High school sports injury inspires future healthcare career

SWHR career path includes 2 promotions in 2 years

Sports injuries can be devastating to aspiring young athletes. So when Michelle Mirkovic suffered a serious knee injury running track during her sophomore year of high school, she was crushed. She didn't realize at the time that her injury would set her on a course toward her future career.

Michelle Mirkovic
Michelle Mirkovic

Following knee surgery a few days after her 16th birthday, Mirkovic was in rehab for nearly a year before she could get back to sports. "I loved and hated my physical therapist because he pushed me so hard to recover," she said. "But I may never have regained normal function in my left leg without his help. So that eventually led to my choice of career."

That experience led to a successful career as a physical therapist, and Mirkovic still holds her license — 32 years later. However, it was 14 years ago when she made a switch to healthcare administration and has continued on that path ever since.

When the opportunity arose to work for Southwestern Health Resources (SWHR), she knew it was the right move. "I really wanted to see the world from this perspective and be able to impact change on a much broader level."

A pathway to professional success

In August 2020, Mirkovic started in a newly created position at SWHR, as Program Director, Regulatory and Value-Based Care, within SWHR's new Medical Economics team — her third role since joining the organization in 2019.

Mirkovic welcomed the challenge. "It has been a stretch for me because the role is new, and I have a lot to learn," she said. "It's exactly what I want to do — impact the lives of patients from a population health perspective, a strategic level. The work I had done previously prepared me for this job."

She serves as the primary liaison between SWHR and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). From a regulatory perspective, she helps ensure that all SWHR communications, content and other materials that refer to CMS' bundled care initiatives and Next Generation Accountable Care Organization are properly submitted to and approved by CMS for distribution and publication.

Mirkovic's responsibilities include stringent oversight, collaboration and coordination throughout the organization. She serves as SWHR's internal resource for CMS questions and is working to make herself visible and available to colleagues. She works with teams across SWHR, including Network Services, Analytics, Compliance, and Marketing and Communications, to ensure that CMS compliance requirements are met and to communicate CMS information back to the organization.

Opportunity for professional growth with SWHR

Mirkovic said she's grateful to be recognized by SWHR for both her professional experience and potential. "I have been promoted twice in the time I have been with SWHR, which is just under two years," she said. "I would say that there is significant opportunity for professional growth."

With a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy from UT Southwestern and a Master of Science in Healthcare Administration from the University of Texas at Arlington, Mirkovic originally joined SWHR in January 2019 as a Post-Acute Engagement Specialist.

In September 2019, Mirkovic was promoted to Manager of Home Health Utilization Management and Effectiveness, Population Health Services. In that role, she and her team evaluated equipment and services requests for home health patients. They also collaborated with SWHR's Provider Engagement team to ensure that patients received the best post-acute care possible. These efforts, along with reducing unnecessary readmissions and emergency department visits, have helped SWHR reduce the overall cost of care.

Mirkovic said she moved to her current role with the full support of her business leaders. "It's a testament to who we are as a company — innovative, out of the box," she said. "I am grateful to be given the opportunity to contribute to the organization in a different role. I was capable of doing more, and they gave me this opportunity."

Supporting SWHR's culture and goals

It's that kind of company culture that enables Mirkovic to live out her career goals every day. "My passion is high-quality, excellent patient care for our members," she said. "In my role at SWHR, I can impact positive change for our entire population of patients — not just one or two patients.

"It's so important right now in healthcare to be more efficient and to determine how to provide care at a lower cost without sacrificing quality," she added. "We have real freedom here to explore all potential solutions, and there is such value in that for us as employees."  

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