Liberal Arts alumnus leads trailblazing career in health care management

Ellie West
February 09, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — It is no secret that a degree from Penn State is held in high regard. Perhaps no one demonstrates this better than College of the Liberal Arts alumnus Michael Pizzano.

Michael Pizzano headshot

Penn State liberal arts alumnus Michael Pizzano, class of 2003, said he credits his well-rounded education and undergraduate experiences for propelling him to become a hospital CEO by the age of 35.  

IMAGE: Courtesy of Michael Pizzano

Pizzano, who graduated in 2003 with a degree in crime, law, and justice and a minor in business, credits his well-rounded education and undergraduate experiences for propelling him to the top of the health care administration profession by the age of 35. Pizzano was recently named chief executive officer for Kindred Hospital South Florida – Fort Lauderdale and is currently president of the American College of Healthcare Executives of New Jersey.

Despite achieving great success at such a young age, health care management was not the path that Pizzano had originally anticipated.

“My initial dream was to work as a U.S Marshal,” he said.

But after enrolling in an emergency medical technician course as an undergraduate, Pizzano was presented with a series of new and unexpected opportunities.

“I had been working as an EMT coordinator at Atlantic Health Systems one summer and an administrative position opened up in the offices,” he explained. “Since I had somewhat of a business background, my director asked if I could take over that position a few days a week. That eventually turned into a full-time gig, and within two years I went on to be running the whole company.” 

With a talent for growing and advancing businesses, Pizzano continued to seek out new and challenging roles. In 2015, after spending 11 years with Atlantic Health System, he was hired as CEO of Kindred Hospital of New Jersey.

“All you need is that one piece of paper from Penn State,” he said. “That single diploma holds so much weight and without it, I never would have had the chance to get where I am today.”

Pizzano has been resolute in his ambition to never stop learning. Since his undergraduate experience, he has gone on to obtain graduate certificates in both business and health care from Notre Dame, Cornell, Harvard Business School, and Boston University, as well as a master’s in administrative sciences from Fairleigh Dickinson University. 

“I do not settle, and I preach that to anyone who works for me,” he said. “I always have a positive attitude. If someone told me something couldn't be done, I would do it. That’s how I would push forward.”

Being a young CEO within the health care management field, Pizzano described how he would often be looked over. “I was always one of the younger people in my workplace, so I constantly had to prove myself,” he said. “But I think I do.” 

Pizzano advises current students to take advantage of networking opportunities. “Network as much as possible. All you need is to make that one connection,” he said. 

Looking back, Pizzano described how the Liberal Arts curriculum allowed him to focus on many areas of study outside of his overall major. Taking courses covering everything, from sociology and psychology to business law, he said the program gave him the core knowledge he needed to succeed in his current job.

Today, Pizzano makes a conscious effort to give back and help students whenever he can. He currently serves as a College of the Liberal Arts mentor and LionLink career coach; he also shares his knowledge and expertise at events hosted by the Penn State Alumni Association.

“My Penn State degree is a huge reason why I got to where I am today, so I try and do everything I can to give back,” he said.

Last Updated February 15, 2021