LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 28, 2023) — On April 1, 2023, University of Kentucky College of Public Health (CPH) alumnus Marcus A. Hincks was promoted to major in the United States Air Force in a special ceremony attended by friends, family and colleagues at Sheppard AFB, Texas.
Beginning in July, Maj. Hincks is assuming a new role as a fellow with the Air Force Budget Program at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Working in the Corporate Branch within the Office of the Air Force’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget (FMB), their mission is to formulate, build, defend and execute funds aligned to achieve Department of the Air Force priorities and the National Defense Strategy.
“Through this yearlong experience, I will gain tremendous insights and knowledge regarding financial management at the highest level of the Air Force, which I will then apply when I assume my follow-on assignment executing Defense Health Program funds at Defense Health Headquarters,” said Hincks.
Originally from Louisville, sports and competition were, and continue to be, initial drivers for Hincks that eventually led to meaningful leadership attributes in this career.
Merging education in business and health care
Hincks’ higher education journey began at UK, where he graduated with an undergraduate degree in finance from the Gatton College of Business and Economics in 2010.
After graduation, Hincks challenged himself to pursue a graduate degree because he wanted to be more competitive in the workforce. While researching different graduate programs and exploring different industry sectors, a classroom peer informed Hincks about the growing demand for health care and business.
At that time, Hincks started exploring health care administration careers, which led him to the Master of Health Administration (MHA) program at the UK College of Public Health.
“Getting used to working collaboratively with others as a student prepared me for life in the workforce,” said Hincks. “Collaboration within your unit as well as with other departments is essential for success. I enjoyed the brainstorming process because of the intellectual stimulation that arises from listening to different perspectives and debating.”
Hincks became a graduate research assistant during his final year in the MHA program, which he found a valuable experience.
“I got to know the MHA faculty on a more personal level and collaborate with the professors on a variety of different tasks,” said Hincks. “Establishing meaningful rapport with the faculty was the greatest benefit honestly and I found them to be great mentors. Today, mentorship remains a big component of my leadership style.”
Hincks also enjoyed the camaraderie with his classmates — playing basketball at the Johnson Center, spending countless hours studying at the William T. Young Library on campus or traveling to Chicago to attend the annual American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) Congress.
The MHA capstone project experience also prepared him to be career-ready and solve real-world problems.
“I partnered with a local clinic to address their challenges, while applying Lean Six Sigma principles,” said Hincks. “The approach of ‘exploring the root causes, picking a course of action, and executing’ is still my problem-solving mindset today.”
Academically, Hincks reflects positively on the faculty in the College of Public Health.
“I owe everything to the professors of the MHA program,” said Hincks. “Each of them left lasting impressions on me that helped propel me into the workforce. I always had a sense that the MHA faculty was invested in me as a student and genuinely cared about me as a person, which just furthered my sense of confidence.”
Public health career
After graduating in 2012 with a master's degree in health administration, Hincks began applying his education in both business and public health starting as an administrative fellow at SCL Health, which is now Intermountain Health, a leading nonprofit organization and health system.
“I found success early on by tackling some projects related to corporate governance restructuring and business development; however, I still characterize this entire experience as my most challenging professionally,” said Hincks. “I learned a valuable lesson in resiliency. Experiencing adversity early on in my career taught me the importance of receiving and adjusting to constructive feedback as an employee as well as the importance of caring enough about your team to give them constructive feedback as a manager.”
In 2013, Hincks joined The Advisory Board Company (ABC) as a senior analyst, one of the largest health care research and consulting firms in the country.
"This role involved supporting the organization’s health care industry clients (i.e., companies that produce health care-related products or services) stay current on health care industry trends and address any challenges they may be facing,” said Hincks. “Over two and half years, I sharpened my critical thinking skills and applied some of the root cause analysis techniques I learned from graduate school. One of my managers once shared that the biggest compliment a client can give you is more work because it means they trust you. This still resonates with me today and especially as I have grown into management roles.”
A military calling
Reflecting on what happened on 9/11 while he was in eighth grade, he flirted with enlisting at that time. Over the years, this desire to serve his country never ceased, and a “calling” eventually happened. In 2015, Hincks made the important decision to join the military in the United States Air Force.
Hincks first learned of the Air Force’s Medical Service Corps (MSC) (i.e., the officer corps for Air Force health care administrators) from a fellow MHA classmate, who commissioned after earning their MHA and impressively served over the next 10 years.
“Walking into that recruitment office in 2015 was one of the scariest moments of my life,” said Hincks. “I am very grateful I made the transition because I truly believe this is where I am meant to be.”
Hincks has been an MSC for over seven years. Originally stationed at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, he worked primarily in two units: Medical Logistics and Medical Readiness. Medical Logistics is the supply chain function of military health care facilities and Medical Readiness is the emergency management function.
He deployed to Afghanistan during this period (where he also was baptized) and worked as the executive officer to the Task Force Medical-Afghanistan Commander, which Hincks compared to a chief of staff position.
“Through these MSC roles, I’ve had a significant amount of experience in public speaking, conflict management, critical thinking, process improvement, human resource management, discipline, and more,” said Hincks. “I have worked for some incredible people and have partnered with some very insightful mentors along the way. I have every intention of paying it forward as I go further down this military path.”
One of Hincks’ biggest influences while servicing the military is Brig. Gen. Norman West, the commanding officer during the deployment to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. Originally, a standard six-month deployment, this changed quickly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic changed everything,” said Hincks. “As the executive officer to the Task Force Medical-Afghanistan Commander, I had a front row seat to observe how Brig. Gen. West and his team of senior leaders addressed the unique challenges of tackling an invisible enemy in an active war zone.”
Promotion and Pentagon
Previously a captain, a special ceremony recently took place to promote Hincks. His uncle, Lt. Col. (retired) David Hincks, was the presiding officer, giving the oath of office and being the first salute as a new major.
Leading up to this military milestone, Hincks was awarded the Bronze Star Medal by Gen. Austin Scott Miller — the highest-ranking military officer in Afghanistan (at the time) and the commander of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission.
“It was a surreal and humbling moment,” said Hincks. “It will serve as a differentiator on my résumé throughout the remainder of my military career considering how rare it is for an MSC to have earned one, especially as a younger officer.”
Being a health champion
At the College of Public Health, the mission is to develop “health champions,” conduct multidisciplinary and applied research, and collaborate with partners to improve health in Kentucky and beyond.
“There are two facets to being a ‘health champion': one centers around helping others, and the second centers around leading by example,” said Hincks. “Someone who ensures access to high-quality health care services is certainly a health champion because they enable health care delivery for others. A health champion is someone who actively lives a healthy lifestyle and helps motivate others to be healthier.”
Learn more about the UK College of Public Health here.
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