Driven to Serve -- Working Mom Goes from Associate Degree to PhD

What fuels the desire to earn a terminal degree? The act of discovery? Developing the ability to innovate… to serve?

There are many motivations, as is the case with Dr. Barbara Schmidtman. As a loving parent, she and her husband, and a 2017 Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration NCU graduate, she wanted to show their three children, ages 21, 9 and 5, the power of education.

She was also inspired by her father’s advice that, “No one can take an education away from you.”  And, as an individual, she wanted to positively impact lives.

The drive to succeed was so great that Barbara went to school even when she was a very young, single, working mom, graduating with an associate degree in 2002. “For 10 years it was Seth and me,” she said. “It was hard work – but instinct takes over. It doesn’t matter what your circumstances are, you can achieve what you want to.”

Dr. Barbara Schmidtman was inspired by her father’s advice that, “No one can take an education away from you.” 

Staying on the Direct Path

Barbara continued moving forward toward Northcentral University and her terminal degree while she worked as a Certified Nuclear Medicine Technologist. 

In healthcare settings, she also observed that many of the highly qualified medical doctors had not been trained to lead a team of professionals which led to staff frustrations and inefficient processes.

Because she recognized the leadership skills gap, Barbara wanted to assist physicians to become more effective leaders. She completed her dissertation, “Employee’s Experiences and Interpretations of Physician Leadership Style in an Acute Care Setting: A Phenomenological Study,” which explored physicians’ leadership styles and their impact on individuals and teams. Her goal is to coach physicians to transform their styles to create a more positive effect on teams they are leading and patients they serve.

In 2018, Barbara graduated with her PhD in Industrial Organization Psychology from Northcentral University at the age of 36.

Post-Graduation Leadership

Today, Barbara is a Manager of Radiation Oncology and Radiation Infusion at Spectrum Lakeland Health in St. Joseph, Michigan. In addition to her managerial duties, she is teaming with Brendon Beede, an IT manager at Spectrum Lakeland Health to conduct a virtual reality (VR) clinical study to see if VR lowers anxiety in patients.

During chemotherapy, patients in the study have their baseline anxiety level and blood pressure measured to determine whether virtual reality will reduce their anxiety during treatment.  “Patients are in pain or under stress because of their concern for their long-term health,” Barbara said. “Virtual reality allows them to travel the world and they’re no longer locked into a location receiving treatment.” 

A local news channel covered the story, and Barbara intends to submit it for publishing when it’s completed. 

Media Recognition

In May 2018, Barbara was recognized in the Michigan area for being a top, young leader in “Forty Under 40” and was a nominee for the 2018 Young Business Leader of the year. “It’s humbling. I go about my days and do what I do because I enjoy helping people,” she said. “I’m so grateful for my time at NCU because I got the tools that I needed to reach these milestones and I’m excited about what the future holds.”