Derek Armstrong

Derek Armstrong

Midwest Orthopaedic Center

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Being the analyst that he is, Derek gave careful consideration to where he would attend college by shopping around for a good business program. “Robert Morris made it so easy for me…”

Derek Armstrong is fortunate to find himself in a field he truly enjoys: medicine – more specifically, healthcare administration. Apparently, from the first job he had as a data management technician at a medical center twenty years ago, he was hooked.

Since that time, he has developed a career that has proven rewarding, fruitful and one with a great future. But Derek didn’t become the Chief Operating Officer at Midwest Orthopaedic Center in Peoria – one of Illinois’ leading orthopaedic groups - without taking control of his own path to success. And Robert Morris University has had a significant role in helping him take the first step.

“I wanted to complete what I had started but never finished,” he said, in explaining what drew him to consider RMU at the Peoria campus. He began an undergraduate program at another institution, but left after two years, feeling he had no solid direction toward a specific educational goal that would lead to his life’s work. “I left school in order to work full time, but did not feel as though I could balance a full time job and school.”

Still, he found certain aspects of his work engaging. He was exposed to the business and administrative sides of health care and each job he took on helped him move on to the next. He was building his experience and increasing his responsibilities. He also married and started to raise a family. Then he reached a point where he knew if he really wanted to shine in the field he had come to love, he had to complete his degree.

Being the analyst that he is, Derek gave careful consideration to where he would attend college by shopping around for a good business program. “Robert Morris made it so easy for me,” he continued. “Had it not been that way, it might not have worked out. They took care of everything – that alone was worth its weight in gold. Literally, I just had to sign on and everything was laid out. RMU has a great talent for making the experience as user-friendly as possible.” He set out to complete his degree in 2001.

Once his classes started, Derek found he could really concentrate on the work at hand: “All I had to worry about was making the most out of my education. The number one thing that was most helpful was being able to balance work, school and family.” The accelerated pace provided a motivation that enabled him to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Quality time with family – his wife Pamela, a surgical technologist and two children, Alec and Erika - became even more important.

Intertwining his higher education and his career path proved to be the perfect course. A serious student in the business administration program, he readily recognized how concepts learned in the classroom in the evening were easily applied to the work he completed during the day. “The success part came after the fact. The program really helped me in my career; each step helped me move on to the next.”

The applied focus of the coursework was one benefit of the RMU program, and the teamwork approach to class projects also brought out the qualities Derek found were critical to developing leadership skills. “Team work lends itself to helping me become more intuitive about people - about their skills, work ethic, knowledge – which not only helps you find your place as a leader, but also as a mentor. That skill set is something you can take right into the workplace.”

By 2004, Derek completed his Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a concentration in Management, a 4.0 GPA, and graduated summa cum laude. At that time, he was the Director of Practice Operations for a hospital owned medical group. With the aging of the baby boomer population, the advances in medical care and specialization growing in medicine, career opportunities were also improving for people with the right experience and the right education. Derek’s career path continued to climb; he aimed for the COO position at Midwest, and got the job.

Before too long, the he (“the he…” not sure if that is a typo as it reads awkwardly) was once again considering what post graduate work would help him to excel in his career and (you could add that after evaluating several institutions…U of I, Bradley, ISU) he returned to Robert Morris. He found himself back in the classroom as part of the Morris Graduate School of Management MBA program. Immediately, the applicability of his class work and work responsibilities became evident.

“For example, in my first statistics class, I learned regression analysis. The knowledge gained from the classroom proved to be invaluable during my annual budgeting/forecasting process. I find that I use many of the principles and applications during the course of running a physician practice.. You have to be able to take the theory or principle and apply it to your unique field – be it a medical practice or Caterpillar.”

With nine classes completed, Derek has found the courses rewarding and enjoyable, particularly his latest marketing class. His student cohort is a very diverse group, with different levels of business experience. He has found the educational technology available to students to be state of the art, “Especially incorporating the use of the iTouch in the program,” he added. However, he appears to want to savor the classes and prefers a slower pace than that of his undergraduate program. “Let’s get the most out of it,” he says with a smile.

He is looking to May of 2010 as the completion of his MBA course work. But, being the ongoing learner that he has become, there is more continuing education on the horizon. “I’ve found that professional organizations are extremely valuable in so many ways. That is the one recommendation I would make to anyone looking to move ahead in his or her field. They help you more than you can realize through professional certification and fellowship.”

It’s obvious he enjoys his work at Midwest Orthopaedic Center and strives to do the best for the organization. That said, Derek’s next step is completing his certification in the American College of Medical Practice Executive’s.

As he continues toward his MBA completion, Derek takes much pride in the organization he represents. “I’m extremely fortunate to be part of Midwest Orthopaedic Center and get much satisfaction from being able to contribute in many different arenas. And I do acknowledge the fact Robert Morris University helped me get to where I am today. RMU instilled in me the value of being a continuous learner which I have never forgotten during my professional career.”