Dean for a Day

April 23, 2024 Written by Amy Cherry | Photos by Ashley Barnas Larrimore

Highmark President Nick Moriello serves as Dean for a Day

Highmark’s Nick Moriello traded his president’s hat and served as dean for the day at the University of Delaware College of Health Sciences (CHS), immersing himself in the world of academia.

“I grew up right down the street and have watched the University of Delaware’s growth and influence, so it’s an honor to serve as dean for the day at the College of Health Sciences,” Moriello said. “Highmark has partnered with the University on several initiatives, and now, personally interacting with students and professors and seeing their passion has been an enlightening experience.”  

As an entrepreneur and president of Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Delaware, Moriello aspires to transform healthcare with Living Health, Highmark’s strategy to create a simpler, more personalized, and proactive health experience.

Highmark President Nick Moriello talks with biomechanics and movement science doctoral candidate Kiersten McCartney about the health insurance industry after class.

He is focused on creating better experiences for people, whether they’re patients, loved ones of patients, or clinicians. He told a graduate-level biomechanics and movement science class:

“When we focus on creating better experiences for people, we create stronger engagement,” Moriello said. “Better engagement leads to better outcomes. With better outcomes, we see more cost predictably and perhaps affordability.”

During the inaugural Dean for a Day, Moriello held office hours where undergraduate students in CHS could connect directly with the president of the state’s largest health insurer. STAR Ambassadors Madeleine Cameron, a nursing major, and Menelik Duey, a senior applied molecular biology and biotechnology major and World Scholar, engaged in a lively discussion with Moriello. They talked about their experiences studying abroad and the differences in healthcare.

“The stark differences in the delivery of healthcare and the finance system in other countries versus the United States is something I’ve studied in my past and have some passion around, so it’s interesting to learn UD offers study abroad experiences to enhance students’ education,” Moriello said.

Moriello also talked about his nontraditional path to president. He’s one of few healthcare company presidents who is not an attorney, actuary, lawyer, or doctor.  

“I was an entrepreneur at heart and started my own company, but I had a passion for advocacy and spent time in Washington D.C. fighting for improvements in healthcare,” Moriello said. “Volunteerism throughout my career helped me build relationships, and my willingness to take risks set me apart, which were qualities in a president that Highmark sought to improve healthcare in Delaware.”

He stressed that building relationships has been critical to his success.  

“In Delaware, we’re a small state, and everybody knows everybody, which is a key advantage. But it’s true everywhere that focusing on relationships, empathizing with others, and determining ways to help them makes for a strong leader,” Moriello said.

That advice was invaluable.

“His advice on not being afraid to take risks and try new things was something I will consider when it comes to my future in healthcare,” Cameron said. “I also appreciated his willingness to listen and desire to want feedback about his company.” 

"I liked when he talked about the edge he brought to his position," said Duey. "I respected his willingness to take calculated risks as a leader while looking for areas of opportunity that otherwise might be shunned because of inherent risks. His advice on building relationships also resonated with me." 

Highmark president Nick Moriello (left) poses with CHS Dean Bill Farquhar. Moriello served as Dean for the Day in the College's inaugural event.

In the morning, Moriello met with CHS faculty and staff over coffee. They discussed achievements and pain points and came away with ideas for stronger collaborations.

“There are opportunities for synergies right away between the work that’s ongoing with UD’s Partnership for Healthy Communities (PHC) and the mobile health unit,” Moriello noted. “We have a mobile dental clinic that we fund several times a year, so by partnering with PHC on this, we could offer more robust services together.”

“In the Physical Therapy Clinic, which is a direct provider in our network, there are opportunities to do some things differently,” Moriello said. “Adjustments would improve the lives of patient care providers and research underway in the clinic, fulfilling Highmark’s mission to change healthcare for the better.”

Moriello’s experience as Dean for a Day marks the first of many for CHS. In the fall, CHS is planning several opportunities for leaders in various healthcare industries to take the helm and serve as Dean for a Day. 

“Dean for the Day allows the College of Health Sciences to strengthen community partnerships with leaders in the field of health in Delaware,” said Dean Bill Farquhar. “It also allows our students and faculty to gain valuable insights from industry leaders and foster a direct connection between academic learning and real-world application in the continuously evolving healthcare landscape.”

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