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Three-time Sun Devil alum takes on health care innovation

Dan Weberg smiles at the camera. He is wearing a s white and light blue striped collared shirt.

Dan Weberg is not afraid of trying new things, which has served him well in his efforts to rethink health care.

May 18, 2023

From the moment Dan Weberg enrolled in Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation Bachelor of Science in nursing program, he was sure of two things: He loved being a Sun Devil, and he wanted his life to revolve around health-care innovation.

Because of that, a new program at Edson College caught his eye.

He enrolled in the Master of Healthcare Innovation program and was in the first cohort of graduates, which came with some unique challenges.

“It was a new degree, and no one knew what the heck innovation graduates would do,” Weberg said. “So, we had to prove it, overcome the bias that we were not MBAs, and represent the future graduates by making impactful changes.”

During his time in the program, Weberg was hired to help design the Grace Center for Innovation in Nursing Education, a 45,000-square-foot facility that offers 90,000 student hours annually in experiential learning and community outreach across programs at the college.

When he was first offered this opportunity, Weberg was working in the emergency department at UCLA. Weberg did not hesitate to return to Arizona despite having to work full-time night shifts in a HonorHealth emergency department while helping to design the simulation lab.

After completing his master's degree, Weberg wanted to continue his own innovative educational trajectory and become the first-ever PhD graduate in nursing and health-care innovation from ASU. He did just that in 2013.

“This is not a ‘check the box’ degree ... it is world-class,” Weberg said. “You will have the top degree from the most innovative university in the country.” 

After completing his doctorate, Weberg embarked on opportunities to make real, lasting change in health care. He has authored textbooks and become a keynote speaker, delivering talks across the globe in addition to teaching innovation in the U.S. and Canada for several organizations.

In 2022, Weberg was inducted as a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, a title recognized as a top honor in the profession.

Weberg said he still feels there is a lot more he wants to achieve.

“I would love to either lead innovation for a large organization and/or start a nursing school from the ground up,” Weberg said. “Really reimagine how we train for the future.”

Below, Weberg discusses his time at Edson College and shares advice.

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

Answer: Each one of my degrees from ASU catalyzed a different part of my career. From new grad in the emergency department to national vice president of innovation for a top five health system, the rigor and mentorship of Edson College and its faculty have been the foundation. The opportunity to work one on one with Kathy Malloch, Bern Melnyk, Kathy Kenny, Deb Hagler and Tim Porter-O'Grady when at ASU is the major reason I was able to accomplish what I have.

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

A: My favorite memory was during the MHI program. It was our first immersion on a weekend at the Downtown Phoenix campus. There were only eight students, and we were eager to see what this program was all about. That day, Dr. Tim Porter-O'Grady gave a lecture that we aptly named the Sunday Sermon. It was like taking the pill in the movie "The Matrix." He blew our minds about organizational change, innovation and the future of health care. We could never go back to the way we thought we knew health care. We entered the Matrix that day, and it forever changed our career trajectory.

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

A: For the students in the undergraduate nursing program, know you have a world-class simulation center and faculty that will prepare you beyond what other schools can do. Enjoy the ride and use every ounce of that mentorship. 

For the MHI students, we need you! Your innovation skill set is so lacking in health care — please help us change the game. 

For the PhD students, it's hard. Really hard. But the rigor of the ASU program is unmatched. You will have the top degree from the most innovative university in the country. That opens the doors for lots of opportunity. Embrace the hard; it pays off.

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

A: Being a male nursing student is a different experience. There were eight of us and we bonded pretty quickly, but the books at that time were all written with the nurse in female gender language and it took a long time to feel comfortable with the choice of nursing when explaining to friends and colleagues. 

In the PhD program, I was the only student in the innovation track so I had to help bring awareness to the science of innovation to both my cohort and fellow faculty. At times it was rough defending non-nursing theories but, in the end, it created a rigorous process that ultimately catalyzed a lot in my career.

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

A: The biggest learning I had was that innovation and change are a science. That there are evidence-based ways to influence and move things around. It's not magic, and if people would spend more time on the science of change, all the stress and drama around it could diminish.

Written by Max Baker.

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