EMBA Alum advocates at State House

November 6th, 2019

Head shot of Heidi Larson, M.D.Dr. Heidi Larson, an alumna of the class of 2017, a Maine family physician, and a primary care consultant, recently shared how she has gotten more involved in state politics as a result of her time in the Executive MBA for Physicians program. She has been focused on addressing the opioid crisis, funding the Maine Diversion Alert Program, and working on the Death with Dignity Act. The latter, which allows terminally ill patients to make their own end of life decisions, was signed into law in June of this year. Below, Dr. Larson explains what it is like to get involved in the legislative process as a physician and why it is important.

How did you get involved with these particular issues?

While I was an EMBA student, I took State Health Policy with Dr. Michael Doonan. As part of his class, I wrote an op ed, reached out to state lawmakers, and prepared and presented a mock legislative testimony. I became passionate about these topics while researching these projects.

Have you testified? Please tell us more about the process of preparing testimony and actually speaking on the floor. What about the larger process of advocating for and get a bill passed?

Yes, I testified as part of my class project assignment.  I went to the legislature with my colleagues and each of us presented a slightly different spin on why we supported the Death with Dignity Act. This was in 2017; it took a change in administration in our great State to get this passed!

My testimony in support of funding for the Maine Diversion Alert Program was in writing, so I did not attend a hearing. The grant money ran out, so we asked for $50,000 to continue to provide primary care doctors access to criminal records related to prescription drug abuse. We were successful.

I was able to use the process we were taught in the program, including using brief talking points and quick sound bites. There is power in numbers, so I recommend getting colleagues to help you. We lobbied Senator Susan Collins very hard to expand Medicaid under the ACA. We formed a group, Maine Providers Standing Up for Healthcare, and met with her personally on several occasions.

Why is it important for physicians to be part of the legislative process?

It is our civic responsibility. We must advocate for our communities and our patients. We have credibility, and we have the smarts and can organize. It is part of giving back.

How has the EMBA for Physicians program helped you in this journey?

The State Health Policy class was instrumental in helping me find my voice.  I learned to be succinct and ORGANIZE. Having to present my mock testimony to the class in 7 minutes or less was daunting but a very valuable experience!

How has it otherwise helped you professionally or personally?

I work to support organizations in building strong foundations in primary care as a way to serve our communities more effectively and set ourselves up for success in value-based payment models (like Medicare Advantage).  I would not have been able to do this work without assimilating all the knowledge, experience, and collegial support I gained from this MBA program.


EMBA Alum receives funding to expand his Executive Team Consulting Project

August 7th, 2019

Recently, we chatted with Dr. Michael Tang, an alumnus of the class of 2019, to learn more about his successful Executive Team Consulting Project (ETCP). Dr. Tang is a psychiatrist and pediatrician who works at Dimock Community Health Center in Boston. He worked with his organization to focus his ETCP on behavioral health integration through a management approach. He has received funding to expand this project to additional health centers throughout Massachusetts.

The ETCP is a capstone activity that supports each student as they launch, lead, and work with a team of their colleagues to complete a change initiative that impacts an aspect of their own work in healthcare. Keep reading to learn about the process of creating and implementing a successful project.

What was the subject of your ETCP?

My ETCP built upon existing work within my organization, Dimock Community Health Center. It highlighted the importance of a management approach to Behavioral Health Integration. For nearly ten years, Dimock has found that fully merging primary care medical and outpatient behavioral health clinics enable operational efficiencies and financial sustainability that directly lead to improved patient care. My ETCP sought to model this integration, including through a linear program, dashboard of metrics, and workflow changes to reduce wait times. The project further aimed to disseminate this model, contributing to a peer-review publication and a multi-year grant to create a Leadership Learning Network for C-suite leaders in ten Massachusetts Community Health Centers to learn about these management strategies.  

This project is significant for our organization as it helped our health center share innovations with colleagues from across the Commonwealth. Integration is particularly important for the new Massachusetts Medicaid Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), and other value-based models that reward improved patient outcomes, population health, and provider satisfaction, and lower health care costs. We believe this Behavioral Health Integration approach helps providers better achieve this Quadruple Aim.

How did you decide on the topic?

It advanced the work I was already doing at my job on integrating primary care, behavioral health, and substance use disorder services.

Tell us about how you acquired support (financial support, leadership buy-in, etc.) within your institution.

There was great synergy between my ETCP and my job. The project advanced my thinking and generated content, which I could then take back to my job to build support from my leadership, assist my colleagues, and increase financial backing.

What was the process of forming your team like?

It went smoothly, since we were already a well aligned organization and the project helped move our team forward.

How is the project evolving now that you have graduated?

The ETCP continues to strengthen and expand even after graduation. We are continuing to strengthen our behavioral health integration within the health center, using skills and techniques developed in the ETCP. We were funded by Boston Children’s Hospital to spread our Behavioral Health Integration model to 10 additional health centers across the Commonwealth, disseminating these best practices.

How did the Brandeis EMBA for Physicians program help you along the way?

The Brandeis EMBA  for Physicians program helped this project in all regards. Accounting helped me understand the finances and return on investment. Leadership helped me think about the strategy and change management. Operations helped design a linear program and manage wait lists. The Health Care Entrepreneurship class shaped this start-up project. Relational Coordination helped me understand team dynamics. Marketing helped think about messaging and population segmentation. Systems Thinking introduced a clear approach to problem solving. Each class added a new element that the ETCP pulled together.

The program overall helped me become a better manager and leader.


Putting the Degree into Action: EMBA for Physicians Students present their Executive Team Consulting Projects

May 15th, 2019

Earlier this month the EMBA Class of 2019 participated in the Executive Team Consulting Project (ETCP) interactive poster session. This session was the culmination of the 16-month capstone project where EMBA students led a team of colleagues in their organizations in addressing a significant management issue. All 41 students presented their posters in a series of rotations throughout the morning. ETCP Professor Dr. Sally Ourieff, and EMBA Program Director Dr. Jon Chilingerian joined the students in circulating to all of the posters and learning about each others’ projects. It was a great opportunity for the physicians to support their fellow classmates and gather ideas to address their own organizational challenges in the future.

The ETCP curriculum is designed to be a practical application of the learning physicians do throughout the course of the program. EMBA physicians are able to take their new understanding of the science of medicine and management to their own organizations. Many have seen a significant result from their project be it negotiating successfully with stakeholders, reaching consensus on tough decisions, or achieving notable improvement in various metrics (including quality and performance measures, operations, and the bottom line).

One physician analyzed and implemented the closing of a major service line to strengthen and focus his hospital’s service delivery and financial health. His region has multiple hospitals but still lacked beds. The line he chose to close was offered at other locations regionally and had low utilization (42% occupancy rate), thus freeing up beds for other high-need areas (an average of 10 people were held waiting for beds daily in another part of the hospital). In the first quarter after project implementation, there has been a revenue increase of 18%. The hospital is still waiting to complete the implementation, and they expect this percentage to increase even further at that time.

Another physician instituted a new financially beneficial imaging service line at his organization. This new line resulted in high patient satisfaction and financial benefit. It also improved employee morale due to a breakdown in silos between two departments and other byproducts of the project, such as improved scheduling.

Multiple physicians addressed various aspects of the opioid epidemic resulting in significant changes in prescribing patterns and access to care. One physician created a Pain Management Committee at a safety net institution, which resulted in a total decrease in narcotic utilization of 20% during a narcotic shortage. After the shortage was over, there was some recidivism, but decreases have continued. Another physician implemented a multifaceted response to reduce the overprescription of opioids in her medical center. As a result, prescriptions in the emergency department decreased by 20%.

Throughout the past 16 months, 41 organizations were touched by the students’ learning. Projects ranged from new entrepreneurial ventures to new service lines, to closed service lines. They have garnered significant organizational support, including one $300,000 grant for implementation. We are excited to see how these projects continue to evolve and what doors they are able to open for these physicians, their organizations, and their patients.


Welcoming the Class of 2020 and the EMBA for Physicians Orientation Process

February 6th, 2019

Program Director Dr. Jon Chilingerian participates with the class of 2020 during the Masterclass in Human Creativity

This past January, the Brandeis Executive MBA for Physicians program welcomed the class of 2020. The 29 physicians in the cohort join the program from 16 states (from every U.S. region) and India. The cohort also represents 14 specialties, including surgery, cardiology, pathology, and internal medicine. They are 41% women, and about one third are U.S. students of color. Their average age is 48 with over 15 years on average of post-residency work experience. During their first 10 day in-person residency session, they participated in EMBA orientation, developed their network by meeting and working with each other and the class of 2019, and began their first semester courses.

The class of 2020 began their EMBA preparation in December by attending one of two live orientation webinars that walked them through aspects of the program and what to expect during the January residency. They also purchased their course textbooks and started to review the tasks and deliverables ahead of time. Further preparation included completing a self-assessment and inviting colleagues of all organizational levels (supervisors, peers, and direct reports) to complete assessments to build a 360 degree report on the physicians’ leadership styles which was then reviewed during residency with the support of executive and peer coaches.

Once they arrived on site in January, they participated in sessions designed to orient students to what it is to be an EMBA participant and to allow the cohort to get to know each other and build strong bonds. In one such session, the students participated in a “Masterclass in Human Creativity and Collaboration” led by Program Director Dr. Jon Chilingerian and a Fortune magazine featured keynote speaker and workshop instructor who brings his perspective as an improviser, actor, writer & director to corporate and business education environments. In another session, students were able to practice how to engage as a class in a case discussion – a specific classroom tool used by many faculty to facilitate learning.

This January marked the first time that the program has welcomed students from two different cohorts for overlapping residencies. The class of 2019 returned for their third residency as the class of 2020 wrapped up their first residency. Members of the two cohorts were able to meet and network with fellow physicians from their regions and specialties. The program sponsored a cocktail hour mixer to facilitate the building of those relationships. Students have already seen the positive results of the networking. One student from the class of 2020 met with a group of 5 other physicians from her specialty to discuss a difficult work situation. This new structure will strengthen inter-cohort bonds and foster similar connections.

By the end of the residency session, the class of 2020 had multiple meetings of each of their first semester courses – Financial Accounting, Healthcare Economics, Leadership and Organizational Behavior, and Operations Management. Those courses now continue through live, virtual webinar sessions through mid-April. The Program staff and faculty are excited to see the class of 2020 when they return in May to start their second semester.


An EMBA Alum’s experience with a successful Executive Team Consulting Project

December 7th, 2018

The Executive Team Consulting Project within the Brandeis Executive MBA for Physicians Program (EMBA) is a capstone activity for each student to launch, lead, and work with a team of their colleagues to complete a change initiative that impacts an aspect of their own work in health care.

Dr. Evan Lipsitz is an alumnus of the EMBA class of 2017.  Currently, he is the Chief of the Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery and Medical Director of the Noninvasive Vascular Laboratories at the Montefiore Medical Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. During his EMBA, he focused his Executive Team Consulting Project on acquiring and implementing a new system at the vascular laboratory for image management reporting and data storage to replace an outdated system that was used across several of the organization’s inpatient hospital and outpatient sites. The medical center recently finished the implementation of the project, and he joins us to reflect on the experience.

How did you choose this specific project? 

We recognized the need for an enhanced, integrated system more than 10 years ago. About 5 years ago, we went through one complete cycle of product evaluations and replaced the old legacy system with another that was essentially a beta version, and not up to date, didn’t meet our needs, and was not really sustainable. As this became apparent, I chose it as my project with the hope that some of the skills and information I had gotten through the EMBA would help me and the team to make a better business case for the project. It wasn’t that people didn’t recognize the need, it was just that there are so many projects in so many areas that require attention at a large medical center like ours. It became apparent early on in the EMBA that we would cover a variety of subjects each of which would be valuable for approaching this problem. We could then make a case based on business sense and medical necessity, from the point of view of all stakeholders.

How has the project evolved since graduation?

When I presented my progress on the project at the end of the EMBA program, it had been presented to my organization, but it had not been approved yet. The approval came after graduation. From there, we had to purchase the product, plan the implementation, and work out some of the kinks after the go live. There was still a lot of work to be done around implementation itself and how it was going to work with IT. Much of that work was up front but there were still a lot of things on the backend that we needed to work on. We finished the EMBA in May of 2017, and it was about a year and a half until the system was actually up and running. I consider it done only now that the health system is using it.

What was the process of forming your team like?

I think we knew who most of the players were, and we involved a lot of people. As with a lot of these projects, it involved IT heavily, as well the people who manage the labs that do the studies. It also involves physicians because we actually have to read the studies. Finally, it involves hospital administration. We needed a comprehensive and invested group of stakeholders to build a strong business case. With this project, the medical need was obvious. It was the business case that was most crucial and which required refinement.

What do you think made your project successful?

I think the most important thing was making the case from an accounting perspective. I used all the skills from the managerial accounting course. We are able to frame the conversation in new way. Another was using the relational coordination tools we got in the program to build strong teams. Also, working with the team and engaging and encouraging all stakeholders to get some outside the box thinking was helpful. A big stumbling block, at least early on, was that we were going to host the entire system on our servers as the organization was understandably worried about privacy, which would have been a huge expense. Another option was to host the system remotely. After much discussion, everybody came to realize that to make this work, and in anticipation of other upcoming projects, we would need to look to host remotely. It was also apparent that many other hospitals were moving that way as well for similar reasons. So luck and timing played a role as well. The project might not have happened three years ago. The institution deserves a lot of credit for their willingness to move in this direction. As a result, similar projects might have an even easier time looking forward three years from now.

How did Brandeis’s EMBA for Physicians program help you along the way?

The program was invaluable. I don’t think I could have done it without it. It allowed me to focus on all the important areas other than just medical need.  The medical needs were important, and while they seemed obvious, they were not enough. I tried to choose a project that would let me use skills from almost every single class that we had. In some ways, this is not a particularly ingenious project, but I think that the skills and tools needed allowed for really good practical application of all the things that we learned. Practicing these skills will help me do similar projects if needed in the future.

What advice would you give to a physician who is considering pursuing an EMBA?

This program was great. In this day and age, it gives you a skill set and a perspective that you don’t otherwise get. I think to do it at a time when you have work experience under your belt is very meaningful. No matter what you decide to do with it or how you decide to apply it, it’s knowledge that makes you a better physician in the system where we are subject to so many systematic constraints. Understanding those are really important. Also it’s important in moving forward for physicians to be involved in policy and business because they have boots on the ground. Also, I would add that the program is really a great journey. It’s a lot of fun. It is a lot of work. It’s a big commitment. But I think well worth it.


Entrepreneurial EMBA Physician Brings Quality Medical Care to Campers

November 7th, 2018

Dr. Jill Baren is a member of the Executive MBA for Physicians class of 2019 and an emergency physician who has been practicing for 25 years. She was also one of the first physicians to subspecialize in pediatric emergency medicine. She has practiced in both urban academic hospitals and freestanding children’s hospital emergency departments. Currently, she is Professor of Emergency Medicine, Pediatrics, and Medical Ethics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also President-Elect of the American Board of Emergency Medicine. Below, we discussed Dr. Baren’s new venture, Camp Health Consulting, which helps camps achieve exceptional standards of healthcare by providing education, operational advice, and recruitment of qualified nurses and doctors to work in the unique setting of a camp . We discussed the venture, how it came to be, and how the EMBA for Physicians program has been helpful so far.

Can you tell us about your venture?

I founded Camp Health Consulting with my business partner who is also an emergency physician. Both of us are passionate about working as physicians in residential camp settings, or “sleepaway camps”, as some people call them. Camps provide a great atmosphere for kids and offer various activities such as sports, science, outdoor adventure, and plenty of social interaction away from the internet! Camps are often located in more remote environments, in mountainous or lake areas, so the proximity to medical care can be relatively limited. My partner and I have a very long tenure as camp physicians (over 25 years between us) and both of us attended summer camps when we were growing up. We noticed that there were gaps in the standard of care that’s delivered at camp and in the skills of the providers that are typically recruited to work in camp settings. Many camps use nurses, not doctors. Nurses are trained on a treatment rather than a diagnostic paradigm so it’s harder for them to figure out undifferentiated complaints or perplexing problems without physician backup. Sometimes that can result in unnecessary trips to a hospital. In a typical camp health center you will see a combination of infectious diseases, dermatology, orthopedic, and mental health complaints, among other things. We think the best skillset for camp doctoring is emergency medicine, but other physicians with proper training and experience can be taught to fill in the gaps. We work with camp directors and owners to address deficiencies. Some camp health centers are starting from ground zero. They have no idea how to set up a health center and want advice about how many people should staff it, what their qualifications should be, and how they should deal with parent communication issues. We’re actively building our recruitment arm of the company. As clinicians, we have greater accessibility to clinicians and knowledge of the industry. Camp directors are busy recruiting everyone else needed to run a camp and find it difficult to recruit their health center staff each summer. When a camp decides to hire us to assist with recruitment, we will deliver an educated nurse or doctor – one that meets our standards and has gone through a series of educational modules that focus on the unique healthcare needs of kids at camp.

What sparked this idea?

It was nothing more than my own clinical experience working as a camp doctor at a summer camp that my sons attended many years ago. The director of this camp was invested in providing an injury free, healthy camp environment for nearly 300 campers and 100 staff, but didn’t always have the optimal tools to do so. For example, we had a medication distribution system that needed to be improved from a safety and efficiency standpoint and we worked together to accomplish that. There were other challenges I observed that made me think, “Wow, this is a business waiting to happen.” A few years ago, I met my business partner. A colleague connected us, and we instantly clicked as we had noticed the same exact issues at our respective camps and both had a love of camping. We agreed to build a business to improve healthcare at camps.  We spent another year ironing out the business concept and then established the company. Now we’ve got a number of people involved. We have independent contractors, equity partners, and advisory board members, and we’re pretty excited about how quickly it has developed. We will be launching our products and services in the summer of 2019.

How has the EMBA for Physicians been helpful in growing your venture?

The EMBA program has been incredibly helpful. Most importantly, my classmates are so excited for me. They are interested in my business and have supported me, reaffirming my ideas. It’s like having a bunch of cheerleaders. There have been a number of classes that have been directly related to my work. Just this week, I went over my monthly financial statements with my bookkeeper and knew how to ask the right questions and easily follow the balance sheet. I learned how to do cash flow projections for the business. The program has provided me with real world knowledge that I can apply right away. The entrepreneurship course has also been a great help. I pitched my business in a slide deck for the class project and got pages of comments back from the professor. I’ve never had a professor take that much time to give such detailed feedback and I was really appreciative. Having the EMBA side by side, paralleling the development of the company, has been fantastic for me.

What advice would you give to a physician who is thinking about pursuing an entrepreneurial venture?

There are so many things you can do as a physician. The jobs are limitless. You just have to think outside of the box. I created this company but have no immediate plans to leave my position as a leader in academic medicine and a leader in my specialty nationally. Physicians should be empowered to believe that there are lots of jobs accessible to them and that many doors can be opened with additional skill sets. If you have an idea or if you are willing to partner with non-physicians or with other physicians who are interested in expanding their own skill sets, it’s totally doable. Physicians are lifelong learners. If you are a person with passion, who cares about improving health, there are plenty of areas that need work. You can do it.

What advice would you give to a physician who is starting our program?

People come into the program with lots of different goals. Whatever your goal is upon entering, don’t be rigid. Allow yourself to see what your classmates are doing and feel your way through the program. The connections you make as a part of the program with colleagues and faculty are invaluable.  In our class, people are starting to grow into and envision themselves as productive in different roles than their current ones. Don’t box yourself in. Go with an open attitude because you never know what could happen.


The Importance of Political Involvement and Understanding for Physicians this November: Insight from Dr. Stuart Altman and Dr. Michael Doonan

October 9th, 2018

This month, in preparation for the November mid-term elections, we checked in with the professors who teach health policy in the EMBA for Physicians program.

Dr. Stuart Altman, who teaches Issues in National Health Policy, is the Sol C. Chaikin Professor of National Health Policy at The Heller School. He is an economist who has five decades of federal and state health policy experience within government, the private sector, and academia. He currently chairs the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission, which was created in 2012 to monitor health care spending growth.

Dr. Michael Doonan, who teaches State Health Policy, is an assistant professor at the Heller School and the Program Director for the Master of Public Policy program. Before coming to Brandeis, he had roles in the Senate, the Clinton Administration’s Health Care Taskforce, and with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. He is currently the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Health Policy Forum and Director of the Council for Health Care Economics and Policy.

Below is their perspective on the importance of health policy for practicing physicians in light of the upcoming election and what physicians can expect to learn in their classes.

 


“For evil to succeed good people must simply do nothing.”

-Edmond Burke

Health policy is in danger of becoming less informed and effective if physician leaders do not engage. It will be more likely to endanger public health. Managers need to react to the political challenges and adapt organizational structures accordingly. Leaders influence and make change. Physician input is essential to create better systems that more effectively serve patients, organizations, communities, and the nation.

Perhaps there was a time when physicians could be more introspective and focus solely on the patient before them or the needs of a particular hospital. This is no longer the case. It is essential to understand how complex political policy change impacts access to care, reimbursement of care, and ultimately the quality of care.

The Issues in National Health Policy course provides a historical and contemporary examination of American health care systems programs and policies. This includes Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, historical efforts at reform, drivers of health care costs, and the history of payment and delivery systems. It helps answer the question of how we created the current system and the more difficult question of where are we heading.

The State Health Policy course examines state and intergovernmental relations. It looks at the range of state health care responsibilities including public health, Medicaid, licensure, insurance/health plan regulation, and more.  It provides specific tools for engaging with policymakers and directly influencing policy change. This includes interviewing a senior policymaker in your state, drafting op eds and letters to the editor, and writing and presenting legislative testimony on an issue of concern.

Taken together these courses open up the black box of the policy process. It is essential for physician leaders to not only manage change but to effect it and lead it. Today policy is being driven far too much by emotion, feeling, and partisan bickering. These need to be replaced by reason and the insight of people who both understand health care and who are committed to improving patient and population health and the efficiency of the overall health care system.


Learning more about Leadership and Organizational Behavior and Management of Healthcare Organizations: An Interview with Program Director Dr. Jon Chilingerian

September 24th, 2018

Dr. Jon Chilingerian, Ph.D. is the Program Director of the Executive MBA for Physicians (EMBA) program and the four-year dual MD-MBA degree with Tufts School of Medicine. He also teaches both Leadership and Organizational Behavior and Management of Healthcare Organizations for the EMBA program. In the below interview, Dr. Chilingerian weighs in on the importance of his courses for practicing physician-leaders, his passion for educating physicians, and the classroom experience.

How can an understanding of the topics covered in both Leadership and Organizational Behavior and Management of Health Care Organizations help physicians in their professional lives? 

We want clinical leaders to take note that job pressures, bosses, and toxic workplaces are a major source of stress.  Although the physical environment is a big concern, we should be even more concerned about the effect of work organizations and interactions on human beings and their health.  Recent studies show that 88% of people feel that they work for an organization in which no one cares about them.  Designing an organization and culture in which people care about each other, feel valued, and offer patients and customers outstanding value requires effective clinical leadership.  Healthcare needs leaders who understand how to get all of this done.  The job of a leader is to create great teams that do amazing work on time.  The Leadership & Organizational Behavior course gives you an opportunity to begin to develop your leadership skills through group work, reflection, case studies, and the literature on organizational behavior and leadership and helps you to apply this learning to your clinical role. The course is case-based with role-playing, simulations, and multi-media pedagogy.

The Management of Healthcare Organizations course has a similar focus. This course integrates the underlying and applied sciences of the core MBA curriculum.  Designed to illustrate the new blossoming science of medicine and management, the course requires applying health policy, strategic management, cost accounting, operations management, organizational behavior and leadership to manage and improve very complex healthcare organizations.  This course is case-based with multi-media pedagogy.

What stands out most to you about educating physicians? 

What I love about working with physicians is how quickly they are able to grasp complicated ideas and how quickly they are able to think about ways in which they can put them into practice.  We have tried to build a curriculum through working closely with physicians to bring material that will, in fact, give great benefit to clinical application.  Physicians are superb diagnosticians.  The fundamental start of any strategic thinking process is diagnosing what’s going on in the world around us.  Once physicians realize that what they do as clinicians is very similar to what leaders have to do – relentlessly examining the patient’s situation and considering what should be done to improve it – they catch on faster than most students.  They are among the most curious people as students I’ve ever encountered, and they have great energy which makes it easier to engage with them.  On a number of different dimensions, physicians are the best students you can have sitting in front of you.

What types of activities can a physician expect in a typical residency session class? Webinar session?

To maintain my standing as a professor, I must conduct new and original research on healthcare organizations and find ways to translate that research into classroom learnings. The pedagogy that we depend on requires active learning.  This means that we use case studies and simulations, role-playing, debates, and discussions in class to ensure everyone becomes an active participant and learner.

We don’t believe that learning happens unless you disturb the system a little bit.  Sometimes we put you in a situation where you might be a bit uncomfortable.  We think that makes for a much more dynamic learning environment.  To do that, we have to pick the right cases and think about the simulation and role-playing experiences that will give everyone an opportunity to work with concepts and tools, test them out, and put them into practice.  The ultimate learning takes place when we have a group of people who are all engaged and use the collective intelligence in the room to build on the ideas of others, listen, and reflect on the insights they get – then we all leave with a few more ideas than we started with.


Learning more about Strategic Management and Health Care Entrepreneurship: An Interview with Senior Lecturer Carole Carlson

August 6th, 2018

Carole Carlson is the Director of the Heller School MBA Program, where she also teaches courses on Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship. Below is the transcript from a short interview, in which she provides insight about what to expect in her two courses in the EMBA for Physicians curriculum, Strategic Management and Health Care Entrepreneurship, and how the topics apply to the needs of a practicing physician.

What skills can a physician expect to gain from your classes?

For Strategic Management, you gain an ability to diagnose and understand strategic positioning, both for your organization and its competitors, and an ability to understand and align an organization behind a compelling strategy, which often involves change skills as well as strategic skills. More generally, you gain an understanding of the strategy of your current organization and what the implications are for multiple stakeholders. Strategic thinking is fun because you start to look at the world in a different way. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a restaurant or in a bookstore or on vacation at a hotel; you’re looking around and thinking about the strategy of that organization. I find that really intriguing. It’s a great way to engage with the world.

The entrepreneurship course is little bit more nuanced. It covers how to take an idea from the idea stage to implementation and also how to stop wasting time on bad ideas.  If you asked a group of physicians, “Who wants to be an entrepreneur?” some would put their hands up. If you asked, “Who knows how to be an entrepreneur?” if people are telling the truth, almost no one would put up a hand. It makes sense to understand that process and whether it’s right or wrong for you. Another thing that I found really resonates with physicians in my classes: There’s a lot of issues around founding and cofounding. People don’t tend to become entrepreneurs solo. Thinking through the dilemmas that can arise around cofounders is actually really valuable because if people are pursuing a strictly or narrowly entrepreneurial path, they are typically not going to do it alone. They need to think through these things in order to be able to make it a successful experience.

How can an understanding of both Strategic Management and Health Care Entrepreneurship help physicians in their professional lives?

For Strategic Management, in my experience, the physicians that are attracted to our program want to have a broader impact in their organizations. To do that successfully, it is critical to be able to both understand and promote your organization’s strategy. On the entrepreneurship side, I don’t think you can be an effective leader without having some entrepreneurial skills. Even if you’re not interested in starting a venture, your ability to lead like an entrepreneur, look for new opportunities, articulate them, and help the organization see them is essential. People have different mixes of those skills, depending on their professional situation, but I think both are fundamental building blocks to be a more impactful leader in health care today.

What can you expect during your classes?

In class, you can expect a little bit of up front lecture and then a discussion using the case method, which, if you haven’t done it, is really engaging. It’s an exciting way to think about protagonists in challenging situations, often in health care organizations.  For example, this month we are discussing a company that is commercializing a blood substitute product and one that is innovating in portable ultrasound. We also discussed Netflix: their strategy and how they think about effectively managing through turbulent markets. Those are highly interactive discussions that involve the whole class. Sometimes we get a little excited during these discussions, but at the end of the class, the participants have found that they have thought deeply about how that organization might improve. That type of learning is very intense, but there is a really high level of retention and understanding and you get some fantastic insights through the debate and discussion. Finally, the third part of the class is how those insights relate to program participants in their careers and how they might apply the ideas we discussed to their organizations.


Learning more about Financial and Managerial Accounting: An Interview with Dr. Brenda Anderson

July 11th, 2018

This blog is the first in our series where we interview professors from the Executive MBA for Physicians program about their courses: both their content and their value for a busy, practicing physician. Dr. Brenda Anderson teaches at both The Heller School for Social Policy and Management and the International Business School at Brandeis University. She has also taught at the University of South Wales, Sydney, Northeastern University, and Boston University. Prior to entering academia, Dr. Anderson worked as an auditor for KPMG Peat Marwick and is a Certified Public Accountant.

Below is the transcript from a short interview, where Dr. Anderson provides insight about her two courses in the EMBA for Physicians curriculum: Financial Accounting and Managerial Accounting.

You teach both Financial Accounting and Managerial Accounting. What are the primary differences between these two courses? 

I think it best to employ a health care context in answering this question. While not perfect, I believe this analogy from a clinician’s perspective will quickly capture the essence of the difference between the two courses.

In the examination of a patient presenting symptoms of a medical condition, the physician might look at the patient’s external appearance and current health status to make some type of initial assessment. The first accounting course in the EMBA curriculum, Financial Accounting, is similar to this context in that it addresses how external parties, such as creditors, investors, and regulatory bodies, process information about an economic entity to assess its financial well-being or “health status.” A standard set of financial statements that includes a balance sheet and an income statement are disseminated to these external decision makers for this purpose. The balance sheet tells a story about what the organization owns (assets) and its obligations (liabilities) as well as providing information on owner contributed resources and accumulated profits (equity). This “story” is reported as of a single date in time and, in sum, describes the entity’s financial position. The income statement or statement of operations conveys information about how the organization has performed over an accounting period. It presents the amount of services or goods delivered and matches this “revenue” against resources used in this delivery to measure performance, or in accounting terms, net earnings. Thus, Financial Accounting is a course focused on external financial reporting.

Returning to our patient assessment example, Managerial Accounting would be akin to having the clinician examine diagnostic test results that provide insights as to what is going on internally with the patient so that a medical course of action can be planned going forward. Essentially, Managerial Accounting is a course that focuses on providing decision makers within the organization with information and results of diagnostic tools that will allow them to assess, control and strategically guide the entity.

As this course evolves, the focus is on learning about cost identification, overhead allocation, cost behavior, and how the nature of such behavior impacts net earnings or profits. Critical topics such as break-even and target profit analysis, budgeting, outsourcing and long term project evaluation, such as launching a new service line or opening an ASC, are also examined.

What skills can a physician expect to gain from your class?

Admittedly, I am most certainly biased and steadfast in my beliefs about the critical nature of financial literacy skills. That said, frequent reactions to my class sessions or executive education sessions with physician groups can be summarized as follows.

  • I no longer fear the financial people in my organization.
  • The administrators in my organization are continually talking about margins and overhead allocation. I finally understand their language!
  • I am actually beginning to enjoy learning this stuff but don’t tell anyone.
  • Thank you for teaching us – this is exactly the skillset that I need.

Within such comments, you can hear a very genuine, explicit “thirst” for this content. Physicians truly believe acquisition of knowledge in the areas of finance and accounting is tremendously empowering.

At the completion of the two courses, you will be able to read, interpret and analyze a standard set of financial statements – balance sheet, income statement and statement of cash flows. You will have an excellent working knowledge of the origins of each line item on these financials because we build our own set of start up financial statements together in class and use this as a learning platform for the remainder of the course.

I firmly believe, “If you build it, they will come.”

Further, you will be able to understand the nature of product and service cost measurement and behavior, analyze costs using cost/volume/profit analysis, employ a number of cost allocation techniques, analyze a variety of short term business problems (outsourcing, special orders, etc.) using differential cost approaches, evaluate the costs/benefits associated with capital budgeting, and prepare, analyze and interpret budgets and variance analysis reports.

When all is said and done, you will have a full and overflowing toolkit from which to draw upon when faced with a wide range of financial analysis and decision tasks within your health care organization.


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