fbpx

A Professor’s Decision to Earn an MBA

Professor of emergency medicine Larissa May, MD, shares why she chose the executive MBA, even if each of us is more than two or three capital letters.

My career path has been a journey with many forks in the road. I grew up the only child of a US diplomat and spent the first 16 years of my life in frequent moves, experiencing various cultures and having to make friends quickly with persons of diverse backgrounds. I carried this experience and resilience to change through my academic pursuits.

My experiences caring for vulnerable patient populations and hearing their struggles with accessing healthcare and achieving optimal health outcomes first led me to clinical education, for fellow medical students, residents then practicing clinicians, always with the patient at the focus. Medical school was really my first opportunity to see society at large, and the best and worst in others. Ultimately, I realized my own privilege and wanted to apply this in my career as well as my service to my organizations and community.

 

My drive to find better ways to deliver quality care led me to pursue a career in clinical research at the intersection of quality improvement.

Ultimately, I chose the less well traveled path of healthcare innovation in academic health administration.  I have successfully designed and led clinical and public health projects, collaborated with experts at multiple institutions, and mentored over 50 trainees and junior faculty in career development.  I have served on multiple national and international committees representing emergency medicine interests in antibiotic stewardship and infectious diseases and have served as an expert to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies on outpatient antimicrobial stewardship and emergency preparedness.

 

So why did I decide to pursue an executive MBA?

I already had two master’s degrees, one in my content area of public health microbiology and emerging infectious diseases, and one in clinical and translational research.  You could say I am a perpetual student, likely why I chose a career in academic medicine.  My original goal was not for the three letters but really to understand the business of medicine.

I was being asked to justify my effort and put together business proposals without a clear understanding of how to document and propose return on investment.

The irony is not lost on me that none of the senior physician leaders had MBAs but somehow, they had learned to “talk the talk” whereas the ask was always from non-clinical administrators with MBAs.

 

The irony is not lost on me that none of the senior physician leaders had MBAs but somehow, they had learned to “talk the talk” whereas the ask was always from non-clinical administrators with MBAs. Click To Tweet

 

My original goal given the intersection of my work between research and quality improvement was  to accelerate my trajectory as a leader to a broader role as Chief Quality Officer or Chief Innovation Officer, where I would be responsible for a broad array of quality improvement and programmatic initiatives within a healthcare or health associated non-profit institution.

As a board-certified emergency medicine physician who has been in active clinical practice in academic centers for 12 years, I was excited by the potential opportunities for institutional as well as my own professional and personal growth that would come with enhanced management and leadership skills and credentials. I also didn’t think at this stage of my career I had the discipline to learn the material without a structure, and I craved the cohort experience.

After getting recommendations from the very senior leaders without MBAs who told me they were not necessary, I was accepted to the University of Colorado Denver’s eMBA.  Right as I was about to start the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

 

I had experience with full virtual learning (both teaching and taking classes) and that wasn’t appealing to me-I knew a hybrid program would be best for me at this stage of my career.

At the same time, I had a unique opportunity to provide health service to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I had always been focused on public health.

In 2018-2019 I co-led a statewide Emergency Department Antibiotic Stewardship Collaborative that I developed in partnership with the California Department of Public Health which included 15 academic, county, and community EDs who were implementing multi-site quality improvement and patient safety efforts in antibiotic stewardship. I have always felt public health was a calling and when the opportunity by chance came to serve as the Yolo County Health Officer during Fall of 2020 I stepped up to the plate, although it was a huge learning curve for me professionally and somewhat taxing personally.

I continued to provided service in the COVID response to two local counties, Yolo and Sacramento, and my son’s school, and more recently serve team lead for the K-12 schools cohort for the California Department of Public Health Testing Task Force.

 

One of the challenges is that these areas of service sometimes are the parts of my career I am most passionate about, and thus spend the most effort on.

I had considered whether a path in innovation in public health might be an alternate trajectory to pursue yet realized that innovation and creativity in government is a road less well traveled.

I would like my path to be more of a summoned life than a planned life, yet every 3-6 years I feel I need to plan for the next goal and get “stuck” in the discomfort of uncertainty in that moment of transition. The reality is many opportunities present themselves without being planned for.

 

I would like my path to be more of a summoned life than a planned life, yet every 3-6 years I feel I need to plan for the next goal and get “stuck” in the discomfort of uncertainty in that moment of transition. Click To Tweet

 

Beyond caring for individual patients I now fully realize the impact of a broader role influencing diagnostic testing for tens of thousands of patients in our UC Davis public health screening program that links HIV and HCV positive patients to care, serving millions of K-12 students in California, or participating in consulting on clinical development, strategy and medical affairs for diagnostics and biopharmaceuticals that will shift the paradigm of how we care for patients with acute and chronic infectious diseases.

While I anticipated the MBA training would improve my effectiveness as both a manager and a leader in healthcare organizations, the opportunity to put together a leadership portfolio in my first class allowed a unique structured reflection that led me to consider alternate career paths.

I was beginning to feel like a “middle manager” in some of my health system roles while I craved programmatic leadership, innovation, and disruption.

 

I discovered healthcare administration was not where I wanted to be which I would not have figured out without pursuing the MBA.

In an entrepreneurship class I learned I could be an “intrapreneur” but in reality disruption of healthcare has to come from the outside. I joined a unique and valuable networking society, SoPe (society for physician entrepreneurs) and was introduced through industry contacts to several angel funding organizations. My ENTP personality (entrepreneurial leader) was stoked-I discovered while I don’t have my own inventions I love to build programs, foster innovation, see the big picture, and pass on projects once they are in “maintenance” phase.

 

In an entrepreneurship class I learned I could be an “intrapreneur” but in reality disruption of healthcare has to come from the outside. Click To Tweet

 

I learned I needed to align my VALUES of integrity, scientific excellence, innovation, and creativity to my career pathway.

My goal and indeed passion now is to promote a culture of innovation and team engagement by identifying high priority areas for developing processes to promote the best patient outcomes, data driven performance improvement and enhanced patient experience, and with an equity focus on access and delivery of healthcare, particularly underserved patients.  To achieve this goal, I am identifying and expanding my list of allies, mentors, and sponsors and collaborating with internal healthcare partners and external industry partners.

Once I complete my MBA, I hope to leverage both my new skills as well as expanded successes in programmatic leadership to pursue and advocate for a position with a broader role in strategy, business development, and evidence generation.

I recognize academia’s limitations, yet entrepreneurship can come from within or entrepreneurship and innovation could be fostered within industry or public health.

 

I recognize academia’s limitations, yet entrepreneurship can come from within or entrepreneurship and innovation could be fostered within industry or public health. Click To Tweet

 

My chosen profession of emergency medicine provided a natural setting for developing leadership skills.

Through its team based multidisciplinary approach, physicians in training, nurses, technologists, and other health professionals grow and learn from those they serve, our patients, through the mutual exchange of knowledge for the betterment of patient care.

I continue pay back as well as pay forward the mentorship I myself have received over the years from my advisors, faculty, and colleagues—one is never too young to be a mentor or too old to be a mentee.  Great mentors help create leaders.

 

I would be remiss to not address that an MBA provides education and a network but whether it will work for you depends on what you take from it-common saying is you get out of work what you put into it.

Throughout my academic career, I have been most inspired by the high expectations set by my mentors and those I have mentored in turn to strive for academic excellence and professional integrity, while maintaining compassion and humility.

Mentorship is a shared experience, an opportunity to admit our weaknesses, to lend our strengths, and to promote each other’s growth, while sharing the common goal of improving the science and delivery of healthcare.

 

I was beginning to feel like a “middle manager” in some of my health system roles while I craved programmatic leadership, innovation, and disruption.

 

My academic experiences here, both inside and outside the classroom, have inspired a passion for lifelong learning and highlight the important relationship between mentorship and leadership. I don’t know exactly where my next career steps will lead me but I am excited about all the opportunities and the journey I will take alongside all of my contacts.

 

The other piece that pursuing an MBA has helped me realize is we are not an island. The COVID pandemic highlighted where I needed to reprioritize.

Perhaps also getting older, I felt that while I was passionate about my work, I was spending too much time doing it and not enough doing of the other important things in my life. I was focusing on a lot of things that did not bring me joy.

I like to think of the prioritization box, where the left upper corner encompasses tasks you love and get paid for, the top right corner is things you love and don’t get paid for, the bottom left corner focuses on roles you don’t love but get paid for, and the bottom right contains tasks you neither love nor get paid for.

I have been working on eliminating that bottom right corner and trying to get as much as possible into the upper left corner, while using the bottom left to fund the time to work on the upper right.  I also decided to gain control of my fears of the pandemic, by become more active and involved in public health service, advocacy, and teaching.  I am also journaling again which was always helpful (I used to do it on planes during work trips so have had to be a bit more creative in scheduling the time).

 

Finally, on a more personal note I had to pay more attention to my home life.

I needed to prioritize time and attention to family, my hobbies, as well as my passions.  I now try to support collaborators and staff taking the time to truly unplug periodically since there is plenty of data that this actually improves productivity (if one needs the data to justify what is common sense).

 

I now try to support collaborators and staff taking the time to truly unplug periodically since there is plenty of data that this actually improves productivity (if one needs the data to justify what is common sense). Click To Tweet

 

My Galllup Clifton strengths are in order input, ideation, learner, arranger and intellection. These resonate with me.

I like to make decisions based on actionable data, but I am willing to follow intuition when there is not enough data available.

I have a growth mindset, always wanting to learn as exemplified through my taking on new roles and my endless pursuit of formal education!  Hence the value of the MBA to me-the knowledge, skills and relations gained through my eMBA thus far have been invaluable.

 

I like to make decisions based on actionable data, but I am willing to follow intuition when there is not enough data available.

 

I enjoy building teams that incorporate others’ strengths and I like creativity and innovation though I need to make more space for thinking and planning vision execution in my day-to-day schedule.

My charge to my mentees is no matter what your field of study, whether starting your first career or entering a new one, continue to seek out mentors in your profession and in your hobbies, sharing your wisdom with others, and be ambassadors for innovation.

Whether that includes an MBA or not will depend on how you learn best and what you put into it. I promise you will find these experiences to enrich you more than any one course did. I leave you to reflect on John Quincy Adam’s words as you pursue your own paths towards leadership and enrich others’ in the process:

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”.  With or without an MBA.

 

Read relevant articles: Are Three Extra Letters Worth the Effort? and To MBA or Not to MBA (as an MD).

Tweet this out

EARN CME

This learning experience is powered by CMEfy - a platform that brings relevant CMEs to busy clinicians, at the right place and right time. Using short learning nudges, clinicians can reflect and unlock AMA PRA Category 1 Credit.

Ad from SoMeDocs.

SoMeDocs Front Page Header

Don’t Settle for Boring Health Resources

Our Venture Amplifies Healthcare Resources.

Ad from SoMeDocs.

SoMeDocs Front Page Header

Marketing physician voices uniquely!

Our Venture Amplifies Healthcare Voices.

SoMeDocs

SoMeDocs, short for Doctors on Social Media, is a physician-created & led health media company that aims to build a beautiful catalogue of verified online healthcare voices. Our goals are to teach educated professionals tools for personal success, and to showcase them to the world, and facilitate the connections needed to grow. Join us.

The Late Night Texts

The Late Night Texts

Holly MacKenna, MD shares a story of how an unwelcomed text reminds a female of physician of past traumas and leads to an unexpected opportunity for post traumatic growth.

Negotiation series header: David Norris

Negotiate as a Physician and Win

Catch this 8-part series, hosted by physician & business consultant David Norris, MD, MBA & produced by Dana Corriel, MD. Learn to be a stronger negotiator with these important tactics.

Conversations with Shem: Season 2

Medical literature icon Samuel Shem, author of “The House of God” returns for season 2 of conversation, in order to discuss the broken healthcare system. This time, he’s brought the guests!

Doctors on Social Media Teach Podcasting Header Image

Doctors On Social Media Teach Podcasting

Today’s health experts are sharing their expertise in audio format using podcasts. Join us as we explore how we do this and bring on the innovators who are giving it their all.

Ban Al-Karaghouli, MD

Ban Al-Karaghouli, MD

Always do your best. My favorite Quote is “Shoot for the Moon. If you miss, you will land among the stars”.

somedocs logo without url

Stay in Touch

Be a part of the healthcare revolution. Don’t miss a thing SoMeDocs Does!

Disclaimer: SoMeDocs assumes no responsibility for the accuracy, claims, or content of the individual experts' profiles, contributions and courses. Details within posts cannot be verified. This site does not represent medical advice and you should always consult with your private physician before taking on anything you read online. See SoMeDocs' Terms of Use for more information.

Play Video
Our Founder Answers Your BURNING Question

SoMeDocs

“Why should I become a member of SoMeDocs if I already have my own space online?”