Barry Howell worked his way up to chief executive officer after over a decade in the healthcare industry.
That’s when he knew it was time to return to school.
The CEO of Texas-based Arlington Orthopedic Associates graduated with a Master of Business Administration in Healthcare Management that he earned online from the University of Texas at Tyler in 2016.
“I really felt as though I needed to get my advanced degree for credibility,” Howell said. “I did not have time to go full time and attend a traditional classroom setting, so the online methodology and the ability to take one class at a time was something that was very attractive to me. The fact that UT Tyler had an emphasis in healthcare management was also extremely attractive.”
Now that he has the degree to go with the title, Howell is ready to roll.
“At this point in my career, it was more of a confirmation of where I was rather than trying to open new doors,” he said. “I think it removes any potential barriers moving forward in my career.”
Third Time’s the Charm
Howell grew up in Brandon, Mississippi, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1999. He tried a couple of different career fields before he landed on healthcare.
“I got into technology sales and got laid off two or three times straight,” he said. “That got old really quick, so I went into finance and worked for Wells Fargo just to jump to something stable. I was bored out of my mind; I hated finance. I’m just not an accountant. I was finally able to break into healthcare when I moved to Texas from Mississippi and haven’t looked back. That was in 2005.”
Howell worked as a physician recruiter, sales manager, and director of marketing and business development at various companies before he became CEO of Fort Worth Brain & Spine Institute in 2013. Eighteen months later, he joined his current employer, Arlington Orthopedic Associates, P.A.
“I had friends in Mississippi who were in healthcare and that was — quote, unquote — the job to have,” he said. “The interesting phenomenon in Mississippi is you’ve got a ton of people with undergrad degrees and not a ton of jobs. The competition for jobs was ridiculous.
“When I moved to Texas, there was a lot more industry, a lot more opportunity and not as much competition.”
I Am a Patriot
Howell was not familiar with UT Tyler until he researched online MBA programs.
“One of the biggest things is that the accreditation [by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business] is really nice,” he said. “That was a real deciding factor. I also like that the program is very structured. I had an adviser who could walk me through the next steps. I went through the summer, so I finished in two years exactly.”
Howell said he typically worked about 15 hours per week on his degree. He developed a routine where he would stay at his office to do schoolwork.
“I tried to do it starting around 4:30 p.m. two or three times a week so I could have some sort of weekend,” he said. “I would just work in my office. Sometimes I would go until seven or eight o’clock. Sometimes I would go until two in the morning depending on how much stuff was going on. Fortunately, there were only a couple of times I had to do that.”
Howell said his family, wife Jeannine and children Kearston (27), Kayla (23) and Gavin (22), provided him with a support system throughout his time in the online MBA program. Kearston has already graduated from college, while Kayla and Gavin are both currently enrolled.
“My family sacrificed a lot over those two years with me being away and giving up a lot of weekends and stuff I didn’t normally do,” he said. “I’m very fortunate to have the wife and the kids I do, and they understood it was a temporary thing and that once we got it done, we were done.”
Right Place, Right Time
Howell said perhaps the most beneficial course he took was his first one, MANA 5320: Organizational Behavior.
“I learned a lot that I could just immediately implement in our organization,” he said. “The nice thing was that was the first class I took. I thought, ‘Man, this is going to be awesome!’ Then, I hit finance. I got something out of every course — don’t get me wrong. I probably got the most out of the healthcare-specific courses.”
Howell, who is an outdoor enthusiast, said he made his first trip to Tyler for graduation day.
“My family all attended,” he said. “They all did the road trip. I liked it. It was a little hectic, but we enjoyed it.”
Howell is happy he decided to return to college to solidify his business knowledge. He said he would encourage any healthcare professional to do the same.
“It’s important to do the research on your return on investment,” he said. “What are you spending, and what do you think you’re going to get from the degree? I think it’s a good value, but it should be a good fit for your career — that’s the important part.”
Learn more about the UT Tyler online Master of Business Administration in Healthcare Management.