Maire Simington, MBA:
Love of Learning, Helping People Motivates Health Care Professional
Maire Simington (pronounced “myra”) is soft-spoken, understated, very, very smart, and genuinely committed to helping people improve their lives.
This, at least, is the impression one has after spending a couple of hours listening to this New York native talk about her passion for learning, and her work at the Mayo Clinic Scottsdale as chair of marketing and communications since August, 1996. An impressive work history, a healthy list of awards and acknowledgements, and ongoing loyalty to community service confirm that this assessment is more than just a first impression.
A graduate of the University of Phoenix’s Master in Business Administration (MBA) program in 1995, Simington directs Mayo Clinic Scottsdale’s marketing program with a staff of six, responsible for research, promotion, advertising and public relations. The Mayo Clinic is a multi-specialty outpatient clinic with more than 250 physicians and a support staff of 1,900. It provides 66 different medical and surgical specialties and is part of an integrated multi-campus system that includes Mayo Clinic Hospital and seven primary care centers throughout the Valley.
“I feel I am helping people by getting them information and helping them to know about a wonderful organization and group of physicians who can improve their lives,” she said. “I really believe that.”
Her work is driven by her ability to conduct and evaluate data-intensive research and use it to support the strategic initiatives of the organization — knowledge she gained in her MBA training.
“My background was in communication, doing writing and public relations,” said Simington. “I started doing numbers analysis and research in my previous position, and while I intuitively knew what had to be done, I didn’t have the knowledge to perform at a level in terms of finance and business. You have to understand whether the numbers are good and whether the research is reliable. I also knew I was interested in more analytical work, but needed more education, so I went back to school. It was the best thing I did.”
Simington realized she needed a school that could help her achieve her goals while she worked and had other responsibilities. She entered the University of Phoenix MBA program in 1993.
“I knew nothing about the school,” she said. “I walked in cold. They sat down with me and treated me like a client, like I treat others. I felt very comfortable. This place really understands.”
Even so, Simington was a bit trepidatious about going back to school at age 40. She had last attended school while obtaining her Master in English at Arizona State University, graduating in 1976.
“It looked like such a daunting task,” she said. “You settle into a lifestyle that you’re going to disrupt, and then there’s that fear. Can I still do it? The reality is, you learn differently. It’s not about memorization. It’s about reading, application. I found it to be a very energizing process, and being able to use the research confirmed what I thought I knew about myself.”
Simington added that during her program, she found the school to be very flexible and supportive when she would hit snags in her schedule.
“I had to drop out for about six weeks to take care of a work situation, and then came back,” she said. “They worked with me. It gave me breathing room.”
More than anything, Simington enjoyed the classes, citing the professors’ ability to bring the subjects alive by relating them to real-world situations. She told of how her statistics professor answered a student’s question about the difference between a 95 and 98 percent confidence level with the example of going up in a rocket, asking whether the student would rather be 98 percent or 95 percent sure of his probability of being successful.
“He made it very lively, something you could really use,” she added.
Simington went back to school at a time when her personal life was hectic. She was caring for her mother, who was very frail, her husband was traveling a lot, and she had two young children to take care of.
“When I went to tell my mother, she said, ‘How are you going to do all this?'” she recounted. “Then she said, ‘I think this is wonderful. Whatever it takes, I’ll help you.’ What that meant was I’ll find someone else to do my food shopping, cleaning, yardwork. She was a real cheerleader throughout the whole thing.”
At graduation, attended by her children and mother (her husband, Don, was in Peru on business), Simington received the Outstanding MBA Graduate Award for her academic achievements.
“I remember that day as being so special,” she said. “My mother gave me a letter. It said, ‘Three years ago, when you started, I didn’t know how you were going to do it, but somehow you did it. I can’t tell you how proud I am of you.'”
Simington said her husband and children were equally supportive, even though they didn’t know how their lives were going to be affected. As it turned out, her daughter and son have both expressed great pride in her. Her husband recently graduated from the MBA program himself — a lifelong dream — and is now in the process of getting a Master in Organizational Management from the university. Simington has since received the Distinguished Alumnus Award for her achievements in business and community service and is now teaching classes at the university.
Reflecting on her journey, Simington summarized her feelings: “Somehow, interesting things just find me. I’ve been very fortunate.”