By Vanessa Orr, South Florida Hospital News, for ACHE of South Florida
François Sainfort, Ph.D., FACHE, has always had an interest in healthcare and hoped to follow his older brother into medical school. But as a student in France, he was encouraged to pursue other opportunities.
“When it was time for me to decide what to do after high school, I wanted to go to medical school, but in France, if you were good in math, they sent you into engineering,” Dr. Sainfort explained. “I went obediently, but I very quickly found a way to get into healthcare by doing systems engineering to try to improve complex health systems.”
For the past 35 years, Dr. Sainfort has been working in academia, and five years ago became the director of the Complex Health Systems Program in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University (NSU), where he also serves as professor and chair of the Department of Management. In addition, he is a professor of Population Health Sciences in the NSU Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Allopathic Medicine.
Prior to joining NSU, Dr. Sainfort was a tenured full professor at the University of Wisconsin, distinguished professor at Georgia Tech and Emory University, and the associate dean of Interdisciplinary Research for the College of Engineering at Georgia Tech. He also served as the founding director of the joint Health Systems Institute at Georgia Tech and Emory University.
“I joined NSU because I had been working in very well-established schools for a long time, and NSU was pretty young in comparison,” said Dr. Sainfort. “That interested me, especially the type of flexibility it allowed to create a new curriculum for students.
“It also gave me the opportunity to go back to what I love, which is interacting with students and doing applied research that can be implemented in the healthcare system to help clinicians provide quality care to patients, and to help patients become involved in their own care,” he added.
Dr. Sainfort got involved with the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) while working as the head of the Division of Health Policy and Management at the University of Minnesota. “Many of our members were part of ACHE and we also had teams competing in the case competition,” he said. “My first involvement was mentoring and supporting students.”
At NSU, Dr. Sainfort still encourages his students to participate in the organization, and the Health Systems Program even pays students’ membership fees. “It’s a benefit we give them, but we add that they must be involved,” he said. “They really love the educational events and the networking, and they benefit from listening to CEOs talk about their experiences on different topics.
“The ACHE South Florida Chapter is extremely active and does a wonderful job, and it is also very well run,” added Dr. Sainfort, who just put his name in to serve on the board of directors.
As an ACHE fellow, Dr. Sainfort also organizes panel sessions for students and early careerists and speaks at events. “I encourage students to use what they learn in this program to prepare them to sit for the Board of Governors exam and be successful,” he said. “As soon as they qualify to be a Fellow, after five years of leadership in healthcare, I encourage them to apply for it.”