Donald L. Zimmerman, a University of New Orleans professor of healthcare management and director of the University’s undergraduate healthcare management program, died Dec. 28 at Houston Medical Center of complications from surgery. He was 71.
“During his time at UNO, he was a great mentor to many junior faculties and a wonderful colleague who cared deeply about our students and the healthcare management program,” said Dong-Jun (DJ) Min, UNO marketing professor and chair of the management and marketing department. “He uplifted the lives of those around him, and we will long remember Don’s kindness, positivity, energy, tenacity and ability to leap over hurdles no matter how tall.”
Zimmerman came to UNO in 2015 to serve as the inaugural director of the undergraduate healthcare management program. The program blossomed under his leadership and recently received AUPHA accreditation, said Pamela Kennett-Hensel, dean of the College of Business Administration.
“Don brought a wealth of industry experience to the classroom,” Kennett-Hensel said. “His passing is a tremendous loss to UNO, his colleagues, his students and the healthcare industry.”
Zimmerman worked closely with regional leaders on a number of efforts to improve the community’s health and was an active member of the Association of University Programs in Healthcare Administration, the Healthcare Data and Analytics Association and the American Public Health Association.
“To say that he was passionate about healthcare management education is an understatement,” Kennett-Hensel said. “He was a bundle of energy and worked tirelessly to provide our students with the best education possible and to secure them jobs upon graduation.”
Prior to coming to UNO, Zimmerman was professor and director of the graduate health care administration program at the University of Maryland University College, executive director of the Center for Healthcare Management Studies at Fairleigh Dickinson University and a visiting associate professor at the Sloan Program in Healthcare Administration at Cornell University.
Before turning to full-time academic work, Zimmerman was engaged in national and state health policy developments for 20 years as a senior health policy researcher and project leader at George Washington University and Research Triangle Institute. In those roles, he worked on a variety of health policy issues for national executives and legislative leadership, including as a professional staff consultant to the U.S. Senate and as a special adviser to the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General.
“Dr. Zimmerman was devoted to improving the U.S. healthcare system throughout his career. From his time in various consulting roles that included the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, the president's efforts in the early 1990s to expand healthcare access for all, to his roles in academia at various colleges and universities over the past 20 years,” said Randy Kearns, a healthcare management professor at UNO. “He was a terrific guy whose presence will be sorely missed by students, faculty, and friends alike.”
Zimmerman presented and published widely in the clinical and policy areas. His textbook, “Person-Focused Health Care Management: A Foundational Guide for Health Care Managers,” was published in 2017 by Springer Publishing.
He earned his doctorate and master’s in sociology from Stony Brook University in New York and his bachelor’s degree (with distinction) from the University of Washington.
“I will miss our talks about, not only healthcare, but current events,” Kennett-Hensel said. “The only thing we couldn’t talk about was football as he supported the Washington Commanders. We agreed to disagree on that front.”