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How a UVM Student and Army Veteran is on a Mission to Help Others

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To call UVM School of Business Administration senior and US Army veteran Kane Tobin accomplished is an understatement. His service in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and Tikrit, Iraq, has fostered his willingness to get involved.

He recently helped the UVM College of Nursing and Health Sciences open a primary care practice, Appletree Bay Primary Care, in Burlington. The practice opened last fall and has more than 3,000 patients, bringing vital healthcare services to a previously underserved area of the city, along with a new healthcare model.

Growing the Qualities of a Good Leader

Kane’s entrepreneurial acumen and education helped him provide assistance with marketing, financial projections, and contract construction. He was also primary project manager, shepherding an information systems interface installation with UVM Medical Center. This provides electronic record-keeping to a myriad of healthcare professionals, doctors, and service providers.

He’s also mentoring a young man from the Congo, who’s a first-year engineering student at UVM. Kane is a recent winner of the 2014 Myra Kraft Community MVP Award for his mentoring and volunteerism, an honor bestowed on him by Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots.

Kane’s relationship with the Boys and Girls Club resulted in a $10,000 prize from the New England Patriots Charitable Organization, used to fund scholarships for first-time college students. Although graduation will end his recruitment of college students as Boys and Girls Club volunteers, he’s looking to help the organization with family outreach and community involvement.

Kane exemplifies leadership, dedication, and commitment to improving communities. We talked to him about his work and what’s in store next.

Tell us about your US Army service. Did it inspire you to help others when you returned home?

After graduating from Barnstable High School in 2003, I didn’t have any direction, but after witnessing the tragic events of September 11th live in my sophomore history class, I knew I wanted to serve in the military. I was young and a bit naïve, and I wound up as a crew chief and door gunner on Blackhawks.

I was deployed to Afghanistan between February 2007 and February 2008, and Iraq between October 2008 and October 2009. You definitely come back with a different outlook. Thankfully, I came back and wanted to help people.

I think after enough brushes with death — and one really close one I didn’t think I’d come home from — I realized that at the end of my days, the only regret I’d have would be my failure to make a positive difference in the world. I didn’t want to look back on my time and feel like it was spent selfishly focused on me.

How did you get involved with the Appletree Bay Primary Care practice?

At the end of spring semester, the College of Nursing and Health Sciences asked the Business School of Administration if there were students available to help with financial projections and marketing efforts. Most students already had internships or summer plans, but a few of my professors were kind enough to mention my name. I was here for the summer, working for the Physical Plant Department at UVM and continuing property management with Onion River Company, so I think they got the last person left.

I know how lucky I was to work for Dr. Rosemary Dale, Clinical Professor of Nursing at UVM and Chair of the Department of Nursing, and help see her vision come to fruition. Her efforts will have an enormous impact on the college and nursing students, and most important, her team provides the best care for the larger community.

I’d enjoyed a few prior successes that enabled me to rise to this challenge, notably with the building rehabilitation I was entrusted with at Onion River Company. Four years running all aspects of property management and maintenance in coordination with a four-year rehab plan showed that I could handle larger projects and details; my work at the Physical Plant Department demonstrated my ability to connect with people and build solid working relationships.

Those two elements really helped, but my success at Appletree Bay was only because of the other people involved with the project. My main role at Appletree was getting the right information and resources to the right people, and if I did my job well, they made the magic happen, truncating the standard IS/IT implementation by 90 days and preventing a loss of care for residents of the North End and surrounding area. The last few weeks were tight, time-wise, but everyone stepped up to meet the opening-day timeline.

What did you learn from your experience at Appletree Bay Primary Care?

I lacked any prior experience in healthcare, so every minute was an education. I learned an incredible amount about project management, listening to and understanding team needs, and letting them do their best work. I realized it’s OK to not know the answer, as long as the people around you do. When they have that answer, support them in any way you can.

What are your plans after graduation?

I plan to continue my work for the Physical Plant Department and the impact human resources can have on an organization. I truly believe the people make the difference in organizations, and the role of leadership is to provide an outlet for employee talents and ideas. Currently, we’re working to establish human resources as the driver of continuous internal development.

Organizations everywhere are under pressure. Budget reductions, regulations, technology, and changing employee motivations are significant hurdles; I believe the answers to most of the challenges can come from those within the organization.

Looking to your people for answers demonstrates trust in them, empowers them, and motivates them to solve difficult problems. The employees are proud of what they do and how much they affect the organization. There isn’t a negative line on the budget from hiring outside expertise, and management can focus on developing organizational strategy, a win-win for everyone.

John Turner of the UVM School of Business Administration contributed to this story.

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