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Preparing for High-Stakes Leadership

MBA helped Marine captain Jameson Norton transition to behavior health care

Jameson Norton
CEO, Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital and Outpatient Clinics

Vanderbilt MBA 2015

Before his first course at Owen, Jameson Norton already knew something about management. He commanded Marine infantry platoons overseas that participated in a wide range of mission profiles including special operations, serving as rapid response teams in emergency situations.

Back in the U.S., where he oversaw the operations of 37 Marine recruiting facilities, Jameson contemplated a new career path in health care after seven years of active-duty service. It’s a field he compares to the military: “a high-stakes leadership environment, requiring good decisions in the midst of uncertainty and a passion for helping people while managing various moving parts.”

The Vanderbilt Health Care MBA was an easy choice to help make this transition possible. “Vanderbilt is in the heart of the health care capital, with health care resources and a network that are unmatched, and offers one of the most competitive programs in the U.S.,” says Jameson, who still finds time to mentor prison inmates and serve on three community boards including Leadership Health Care in Nashville.

During the program’s health care immersion, he spent an evening in VUMC’s Emergency Department and realized how similar the culture felt to his time in the military. “I loved the 24/7 operations, the intrinsically motivated staff who dedicate their lives to making a difference, the teamwork, the complexity and the high-stress, high-stakes leadership that we find in both environments,” he says.

Jameson became particularly interested in behavioral health, drawing on his own experiences with his fellow soldiers. “I had the opportunity to work with our active-duty service members and veterans through times of trauma and post-traumatic stress, helping them navigate the health care system and find help during critical times of need,” he says. “These personal experiences help drive my passion for helping people in similar circumstances as we collectively seek to understand the human condition and ignite meaningful change across the spectrum of care.”

After graduation, Jameson went to work for Acadia Healthcare, serving as CEO for the company’s North Tampa Behavioral Health facility. There, he built a cohesive team that facilitated a hospital turnaround, launched three new service lines to meet critical needs in the community, achieved unprecedented growth and fostered a transformational culture that improved patient satisfaction by more than 15 percent within one year. The hospital became a training ground for Acadia’s new leadership, and Jameson mentored three new CEOs within its leadership development program.

He also contributed to building a military program called C.O.R.E. (Challenge Overcome Restore Empower) that achieved national recognition among active-duty personnel and veterans because of its comprehensive approach to empowering post-traumatic growth and recovery from substance abuse disorder.

In late 2016, Jameson, a Nashville native, came home once again to serve as CEO of Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital and Outpatient Clinics. He credits much of his success to his Owen experience. “I love being part of a team and impacting the lives of people while working together for a cause much greater than ourselves,” Jameson says. “Owen was a fertile training ground, filled with great people and a wealth of resources to help transition into health care with an inspired passion. My time there was nothing short of life-changing.”

“I love being part of a team and impacting the lives of people while working together for a cause much greater than ourselves.”