When Amy Brandt first considered her future, healthcare wasn’t part of the score. Rather, the Los Angeles-area native practiced for hours on the French horn, envisioning a career in music – perhaps an orchestra pit, watching the conductor’s baton.

But the culture changed, and classical music no longer seemed a way to make a living as fine arts budgets were slashed around the country. Unsure of what to do, she decided against the conservatory, opting instead for the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA), where she studied English.

English? French horn?

“It does seem odd,” SUNY Broome’s new Dean of Health Sciences and Distance Education agreed, as she sat in her office at the top of the Decker Health Sciences building. “After my undergraduate years I was ready to work. I never envisioned myself getting a Ph.D.; that wasn’t the plan. I had trained to be a classical musician.”

You may not imagine a Health Sciences dean coming from a background in literature or music, but then, you probably haven’t met Dr. Brandt. And in a sense, perhaps it’s fitting that the associate vice president who will oversee a changing department has undergone transformations of her own – and in a way that would likely be familiar to many current college students.

With her bachelor’s degree in English completed, Dr. Brandt was eager to get into the work world – but unsure what career to pursue.

“I can’t explicate epic poems for a living,” she quipped.

She found herself working for a chair of radiology, helping coordinate his research activities and a hospital residency program. That’s how she ended up in healthcare, and she found she enjoyed it. Her next stop was working for a chair of emergency medicine in Baltimore, a mentor who pushed her young employee to figure out a path of study. Brandt, who was interested in human behavioral health, chose social work. She headed back west, earning her master’s at Cal State — Sacramento and her doctorate at UCLA.

After earning her doctorate, she ended up working as a program coordinator for UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare – and found herself at a crossroads. Would she pursue a research career, or try to make her mark in another way? A position opened up for a healthcare dean at Napa Valley College in northern California – and she took it.

“I decided I really wanted to have an impact. You can do with through research, but it’s a very long drawn-out process and it’s a real crapshoot whether you’re researching the right topics at the right time,” she explained.

After three and a half years there, she became director of Health Sciences and Curriculum Management for Corinthian Colleges and then dean of Academic Affairs & operations for South University in Florida. But she missed the public system. With her husband traveling for work, she decided to follow her career to the Gulf Coast, becoming dean of Vocational Instruction for Wharton County Junior College in Texas. The Wharton position gave Brandt the opportunity to learn about traditional vocational education – from petrochemicals to the police academy, nursing and emergency medical technicians. She joked that she learned she should never be a welder, because “things catch fire.”

But healthcare remained central to her interests. When the dean position opened up at SUNY Broome, nearly two years after she started at Wharton, she took the leap.

Some of the reasons were personal. In a few years, her husband will retire, and upstate New York puts him closer to his family. Although they loved the people they met in Texas, life on the Gulf Coast – with its famous heat and humidity — wasn’t for them. SUNY Broome’s administration seemed forward-thinking, and willing to tackle the challenges in the changing healthcare field.

And, of course, it was centered in healthcare – a field she fell into accidentally, and fell in love with.

In choosing Dr. Brandt for the post, Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer Francis Battisti cited her experience in program and curriculum development, evaluation and improvement, as well as accreditation and regulatory compliance, faculty recruitment and more. She’s also known for a collaborative and solution-focused management style, which is also a plus.

“She feels the best solutions are derived from people bringing diverse values and experience together to resolve problems,” Dr. Battisti reflected. “Dr. Brandt’s experience in higher education will be an asset to the Health Sciences Division and to our campus community.”

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A changing field

Nationally, the healthcare system is undergoing massive changes, spurred by the Affordable Healthcare Act. The roles of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals are shifting – and along with it, the programs that train these professionals.

“The standard delivery models won’t necessarily hold up,” explained Dr. Brandt.

As healthcare becomes more accessible, physicians are assuming more specialized roles, caring for patients who are more medically complicated. A relatively healthy person or one with routine needs is more likely to visit a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant. The location of many services is also shifting – away from hospitals and into outpatient settings, or even via remote delivery for rural locations.

As responsibilities and even decision-making are shared, the need for in-depth training rises – not only for nurses, but for technicians and associated health professions. Health Information Technology also becomes critical in managing the expansion of healthcare, especially in the days of electronic healthcare records and data analytics.

“We’re looking at all levels of the healthcare team upping their game,” Dr. Brandt explained.

The new dean hit the ground running. Multiple health sciences programs are currently in the middle of the accreditation process, and planning for the future.

It’s a challenging time for healthcare, and for SUNY Broome’s Health Sciences Division. But Dean Amy Brandt has the focus, drive and determination – the same qualities that marked her as a budding classical musician – to get the job done.

“It is very dynamic and changing. You can’t get bored in healthcare and if you are, you should probably look at changing careers,” she said of the field. “The opportunities have opened up.”