Lonn McDowell, master’s in health administration ’02, has been named the College of Public Health and Health Professions’ Alumnus of the Year for 2021 in recognition of extraordinary contributions to health care management and education.
McDowell is the vice chair and director of administration for the UF department of surgery. Prior to his current role, his experience included working as a director for a national health care consulting firm, the chief operating officer of a large multispecialty practice, the chief executive officer of a cardiology practice, and in leadership positions within other medical groups and health systems. He is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives, and a Fellow in the American College of Medical Practice Executives. He has participated in many committees of the Association of Academic Surgical Administrators and has held various appointments on the Board of Directors, including president of the organization.
He has also been an adjunct instructor for the college’s Master of Health Administration program since 2005 and has served as a preceptor for UF M.H.A. administrative interns for several years. In addition to his M.H.A. degree, McDowell received a B.S. from UF.
McDowell shares some of his UF memories and insights:
Favorite UF memory: One of my favorite UF memories involves my very first lesson when arriving on campus as a freshman. I came from a very small town and was the first person in my family to attend college and clearly I did not know what I was doing when I showed up. I drove to Gainesville, moved my belongings into Beaty East and proceeded to go park my vehicle in the parking lot I was assigned. For some reason, I had been assigned to the commuter lot off of 34th Avenue. I parked my vehicle and walked back to my dorm (walked!), because that is just how I thought it was all supposed to work. I quickly learned to request a closer parking lot.
Best lesson learned: The best lesson I learned while a student at UF is that the overall learning environment is multi-faceted and that some of your best lessons come from unexpected places and people. It not only takes a willingness to ask questions and truly listen to answers, but be an active overall observer of life. I feel I learned just as much from my peers and fellow classmates during both of my degrees at UF, than I may have learned through standard didactic education. I was incredibly fortunate that my graduate studies were delivered in an executive format that allowed me to go through the entire program with a cohort of successful health care professionals that enhanced my educational experience more than I thought possible.
Faculty member who influenced me the most: The faculty member who influenced me the most was Lou Gapenski, Ph.D. He was my professor for both of my health care finance classes during grad school and later on became a colleague when I taught as an adjunct instructor in the M.H.A. program. He was an incredibly gracious individual and I admired that he was always willing to listen and accept feedback from his students. He wrote the textbook that we used in class and at the beginning of each semester he would tell the students that if they ever found any mistakes in his textbook to let him know — an expert on health care finance asking me to let him know if he made a mistake (?). I did find a few, very minor mistakes, and he was incredibly appreciative. Of all of the books I bought during school, his book still sits on my shelf.
People would be surprised to know: I played on the UF collegiate rugby club team as an undergraduate. The comradery I experienced and the friendships I made were unbelievable. I missed it so much that I later played for a club team in my late 30s. It was equally as fun except I was much slower and did not recover from injuries as quickly. I gave up rugby for good when I received a broken nose during a match and had to go to work the next day with two black eyes and a nose splint. None of which matched my suit and tie.