Karen Burdash looks to retirement after 28 years at USF Health

Karen M. Burdash, MBA, is retiring this month after 28 years of providing financial management expertise to the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine (MCOM), its departments and its practice plan, the USF Physicians Group.

Working across the three missions of USF Health – education, research and clinical care – Burdash spent a career advising deans, chairs and directors on best practices for managing budgets, offering strategic planning for both tough economic times and times of careful growth, and acting as the go-to person for a range of special projects for USF Health leadership.

In looking back over a career of staying immersed in budgets and spreadsheets, she is quick to use a classic accounting joke: “There’s nothing humorous about finance.”

Burdash, who is associate dean for finance for MCOM, joined USF in 1989 when she was hired as practice administrator for the Department of Anesthesiology. Since then, she has managed the finances, offered financial analysis, forensics, self-audits, and process improvements to nearly every area across the medical school and practice plan. More recently, she focused her time on faculty and program performance, process improvement, and faculty outreach, using metric-driven evaluation processes.

She also served as a resource to the MCOM executive leadership team, including Harry van Loveren MD, professor and chair of the Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair in MCOM, vice-dean of Clinical Affairs for USFPG, and CEO of the Byrd Alzheimer’s Center and Research Institute.

“Karen Burdash has always been one of my ‘heroes’ in the USF Administration,” Dr. van Loveren said. “Some people give you all the information you ask for but Karen always gave me all the information I truly needed when I wasn’t smart enough to ask for it. She was the one I could sit down with and ask ‘Karen, what’s really going on here?’ and she would calmly tell me the truth, the whole truth, and the history behind the truth. I will miss her wise counsel but I refuse to relinquish her friendship.”

   

That feeling of support and good counsel is shared by Jerome Yankowitz, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology for MCOM.

“There are certainly few with Karen Burdash’s experience,” Dr. Yankowitz said. “She has been a staple at USF Health for 28 years and I have had the honor and pleasure to know her for the last 6 of those. She is the person I would often go to, to get the final and true word. She was the source of endless and accurate data. Her integrity is unquestionable. Given the peculiarities of available data at USF, she was a master at ferreting out the kernels of truth and thus it will be a challenge for others to be more able at what she did. Karen truly gave of herself to this institution and deserves a great, happy and long retirement.”

Paula Knaus, associate dean of Faculty Affairs for the College of Public Health, also appreciated working with Burdash.

“I worked closely with Karen for the 10 years that I served as the associate vice president for Faculty Affairs and can say without hesitation that Karen is one of the brightest individuals I have had the pleasure to work with at USF,” Knaus said. “Karen is a consummate professional with a strong work ethic and impeccable moral standards and will be sorely missed at USF Health. Congratulations to Karen for an outstanding career. It is now time for Nick (husband) and her wonderful family – and, of course, her prized sheepdogs!”

Reflecting on her time and service at USF Health, Burdash is quick to offer some primary lessons she has learned: identify knowledgeable people to be your mentors and listen closely to their words of advice, and if you’re not committed to your job go find another one.

“Be open minded, tenacious, committed and flexible,” she added.

She was quick to acknowledge three individuals who were instrumental in contributing to her success at USF Health.  Joann Strobbe, her “boss” for many years, friend, and anchor.

“No matter what the assignment across Health, Joann gave me strength, encouragement, and my home department,” Burdash said.

Also, Stewart Slayton and Ted Ascherfeld, her employees for many years.

“They were not just a key part of my team, they were MY go-to experts, my rocks, colleagues, and ultimately, friends,” she said. “As you can tell, a 28 year career relied on team work and developed strong friendships.”

In her retirement, she will spend more time on her other hobbies, like sailing, fishing (she’s teaching her granddaughters, ages 6 and 8), stained glass, gardening, traveling, and flying – she is a licensed pilot.

“Years ago, I used to do a lot of photography, so I hope to also pick that back up,” she said.

And, of course, she will spend more time training and showing her Old English Sheepdogs, Beau and Gracie. Burdash has trained many who have earned champion titles at dog shows winning a Best in Show and a Best in Specialty Show with her Grand Champion Eric.

Friends and colleagues from across USF Health gathered July 10 to wish Burdash off to a good retirement.