Tennessee Tech News


Tech’s strategic leadership program adds to doctor’s wide skillset


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James Thoene earned a master's degree in professional studies in fall 2017.

Published Thursday Jan 4, 2018

As a doctor who has been board certified to practice emergency medicine, tropical and travel medicine and anesthesiology, who also holds an MBA from the University of South Florida, James Thoene had a pretty large knowledge base and a strong skillset leading his career in medicine.

However, Thoene found something in the Master of Professional Studies strategic leadership program at Tennessee Tech that drew him to earn yet another degree.

“I really had no plans of going back to school,” he said. “Through the process of working several different places, I worked in anesthesiology in Ringgold, Georgia, and became the director there. I started noticing in my early interactions of being a director that things weren’t always going well, so I needed to figure it out.”

Through his employer, Thoene took part in several leadership trainings and found that the more he learned about being an effective leader, the more success he had as a director. When his career path led Thoene to work for Cumberland Medical Center in Crossville, Tennessee, he started researching ways to take additional leadership courses and found the online Master of Professional Studies strategic leadership program offered at Tech.

“I got into the program, started taking the courses and I really enjoyed them,” Thoene said. “My interpersonal relationships since starting my coursework are very different. The skills and the discussion from the courses and the ability to take that and incorporate it philosophically has fundamentally changed the way I interact with people.”

More professionals like Thoene are seeing the value in professional studies training. According to Joe Roberts, interim director of Tech’s School of Professional Studies, program enrollment has more than tripled in the last five years.  

As he worked through the online program, Thoene says he was able to zero in on skills that helped him be a more effective leader without pausing his career. After completing all but one of the required courses to finish his degree, Thoene faced challenges in his personal life and took some time away.

“That’s where Joe came into the picture, asking me questions, staying in contact,” Theone said. “He was really an encourager for me.”

With Roberts’ support, Theone was able to finish the degree work and was among graduates awarded degrees at fall commencement ceremonies in December 2017.

“I worked pretty hard at it, finished it and now I am pretty proud to have finished out the degree when I wasn’t so sure that I was going to get to the end,” Theone said. “It was kind of what I got out of the classwork that is more important for me.”

As someone who has put an emphasis on learning throughout his life, Theone found the online format for the program to match his personal beliefs about what learning should be.

“To think of education as a mode where you have to be sitting in front of somebody else who teaches you probably doesn’t set a person up long term in life for what education is about,” he said. “In that aspect, I think online education has some superior points in terms of making people better able to solve the education issues for themselves.”

And it certainly empowered him as a professional seeking to learn new skills while still practicing medicine.

“My work experience is a much happier experience, and I feel like my relationships are stronger with almost everybody I work with and yet I am not a different person,” Theone said.

Theone recently accepted a position in anesthesiology in Ocala, Florida, where he can be close to his family. Though he is not a director in his current position, he says he is sure what he learned about strategic leadership will serve him well.

“The coursework really allowed me to zero in on my communication skills and working with others, things that are useful in all situations.”

To learn more about the Master of Professional Studies programs at Tennessee Tech, visit https://www.tntech.edu/is/sps/mps/mpssl.

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