The Hub Online MBA opened doors for health-care executive

Online MBA opened doors for health-care executive

MBA from Athabasca University helps Mauro Chies advance to president and CEO of Alberta Health Services

Mauro Chies (Master of Business Administration ’08) wasn’t thinking about an online MBA from Athabasca University (AU) when he began his career in health care more than 30 years ago.

But he couldn’t have risen to top leadership roles within Alberta Health Services (AHS) without one.

AHS announced in March that Chies would assume the role of president and CEO. He had been serving in an interim capacity since April 2022.

Chies’s climb to the top leadership role with Canada’s largest health authority comes after starting his career as a medical laboratory technologist in 1988. As his career progressed, he advanced into supervisory and managerial roles.

But he felt his education, which to that point included a 2-year diploma, limited further growth.

Athabasca University MBA grad Mauro Chies

“I was doing well career-ladder-wise, but I was coming to a ceiling … they told me I needed an MBA.”

– Mauro Chies (Master of Business Administration ’08)

“I was doing well career-ladder-wise, but I was coming to a ceiling,” Chies said. “The opportunity to advance through that ceiling was one at the executive level with Capital Health at the time, was one where they told me I needed an MBA.”

AU factors real-world management experience

But as with so many students who choose AU, Chies was at a point in his life where his many other responsibilities precluded attending an in-person program at a bricks-and-mortar institution.

AU offered him the opportunity to enter the MBA program without an undergraduate degree by leveraging his extensive management experience. AU also provided the flexibility to arrange his study schedule around his work, his family, and other commitments.

Online MBA provides needed flexibility

“I needed the flexibility, as I had a young family at the time. I couldn’t quit my job, as I needed to continue working full time,” he said. “I decided that me and Athabasca University were a good fit.”

Chies said he initially felt like a “fish out of water,” as others in his MBA cohort came from private-sector organizations rather than the public sector. But it wasn’t long before he was able to start using concepts he learned in courses to his work in health care.

“I couldn’t quit my job, as I needed to continue working full time. I decided that me and Athabasca University were a good fit.”

After he completed his MBA in 2008, the provincial government restructured local health regions into a single authority, AHS. As that organization began to fill roles at the senior leadership level, the fact he had an MBA gave him a leg up compared to other colleagues.

“There was a bit of luck with the timing, no doubt about it, but had I not achieved that MBA the previous year I wouldn’t have even been considered.”

Executive leadership in health care

Since starting with AHS, Chies has held executive roles including board chair of Alberta Precision Laboratories; vice-president of Cancer Care Alberta and Clinical Support Services; and senior operating officer of Diagnostic Imaging Services.

Chies credits his time spent at AU with giving him perspective on the importance of lifelong learning and bringing advanced learning to health care.

And while having an MBA is not the be-all and end-all in the hiring decisions he makes, he does want to hire people that have applied learning they can bring to their role, rather than just experience. That’s something that can come from AU’s MBA program—as he knows from his own experience.

“It gave me a different perspective from a systems-view that I never would have had if I had never gone into the program,” he said. “And the support that came from the university to help guarantee success, the support from other students, the whole means of community that AU brings, was just a great experience.”

Open for Alberta

Read more profiles of AU learners and grads in our Open for Alberta series.

This story has been updated since it was originally published on Jan. 6, 2020. Image courtesy AHS.

  • March 21, 2023