Unexpected journey prepared Oliver to help others


Editor’s Note: This October, we will celebrate our 30th class of 40 Under Forty honorees. Each week in 2022, The Business Journal of Tri-Cities Tennessee/Virginia will highlight one of our 2021 40 Under Forty honorees leading up to the announcement of our milestone class this fall.

For Whitney Oliver, being honored as a member of the 2021 40 Under Forty class was a milestone on an unexpected journey.

Oliver’s background is in elementary education, but she also has a master’s degree in business that led to a fruitful career in healthcare, which opened the door for her to teach aspiring healthcare workers at the collegiate level.

“It’s been a complete shift in what I expected,” she said. “Now that I look back and I think about the trajectory of where I was and where I am now, I just never anticipated that.”

In retrospect, however, the skillset Oliver developed along her unconventional journey to role at ETSU. Oliver’s business training allowed her to make her mark at Ballad Health, where she led several rapid improvement events. In 2017, for example, Oliver and her team were able to reduce expenses associated with length of stay at Johnson City Medical Center by over $4 million, a decrease of almost 11 percent per case.

Oliver has since turned her attention toward preparing the next generation of healthcare workers to transition seamlessly into the workforce. She coordinates the Bachelor’s of Science in Health Administration program at ETSU and also teaches classes. In that role, Oliver does her best to provide students the tools they’ll need to be successful.

“A continuous motivation for what I do are the students that I serve,” she said. “I’ve been in their shoes before. I know what it’s like to be a college student. I’m motivated to continue to bring a different perspective into the classroom, and I think just having that motivates me to do better.”

Outside of her professional role, Oliver gives back to her community in many ways. She participates in 100+ Tri Cities Women Who Care, volunteers with the B.E.A.R. Buddies program and serves as a mentor through the TNAchieves Mentor program.

Oliver credits her mentors for teaching her the concept of servant leadership, and she tries to live that out each day.

“I feel like they’ve taught me the definition of servant leadership and what that truly means to be a servant leader,” she said. “Every day I try to have that humility, to get on the students’ level and give them whatever they need.”

Oliver is also motivated by her family and grounded by a strong faith in God. While her journey up to this point has been unpredictable, Oliver said she is at peace with whatever comes her way next.

“Wherever He takes me, that’s where I’ll go next,” she said. “I just take it one step at a time, and I’m looking forward to the future.”

Next week we will profile Alicia Phelps of the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association. If you would like to nominate someone for inclusion in the 2022 class of 40 Under Forty, visit 40under.com and follow the instructions.

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