One leader, many hats: How Dana Habers thrives, from vaccine task force to Pharmacy Services

January 14, 2022  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership,

As the pandemic rages on, there is a renewed emphasis on COVID-19 vaccinations and ensuring the workforce is as protected as possible. That includes the new requirement for all to receive a booster shot prior to the Feb. 4 deadline.

While much of the vaccine work now resides within Occupational Health Services and other areas of the university, the original rollout fell to the COVID-19 Vaccine and Therapeutics Task Force. One of the task force’s leaders, Dana Habers, recently sat down with Headlines to discuss her experience and to give insight into her new role as the interim chief operating officer of Pharmacy Services. 

Here’s what she had to say!

Q: For more than a year, you helped co-lead the COVID-19 Vaccine and Therapeutics Task Force. What was that experience like and what sort of work is the task force still carrying out?

DH: Working with the CVTT was an experience of a lifetime. It was the most intense and high-pressure operational effort I’ve ever been a part of — but it was also incredibly rewarding. One of the key structural intentions with the task force was to stand it up emergently but also ensure we could dismantle it as part of our strategy to hand off ongoing vaccination and therapeutic efforts to routine clinical operations. Last spring, we transferred our work over to Occupational Health Services, University Health Services and Ambulatory Care Services so they could continue to deploy vaccines to their respective populations via sustainable, longer-term health care delivery systems.

We’ve held a few reunion calls to coordinate around the pediatrics population eligibility and the booster shots, but for the most part, core members of the task force have gone back to their full time day jobs. The relationships we formed will last a lifetime. Stan [Kent] and I now work together daily and it’s always great when I see Sandro [Cinti], Elly [Samuels], or others’ names pop up in my inbox from time to time.

Q: What was the most challenging aspect of the task force’s mission? And what was the most satisfying part of the work?

DH: The most challenging aspect by far was the shortage of vaccines. We built infrastructure to deliver mass vaccinations both on-site and in outreach efforts across the community, but overnight our vaccine supply dried up and remained scarce for months. That was a scary and difficult time.

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout was relentless, exhausting work that took us away from our already hectic personal lives, and required a significant lift as a team. But I think if you ask, you’d hear most of us would choose to do it all again in a heartbeat. It’s difficult to describe, but there was this intrinsic motivation that we all bonded over. We were each personally compelled to pitch in, do our part and help move our world forward past this awful pandemic. Vaccines were our pandemic exit strategy. That innate driver and common bond was for sure the most satisfying part — it defined us as a community, brought us hope and served as the foundation for our work. I’m so proud to have served alongside this heroic group of people.

Q: You recently transitioned into a new role in the Department of Pharmacy Services. Can you explain your new position and how it fits into the bigger picture at Michigan Medicine?

DH: I have had the privilege of stepping into a new interim role as chief operating officer for pharmacy. The pharmacy team is strong and committed, they are critical contributors to patient care and across all three missions. My role now is to help them grow and expand access to provide our high-quality services to more patients. This work aligns to the broader set of strategic priorities for Michigan Medicine promoting access, growth, quality and financial stability.

Q: What are you most excited about in regard to Pharmacy Services in the months and years ahead?

DH: We are working to truly elevate pharmacy for our patients and providers. We’re embedding additional pharmacists into our ambulatory patient care teams to offer their expertise and care management skills to improve patient outcomes. We’re working on innovative customer service strategies to remain competitive in the pharmacy fulfillment space, incorporating automation and high-tech delivery options. We’ve also launched a pharmacy technician training program, a really exciting educational effort that builds upon our roots and tradition as the first School of Pharmacy in a U.S. state university, but opens our commitment to education up to a broader and more diverse population (and helps meet pharmacy needs across the state with a high caliber workforce).

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring leaders at Michigan Medicine?

DH: Listen. Like, really listen. The most important contribution I believe we can make as leaders is to discover and magnify the potential of every member of our team. To do that, you really need to pay attention, empathize, and actively seek to understand every voice around you. 

Q: Outside of Michigan Medicine, how do you like to spend your free time?

DH: Anything outdoors, across all four seasons. I enjoy jogging, hiking, pyrography and discovering new music. I am the mother of three lively boys, so I spend every moment possible with them. I assume there will be more time for sleep later in life!