Portrait of ASU alum Kerri Robinson smiling directly at the camera.

Master of Healthcare Innovation program set ASU staffer up for critical role during pandemic

As chief of staff for Arizona State University's public enterprise, Kerri Robinson leads and directs a wide range of strategic activities, initiatives and executive duties that advance the university's role for public good while supporting the ASU Charter as one of the most inclusive, high-performing and innovative universities in the world.

It's a deeply fulfulling role that she says she wouldn't have had the confidence to pursue without first having obtained her degree in health care innovation from ASU's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

The skills and knowledge she gained through Edson College's Master of Healthcare Innovation (MHI) program were also immensely useful when, in March 2020, COVID-19 began to rapidly spread across the United States and Robinson was appointed to be the director of ASU’s COVID-19 partner relations, logistics and off-site testing. Responding to a global pandemic was uncharted territory for just about everybody; and as one might imagine, those early days on the job were especially challenging and stressful.

There were a myriad of unknown factors involved when I was appointed to design, develop and launch dozens of COVID drive-thru test sites — with crucial logistics, building a scalable operational infrastructure model to follow and writing SOPs for a novel virus, which no one had ever dealt with before,” Robinson said.

We also held a briefing after each event to understand what we could have done better; this learning is critical, and the knowledge I gained during my MHI program was exceptionally useful."

Within a year of taking on the role, Robinson and her team opened hundreds of sites, setting a record for overseeing 644 locations across the state for testing and vaccination.

“One of the most important leadership decisions I made was to personally serve on sites as much as possible — setting up and working with teams, clinicians, technologists, security, etc. on multiple sites in scrubs and full PPE for many months,” Robinson said.

Thanks to her terrific efforts as the director of ASU's COVID-19 off-site testing strategy, along with her former role as senior director of ASU’s Biodesign Institute, Robinson was voted one of the most admired leaders in 2021 by the Phoenix Business Journal.

Robinson said that she was honored to receive the title and that it “reminded me that my efforts (and that of the many teams involved) were valued and helped ASU, our community and the state of Arizona during a time of need.”

Below, Robinson reminisces on her time in Edson College’s MHI program and shares some of the valuable knowledge she learned that helps in her current position.

Question: How did your degree program help you in achieving and maintaining the position you have now?

Answer: My degree in health care innovation from ASU allowed me to gain relevant and timely knowledge, which was immediately applicable, which ultimately gave me the confidence and ability to apply for and receive a promotion to a larger leadership position within my organization.   

Q: What is a favorite memory from your time in your program?

A: I greatly enjoyed working with fabulous instructors and a wonderful cohort of fellow students.  

Q: What advice would you give students currently enrolled in the program?

A:  Keep plugging away — the principles of innovation can be applied to technology, health care, leadership, operations, human resources and so much more! The knowledge you gain now will continue to benefit you in the future.  

Q: What were some unique challenges, if any, you had to overcome while pursuing this degree?

A: At times, it was challenging to work full time and attend school — given family, church and other time commitments — but it was very worthwhile. 

Q: What is one thing you learned from your degree program that has helped you out in your current position?

A: Fail fast. Learn. Grow. Iterate.

Written by Max Baker