclonal antibody treatment, and other different things.

And also on top of that, too, we also have to communicate everything to our internal employees, they want to know what’s going on as well. So we had to develop internal communications that talked about, you know, how to keep yourself healthy, you know, what are the new rules and regulations that we’re now following, to make sure everyone in the hospital is safe. As well as putting information about different places that we would advise you against traveling. Maybe they have a high risk of COVID at the moment. So there were a lot of communication operations that were going on. We really switched from regular marketing, as I was saying. to crisis communication, communicating to both the public and our employees.

Stuart Shapiro
So it wasn’t just the doctors and nurses that were working around the clock, although God knows they were as well.

Moses Salami
Oh, absolutely, absolutely. Yes, it was, it was really a team effort from all levels of the hospital. And especially on the front lines, the nurses and doctors, were amazing. And it was great to see everyone work together.

Stuart Shapiro
So I want to ask because you were when you were Bloustein, a public health major.

Moses Salami
Yes.

Stuart Shapiro
Before you got into health administration, I wonder, which are the skills that you picked up doing that, even though your path did diverge from that some, that you use in your current career?

Moses Salami
Yes. So just like you said, my undergrad is in public health. And I work in health administration and marketing now. But I will say, although I’m more in the health administration/marketing realm, a lot of the public health concepts and tools I learned, really helped me in what I do now. When I’m looking at different data sets right now they’re presented to me as to the prevalence of different diseases that are happening in our county and our zip code, those things also inform the type of marketing campaigns that we’re doing.

For instance, you know, we want to make sure that we’re finding ways how we can reduce the prevalence of diabetes in our community. So, therefore, looking at that data really important to me. Okay, we need to develop marketing campaigns, educational info, that should help there around diabetes, so that the community can understand what it is they can understand what are the ways to reduce your risk or your symptoms, and different things like that.

So public health concepts are still at the core of what I do. And I will even say that you know, it was great for me to have that understanding of public health because public health impacts everything that we do here in the hospital. Especially in the relationships that I work with, with the health departments and other population health entities.

Stuart Shapiro
I would bet that both your public health background and your health administration experience can help you answer my next question, which is, as you look to the future, what are the big challenges that organizations like yours face?

Moses Salami
That’s a big question. And I’m sure anyone that’s in policy probably could go on a large tangent, about, you know, different things like that. So I think from my experience, from what I see from currently, in the future, a couple of things that I think that are going to be the biggest challenges are I think it’s going to be staffing. I think staffing is a big role, especially for nursing and clinical positions. We’re seeing a shortage across the country, especially in nurses. And I think the pandemic played a part in that. And all hospitals right now are looking for ways to recruit. You know, everyone’s trying to get as creative as possible, with the hopes that they can grow their nursing staff, and, and, and, you know, fight the shortage that they may have in their healthcare organizations. So that’s one.

I mean, I think another question that everyone always talks about, is the healthcare model that we currently have in the United States. Whether that’s, you know, are we going to move towards value-based purchasing? Or are we just going to stick with fee-for-service? And that’s a great question. And I’m sure there are pros and cons to both sides of it. I do think, you know, there, there is going to be some type of disruption in healthcare in some way, shape, or form, I think, you know, the model that we currently have is going to evolve in some way.

You know, who might be the person that comes up with the great model to make it happen? Maybe, maybe Google, Amazon, or Walmart, you know, they all have different healthcare divisions. But I do think, you know, the way we’re looking at fee-for-service, I think that model might change in the future with more focus on, you know, better patient health outcomes. What is the quality that we’re bringing to the patient experience? How can providers focus on making sure patients have better outcomes versus the volume of procedures, and services being provided? So it’s a very controversial topic. So everyone has bits and pieces of it. So I, you know, I’m still researching and trying to stay up to date on what I think on that every day.

Stuart Shapiro
Well, you know, as a policy person, I could easily go down that rabbit hole with you for a good half hour or so. I do wonder whether or not you know, that’s going to be a sort of top-down question, is Medicare going to end up driving the answer to that question? Or is it going to be a bottom-up question where hospitals or, like you said, Google, or Amazon, come up with systems, and then it bubbles up and spreads?

Moses Salami
Right. Right, absolutely.

Stuart Shapiro
And I can see it going either way. When you talk about staffing, are you talking about just doctors and nurses? Are you talking about people in positions like yourself? I ask as someone who is the dean of a school that trains people like yourself. I do wonder where those staffing shortages are gonna be.

Moses Salami
Yeah, so I think more so the staffing shortages probably are going to be on the clinical end per se.

Stuart Shapiro
Right.

Moses Salami
So you’re talking about your nurses and your technicians, whether that’s you know, X-ray or ultrasound, different types of techs like that, as well as physicians. Maybe more so on the primary care end, and internal medicine and a lot of physicians nowadays are heavily specializing in different categories versus the normal, you know, internal medicine, see your primary care doctor. So I think staffing shortages might come from there, specifically.

But in terms of administration positions, such as myself and administrative leadership roles, I don’t think we’ll have a shortage there. If anything, I think there’s a, there’s been a great interest in those roles over the last, you know, 10 years that I’ve been in the industry. I’m seeing new leaders come into the industry, each and every day. I’m seeing how the big classes are graduating from universities all the time. So I don’t think there’s gonna be a shortage of healthcare leaders.

Stuart Shapiro
Okay, so that the message to our students then is you’re going to need to excel and stand out.

Moses Salami
Absolutely.

Stuart Shapiro
Not, don’t come to our program, because there won’t be jobs….

Moses Salami
Right exactly.

Stuart Shapiro
…but, you’re going to need to really work hard and excel in order to make it in this field. Alright, well, with that in mind, what parting words of advice do you have for students entering your field?

Moses Salami
Yeah, so a couple of tips of advice, I would say for anyone that wants to get into health administration and marketing is… I’ll give a couple of gems real quickly. So number one, I always say this to everyone. Networking is key. You know, you want to be involved in the healthcare industry, in some way, shape, or form, there are so many different associations out there that you can be a part of like the American College of Healthcare Executives and the New Jersey chapter is very active. There are a lot of professionals that you can plug into, in me. You know, NAHSE New Jersey, which is the National Association of Health Service Executives, I’m part of the New Jersey chapter as well, both of them have really been beneficial in my own professional development, and also meeting other professionals in the healthcare industry. And that’s great so that you can grow your network, see what other people are doing, collaborate, and see, maybe, hey, maybe different opportunities can arise for yourself. So someone that’s graduating from Bloustein School, you know, you want to get your name out there, you want to be active network and meet people.

The other tidbit which I think people will say it’s common knowledge, but you know, when you’re talking to college students, I always have to make it very plain and clear, keep your LinkedIn and your resume up to date. Your LinkedIn and resume are like your badge of honor. Recruiters are always looking for new talent, and you want to make sure that, you know, you’re able to market yourself. Everyone might say, I’m not a marketer, but hey, I always say, you are a brand already. So market your brand, therefore, you are a marketer. So how do you get your name out there, have a great LinkedIn, you know, make sure it’s filled out correctly, and have a great photo. You list the past experiences you have and make sure you try and take on new challenges at your current jobs and your internships.

And the last piece, I will say, internships are very, very important. Bloustein is a great program. When I was a student there, I had a great internship my senior year, as far as my capstone project. I interned at Rutgers University in Newark, and it gave me a great experience to see public health in action. And that really molded what I do now, and really helped me get my first job. So internships are going to be very important. And the last piece I saw, I know I said the other one was the last piece…

Stuart Shapiro
((laughing)) The super last piece.

Moses Salami
((laughing)) It’s the super last one. Public health, and health administration are very broad. A lot of students go into this, But when you take on this major, really try and search for what you are interested in within the major. That can save you a lot of time, and a lot of searching, try and understand this. Equality, is it… You know, are you interested in the finance realm of things, the marketing end of things. Are you interested in the policy end of public health? There are so many routes that you can go therefore, it’s so important to talk to people in different industries within those realms, connect with people take on different internships, volunteer, and really find what you’re interested in and passionate about. It’s very important.

Stuart Shapiro
Great. Well, you know, even though your last piece of advice was actually your next last piece of advice that was great and, and really helpful. Moses, thanks so much for those wise words and for coming on the podcast.

Moses Salami
Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure.

Stuart Shapiro
And a big thank you as always to Amy Cobb and Karyn Olsen for producing for getting this out. And to everyone, we will see you next week or in a week and a half with another alumnus. And until then, have a great Thanksgiving and stay safe.

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