Alan Levine: Alumnus of the Year 2010

College of Public Health and Health Professions Alumnus of the Year 2010

Alan Levine
Health Administration/Business Administration master’s ’93

Levine is Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. He manages a budget of $7.8 billion and provides oversight and services in mental health, public health, emergency preparedness, Medicaid, health information technology, addictive disorders and aging services. Previously, Levine served as president and CEO of Florida’s Broward Health, one of the largest non-profit public hospital systems in America. In 2004, Levine was appointed by Governor Jeb Bush to serve as Secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. He led Florida’s health delivery system through response and recovery from eight major hurricanes and produced significant results through initiatives to crack down on fraud, waste and abuse. In 2006, Modern Healthcare magazine named Levine one of 30 leaders nationwide likely to have a powerful impact on the future of health care.

My favorite UF memory:  There were so many different once-in-a-lifetime experiences, it would not do any of them justice to pick just one. Whether it was through my involvement in student activities like student government, spending time with my roommate (who remains to this day my closest friend), or pursuing my career ambitions, there are stories about all those things that made my career at UF incredible. I remember being elected Treasurer of the Student Body. That was exciting and led to great opportunities and memories. Losing an election for Student Body President because someone ran their cat on the ballot (yes, the cat got enough votes that it threw the race into a runoff and I lost in the runoff) was one that, to this day, people don’t believe. And thinking back to my freshman year when I didn’t know anyone, was a stranger to campus, and had my whole college career ahead of me — when I think about that and where I’ve gone since those early days, I really look back in amazement with how much I experienced and grew during that short span of time. Probably the one memory that had the most consequential outcome was when I was applying to get into PHHP for graduate school, but because of my extracurricular activities and general laziness in the classroom, I wasn’t a terribly competitive applicant. And back then, you also had to get admitted to the business school for an MBA. I remember Dr. (Paul) Duncan, Dr. (Gerald) Schiebler and Dr. (Richard) Gutekunst giving me a lot of advice. About a week before decisions were made about enrollment, Dr. Gutekunst called me and said, “I have a little fatherly advice for you, Alan. Quit calling everyone!” A week later, I was admitted. They shared with me that they saw something in me beyond grades, and they wanted to see what I could do. I worked so hard in graduate school not to let them down, and to a certain degree, I carry that same determination today. These guys really took a chance with me, and it was a life-changer for me. Frankly, it’s helped me become a better mentor, because I look for the same things in the people I hire that they saw in me.

Best lesson learned at UF: Most of the education comes outside the classroom. Learning to develop relationships, communicate, be independent — all these things happen not just by reading your textbooks, but by using the laboratory of the university setting to learn all you can about yourself and your interpersonal skills. Before I came to UF, I lacked confidence and the ability to focus on a goal. I learned those things by being involved outside the classroom. My own kids are in college now (one at UF and one at FSU), and I gave them both the advice that, when they leave college, they should be able to look back and not regret having missed any opportunities to contribute to the student experience, to the school, and to their own resume of experience. I learned that all those opportunities are there, and if you learn that lesson in college, they spill over into your professional life. I genuinely feel badly for people when I see them squander the opportunity to be involved. The network of friends and contacts you make are good for a lifetime when you leave school.

UF faculty member who influenced me the most: I don’t like answering this because so many faculty had so much patience with me, invested so much in teaching me, and became people who, to this day, I admire and respect. Dr. Paul Duncan is someone who, well before I was even able to apply to his program, took an interest in me. I went to see him as a sophomore (my first sophomore year) to ask about the graduate program. The look on his face when I told him my GPA was so low it didn’t come close to meeting requirements for admission was priceless. He always took the time to meet with me and give me guidance even though he knew I wasn’t going to follow it. He advocated giving me a chance in the graduate program and mentored me through it. To this day, I seek advice from him and I still consider him to be my teacher. Dr. Gerry Schiebler and his wife Audrey were two people who taught me so much, even though they never had me in the classroom. Dr. and Mrs. Schiebler, as advocates for children’s health services and people who made a difference in our state, served as mentors for scores of students who were in awe of how they were able to get things done. I volunteered as a Guardian ad-litem after college and always reflected on the fact that it was Mrs. Schiebler who worked so hard to make the program so effective. Dr. Schiebler took such a genuine interest in students it is hard not consider him a hero. Dr. Steve Dorman and Dr. Jill Varnes, the Dean and former Dean of the College of Health and Human Performance, both of whom taught me as an undergraduate (and THAT must have been frustrating) and took enough interest in their students to know what truly motivated us. Even though I missed a lot of class because of my extracurricular activities, they always gave me the benefit of the doubt because they knew that was important to me. I love all these people — not because of what they did for me, but because of what they continue to do for students.