Up Close With Martha Salas (MBA ’03)

Published on April 26, 2012

With Bauer MBA, Senior Manager Takes on
New Challenges at MD Anderson Cancer Center

In a time of vast change, the health-care industry needs smart and responsive leaders. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has found one in Martha Salas.

With an MBA from the University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business (’03) and a master’s in social work from the UH Graduate College of Social Work (’98), Salas has reached a career landmark. She was recently appointed administrator of MD Anderson’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences — a key, high-level position at one of the world’s most distinguished cancer centers. One of only eight division administrators at MD Anderson, Salas is responsible for some 600 employees in a division that houses four departments, four centers and one institute. She oversees an operating budget of approximately $65 million.

Ambitious, articulate and poised, she has worked her way up the chain of command since stepping into her first role as social-work counselor almost 15 years ago.

Salas is a third-generation University of Houston graduate, following in the footsteps of both parents and grandmother. Her father — Clyde E. Sloan, Jr. — is a 1968 graduate of the business college and is actively involved in the university. In a far-reaching interview, Salas spoke candidly about her life, family, education, career and mission at MD Anderson. When she was approached about the opening in Cancer Prevention, she had just given birth to her third child. Her gut reaction, she joked, was “are you insane?” Eventually she came around, aced the search process and stepped into her assignment March 1. Here are highlights of our recent chat with Salas:

In March, Bauer MBA alumna Martha Salas transitioned into the role of administrator of MD Anderson’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences.

What is it like to go from social work to administration in a health-care environment? I have been fortunate to continue to be able to build on all my experiences at MD Anderson. As a social worker, I had the opportunity to work directly with patients and their families as a part of the medical team. That experience has provided the foundation for everything that I do as a leader. When making management decisions I never lose focus of the real reason that we are here — for the patients.  I have found that health care offers opportunity for growth that many other industries may not. I think that it is very exciting.  I have seen nurses go into management and people that work in labs move into management roles as well.  It is clear that we are stronger as an institution when we recruit leaders from a variety of backgrounds with varying expertise.  It truly takes all of us to make an institution of this size and reputation run efficiently.

Martha Sloan Salas’s UH Family Tree

Salas comes from a long line of University of Houston alumni. Here’s a look:

Grandmother: Minalee Muery Ferguson. BS Education, ’40. Member of the first graduating class on the main UH campus.

Great Uncle: U.S. Navy Capt. Louis J. Muery. BBA, ’46.

Father: Clyde E. Sloan, Jr. BBA, ’68. Five years on the Bauer College Alumni Association board. Currently on the board of Cougar Cookers.

Mother: Lee Etta Ferguson Sloan. BS Education, ’70.

Uncle: John Scott Ferguson. 1960-’61. Cheerleader and Cougar Guard.

Uncle: Charles Ferguson. BS Music, ’66; Master of Music, ’71.

Why did you want to get an MBA at Bauer College? Early on in my career I had the opportunity to serve on committees at MD Anderson that exposed me to the operations of the institution.  This helped me see the bigger picture of how health care systems operate. I was immediately intrigued and knew that if I wanted to pursue a career in health-care administration I needed to increase my knowledge in business administration. Acquiring an MBA was going to be what opened the doors, and for me it was a perfect and natural progression. Bauer College provided the business-management knowledge and expertise that I needed to excel in my career.

Were you able to customize your MBA? With my master’s in social work, my concentration was health care. With my MBA, my concentration was management. The MBA gave me a broad view of all aspects of business, where I was able to integrate different parts of the MBA program into building my career. In my current position and even in my previous job, there is a great deal of variety.  The essential functions of my job include financial management, strategic planning, quality improvement, information services, program management, human resources and personnel management. Bauer helped prepare me for all these areas. I was also able to take classes in international business which helped broaden my knowledge of other cultures. As an undergraduate, I studied in Mexico for a summer, and I was fortunate to be able to study abroad in Chile as a part of the MBA program.  I absolutely loved it. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of the MBA program.

You have an 8-year-old, a 5-year-old and a 10-month-old. You could write a book on work-like balance, couldn’t you? For me having a work-life balance is essential, and it is important for me to help others that I work with achieve a balance in their lives.  I believe that when work goes well, home goes well and when home goes well, work goes well.  I have found that not only is it possible to have a successful career and successful home life, but for me it is the only way. I am also truly fortunate to have a very supportive husband and loving family.

Finally, what’s the mission of your new job? I’m still figuring that out. [She laughs.] My job is to help support everyone in my division.   In Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences, we have a variety of professionals who are conducting research and providing direct patient care.  Together everyone is working to support the mission of MD Anderson to eliminate cancer through outstanding programs that integrate patient care, research and prevention.  As a division administrator, my role is to provide leadership to the divisional departments and to support the mission of the institution. My job is still very much a service role, in that I serve our patients and staff, as well as the greater good of the institution and the greater good of the community.  My role only exists because of all those people. And as a leader, my goal is to continue to make MD Anderson the best place to work.

By Wendell Brock

Posted Under: Alumni

3 replies to “Up Close With Martha Salas (MBA ’03)

  1. Michelle

    Congratulations on your new position Martha! I think my Dad(Bob) is as proud as your Dad! What an amazing & well deserved accomplishment!

  2. Jeannie Graham

    What an amazing gift you have, being able to manage such a great team of professionals at M D Anderson while being a wife and mother of three children. My hat is off to you. I’m so happy your mom shared this article with me. Your parents did a great job of raising you.

  3. Linda Wicker

    Martha,
    You grew up just like you started ouy–perfect!! You have accomplished so much and I’m sure you are just getting started. So proud of you.
    Linda Wicker

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