EMBA Alum Discusses His Experience as a Pulmonologist in New York City during the Pandemic

September 8th, 2020

Head shot of Dr. Samaan RafeqDr. Samaan Rafeq, a member of the EMBA class of 2020 and a New York City interventional pulmonologist, sat down with us with to recount his story of working on the front-lines in Manhattan during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Rafeq is also Fellowship Director and Associate Chief of the Interventional Pulmonary Section at NYU Langone Health, where he is responsible for day-to-day operations of the section. Below, Dr. Rafeq describes what it was like early on in the pandemic, what he has learned in case of a second surge, and how the EMBA prepared him to respond to this crisis.

How did your work as a pulmonologist change because of COVID-19?

It changed dramatically. We had to essentially stop all normal operations, including ambulatory care and elective surgeries and procedures, and focus all the attention on caring for critically ill patients that were coming into the intensive care unit with COVID-19. During that time, I was part of the airway team that performed airway procedures on ICU patients, including bronchoscopies and percutaneous tracheostomies. It was a constant flow of patients for six to eight weeks, day in and day out. Those procedures are part of what we are trained to do, but you do not expect that that would become the only thing that you do in your daily practice for that extended period of time.

What was it like working on the front line in one of the first pandemic hotspots?

It was surreal. It was a mix of emotions all at once. At first, it was as if you’re watching a sci-fi movie or something that you’ve read about in history, but not something that you would expect to be faced with during your lifetime. There was a feeling of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. There was also a sense of responsibility, and pride, as a physician helping people as much as possible.

Now that New York City is more under control, what is happening on the ground?

We are back to regular operations. Our ambulatory volume has returned to where it was pre-pandemic, which is great. I think we’re close to that level for procedures and surgeries, both on the inpatient and outpatient side. Obviously there are extra measures that are in place to ensure everyone’s safety, such as testing patients, ensuring adequate distancing within our practices, and following proper safety measures with PPE for both administrative and clinical staff.

How are you and NYC hospitals better prepared for a potential second surge?

We learned a lot from what we experienced in the height of the initial wave of the pandemic. We know much more about the disease itself and its management, including ventilation and non-invasive ventilation, thromboembolic complications, and post-ICU care. There is certainly a much better understanding medically and clinically about what we’re dealing with.

We also are better prepared to handle resource management. We’ve come to understand what is necessary to care for COVID-19 patients, so we can allocate resources better, whether that’s equipment or human resources with administrative staff and clinical staff. If there is another surge, then we know, for example, what it takes to get an ICU up and running including equipment, supplies, and human resources.

How has the EMBA program prepared you to respond to this crisis?

I thought initially that the MBA would improve my understanding of the administrative and operative parts of healthcare management, but it also made me a better clinician. I keep going back to the skills I had learned during my MBA degree – operations management, leadership, strategy. It’s amazing that when you start to put the pieces together, how everything becomes relevant to what you see on a daily basis.

What else do you want other physicians to know?

Medicine, as a clinical practice, and management are intertwined. Learning the aspects of healthcare management makes you a better clinician. At the same time, being a clinician and understanding what goes into healthcare management, makes you a better administrator, manager, and leader in your respective healthcare organization. There’s certainly an important role for physician leaders and physician executives to play in the future, not only with this pandemic but also with the healthcare system in general. I think the more people who acquire this knowledge, the better off we will be as a healthcare system and as a society. Applying what I have learned in this EMBA program in the real world has been very satisfying and rewarding.


EMBA Alum Reflects on Her Associate CMO Role in a Psychiatric Hospital during COVID-19

July 31st, 2020

Headshot of Dr. SzulewskiDr. Susan Szulewski, member of the Class of 2020, recently transitioned into a brand new Associate Chief Medical Officer role at McLean Hospital. She has also kept her previous role as Medical Director of the Clinical Evaluation Center. She is an instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and trains psychiatry residents, psychology interns, and medical students. Below, she discusses her new role, how the EMBA has helped her, and the implications of COVID-19 both in psychiatric hospitals and on provider mental health.

Please tell us about your new role. What are you responsible for?

Since my Associate CMO position at McLean Hospital is the first of its kind there, I had a unique and exciting opportunity to help shape some of the responsibilities. The highlight of my role is being able to partner with the 500+ credentialed medical staff to ensure high quality, evidence-based care. When I thought about the vision for this role, I wanted to keep the focus on enhancing our unique diagnosis-based care models in behavioral health and fostering that further by providing strategic direction to the physician functions. It is exciting to think of the possibilities!

Some of the routine responsibilities include working closely with the Chief Medical Officer, oversight of the hospital’s clinical service budgets, recruiting and training physicians, provider performance evaluations and metrics, clinical process improvement, physician wellbeing initiatives, as well as ensuring that all staff adhere to safety standards while delivering the highest quality of medical care. The work often involves a mixture of tasks ensuring compliance with state health policy guidelines, regulatory requirements, and utilization management. As Medical Director of the Clinical Evaluation Center, I oversee psychiatric admissions for our nine inpatient units by collaborating broadly with the Mass General Brigham (MGB) network and community emergency departments.

How has the EMBA for Physicians program helped you in your new role?

The Brandeis program provided me with the tools I need to be nimble at my job each day. My role has a daily intersection of business, strategy, quality efforts, and clinical care. The curriculum exposed me to a wide range of these topics, and I am often referencing back to things I learned during classes or pulling out notes that I had taken during lectures. Despite beginning my new role during a time of crisis, I felt confident and prepared to take on challenges. I attribute this ability to the real-world applicability of the physician-focused EMBA where core concepts are taught with instruction on implementation and execution.

Has your work changed during the response to COVID-19? If so, how?

I was involved with and led a wide range of urgent change initiatives across the institution that were brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to maintain continuity of care, we had to adopt numerous changes in a very short amount of time. Our outpatient and partial hospital levels of care transitioned to a virtual care model at a record-breaking speed. These changes required training staff to perform work in an unprecedented way for behavioral health, while ensuring all proper regulatory and privacy requirements were met. In parallel, our inpatient services learned and adopted increased infection control abilities, such as the creation of isolation rooms, proper instruction on personal protective equipment use, pre-admission testing, and protocols of how to safely maintain a COVID-19 positive patient in a freestanding psychiatric facility.

How has the program influenced the way you have responded to COVID-19?

A theme that ran through much of the EMBA course study was the importance of being a present leader. Effective, transparent communication is essential in managing a crisis. Early in the pandemic things changed on a daily basis, so it was especially important for providers to be made aware of steps and actions being taken by their leadership team to remedy issues and maintain safety.

What trends have you seen at McLean Hospital during the pandemic?

In behavioral health, we initially experienced a drastic decrease in patients seeking treatment but this started to change approximately two weeks after the peak surge in Massachusetts, resulting in a secondary mental health surge. Our inpatient psychiatric beds across the MGB system have been filled at a 99% capacity. One benefit is that the surge forced us to work in close collaboration with internal and external facilities on daily capacity and to look at all patients waiting in emergency departments and match them to appropriate open beds across the state. This need for system integration has markedly reduced the wait times for patients seeking psychiatric treatment as well as ensuring appropriate placement based on medical needs.

Many people are aware of the pandemic’s impact on mental health in the general public. What do you think the on-going mental health ramifications will be for healthcare providers?

Healthcare provider wellness and resiliency needs to be a top priority. We know that frontline providers are experiencing higher rates of depression, anxiety, and substance use but often with a higher reluctance to seek care versus the general population. This has an even larger impact when combined with the increase in home stressors of schools closing, fear of contaminating loved ones, and guilt associated with greater patient deaths. This highlights the need for mental health programs that are specifically focused on healthcare provider burnout and proactive plans for wellness beyond traditional programs. There is a lot of opportunity to provide a stronger safety net to support that culture for caregivers. This difficult moment in time offers the opportunity to advance our understanding of how to provide prevention-focused, population-level psychological first aid and mental health care and to emerge from this experience with new ways of doing so.


Class of 2020: Wrapping up the EMBA for Physicians Program

May 27th, 2020

Zoom meeting with students, friends, and family in small squaresThis May, the Class of 2020 finished their courses and degree requirements for the Executive MBA for Physicians program. The graduating physician-leaders presented their Executive Team Consulting Project, reflected on their leadership skill development with their executive coaches, and gathered with family for a virtual graduation party. The final 10 day residency which concludes the program provides physicians time to share what they have learned and how they have applied it, gain perspective on their growth, and celebrate their achievements.

The Executive Team Consulting Project is a 16-month capstone project where EMBA students lead a team of colleagues in their organizations in addressing a significant management issue. Typically students participate in a live poster session. Although the posters were presented virtually this year, students still shared their learning and successes with their colleagues. They used training in giving concise presentations from media expert Mike Nikitas and guidelines on creating clear, effective posters from ETCP professor Dr. Sally Ourieff. Students presented on numerous types of management and business challenges within healthcare, such as the role medical scribes can play in reducing physician burnout, ways to decrease the likelihood of readmission after heart failure, and strategies to reduce wait times between referrals at a spine center.

Participants also met with their executive coaches and their learning groups to participate in a final 360 degree leadership coaching session. With the help of the executive and peer coaches, students reflected on feedback gathered from colleagues for the second time in the 16 month program. The students also gave each other feedback and analyzed the goals they set at the beginning of the program while developing further goals for the future.

After their final intensive classes and presentations, the students gathered together with faculty, family, and friends to celebrate their graduation. They heard from graduation guest speaker Daniel Dawes, JD about health equity and the social and political determinants of health. Graduates Dr. Samaan Rafeq, a pulmonologist in New York City, and Dr. Shaneeta Johnson, a bariatric surgeon in Atlanta then gave inspiring speeches about their transformative experience within the program including the lifelong network of colleagues and friends they developed with each other. The students then toasted with champagne and moved their graduation cap tassels from the right to the left.

The Executive MBA for Physicians program is proud of everything the Class of 2020 has accomplished so far and is excited to see what they do in the future. Congratulations graduates!


EMBA Alum Transitions into Insurance Industry

March 4th, 2020

Head shot of Dr. Kate McIntoshDr. Kate McIntosh was a member of the class of 2019 and is the Senior Medical Director and the Director of Quality for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont (BCBSVT). She transitioned from private practice as a pediatrician and Chief of Pediatrics at her local hospital to this role during the last semester of the Executive MBA for Physicians program. Below, Dr. McIntosh tells us more about her new role, moving into the insurance industry, and how her MBA degree has helped her in this journey.

Please tell us about your new roll. What are you responsible for?

I am the Senior Medical Director and the Director of Quality for BCBSVT. BCBSVT is one of the smallest of the independent health plans of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Working for a health plan as a physician can take many forms, and one of the advantages of working for a small health plan is that I get to do a large variety of things which might be done by separate people at a larger plan.

I am one of only two physicians employed by the plan. Dr. Joshua Plavin, the CMO, is also an alumnus from the Brandeis Executive MBA program; he graduated in 2017. The two of us are the voice of the physician within the organization. Whereas Dr. Plavin’s role is more external and strategic, mine is more internal and operational.

As Senior Medical Director, I am responsible for medical policy, coding, and supporting all of the internal departments of BCBSVT by lending a physician perspective. As part of this, I support the utilization management nurses and the appeals team and coordinate a team of contracted physicians who do medical reviews. The speed at which medicine is changing seems to be ever-accelerating, and it’s an ongoing challenge to keep up with the latest changes in technology and pharmacology.

As part of my work as the Director of Quality, I oversee our HEDIS measures, our NCQA reporting, our internal quality initiatives, and the metrics and reporting for the quality and value-based projects with our local ACO, regional hospital networks, and other provider groups. I also work closely with the quality nurse and provider contracting to review patient complaints and to provide feedback to hospitals and providers throughout Vermont. I also work with the Fraud, Waste, and Abuse department to look for red flags or concerning behaviors. Fraud is a growing area of concern in health care, estimated to cost the United States up to $68 billion annually.

What did you do before this new role?

Before I started at BCBSVT, I ran my own practice for 16 years and was the medical director for the Vermont Health Information Exchange. I was also Chief of Pediatrics at my hospital and sat on its board of directors. Coming to a health plan from owning and running a practice has allowed me to bring a useful and less common perspective about the business of medicine to the organization and to the conversation about health care in Vermont as a whole.

Why did you want to transition into the insurance industry?

I never thought that I would work for a health plan. After 22 years of practice, I wanted to do something different. Running a practice had shown me that I really liked administrative work, and I wanted to do something that let me use my administrative skills. I would not have come to BCBSVT if it hadn’t been for Dr. Plavin, who was instrumental in encouraging me to enter the Brandeis program and also in bringing me to BCBSVT. I started at BCBSVT as a contractor doing medical reviews, but quickly found that the type of systems thinking required was a good fit for me. When the Senior Medical Director position opened, I knew that I wanted to apply for it. The Director of Quality was added later as part of a divisional reorganization but has made tremendous sense for the organization as a whole and has made my position even more interesting and rewarding.

Did pursuing the EMBA for Physicians impact your ability to get this new role? If so, how?  

I think that it is fair to say that I would never have gotten this position without the EMBA program at Brandeis. Dr. Chilingerian’s teaching especially was instrumental in allowing me to enter the company as a contractor and quickly to be able to understand the needs of the organization and how best to meet them. This was a significant culture shift from where I had been before and a completely different type of organization. I think that the EMBA program helped me make the rapid pivot that was necessary to get this new role.

How has the EMBA for Physicians program helped you in your new role and which skills and tools from the EMBA program have you been using the most?

Every class that I took in the EMBA program has helped me in my new role. This new position sits at the intersection of business, health care, health reform, and politics. In addition, I use the tools we learned for strategy, finance, quality, ethics, and operations management on a daily basis. The courses have been critical to navigating the complex world of value, where quality and cost intersect. Dr. Plavin and I are both interested in encouraging providers to push forward innovative value-based projects and health reform initiatives, and we have to sell these both internally and externally, not only to health care leaders, but also to multiple stakeholders, including politicians, actuaries, and executives. In addition, I am working to optimize many of our internal processes which often involves all the diverse change management and communication tools that we learned or touched on in school, especially when working with teams from multiple departments and with multiple skill sets and priorities. The white board in my office is often a mess of flow charts and operational diagrams. Dr. Morrison would be amused!


Welcoming the Class of 2021 and an In-depth Look at the First Residency

February 5th, 2020

A group of physicians sit in circles during an improv activityThis past January, the EMBA class of 2021 joined us for their first 10-day on-site residency session. This cohort includes 31 physicians, all eager to learn about the new science of medicine and management. The physicians:

  • Come from 15 states, along with Armenia and the United Arab Emirates;
  • Represent 14 specialties, including anesthesiology, obstetrics and gynecology, otolaryngology, and numerous surgical subspecialties;
  • Are 45% women and 30% US students of color;
  • Have an average age of 49 and an average of over 16 years of post-residency work experience.

During their first 10 day in-person residency session, the class of 2021 participated in EMBA orientation, attended sessions of their first semester courses, and networked with the class of 2020.

The physicians began preparing for the EMBA program in December by attending a live orientation webinar that walked them through the program and what to expect during the January residency. They also started to review course materials and completed a 360 degree leadership assessment to be reviewed during residency with the support of executive and peer coaches.

The first few residency sessions oriented students and helped build bonds among the cohort. Those sessions included a “Masterclass in Human Creativity” where students learned how to apply improvisational techniques to their professional work as well as their experience in the program. Students also took part in a session to learn more about the case method, which is the basis for many of the EMBA courses. The information gained and relationships built during these orientation sessions are important to set the tone of residency and help the class continue to work well together during the remote periods of the program.

After a few days of adapting to the program and each other, the physicians began their academic classes. The curriculum gives students a base of knowledge in the first semester, so students start with Economics, Financial Accounting, Leadership and Organizational Behavior, and Operations Management. These classes are necessary so other classes later in the curriculum, such as Corporate Finance, Management of Healthcare Organizations, and Systems Thinking, can build off of their fundamental concepts.

Toward the end of residency, the class of 2021 participated in an evening mixer with the class of 2020, who are in their third of four semesters. Dean David Weil welcomed the new students and took the opportunity to meet the EMBA physicians in person. Participants connected throughout the room. Students developed new contacts across cohorts, and some were even delighted to find old colleagues in the other cohorts as well. There was a true networking atmosphere that the students will continue to leverage throughout the program and beyond.


EMBA Student gains new promotion in major merger

January 8th, 2020

Head shot of Dr. Kim Ariyabuddhiphongs Dr. Kim Ariyabuddhiphongs, a member of the EMBA class of 2020 and a Massachusetts internist, was promoted to Associate Chief Medical Officer for the Beth Israel Lahey Health Performance Network during the recent merger between Beth Israel Deaconess and Lahey Health systems. Below, Dr. Ariyabuddhiphongs talks more about her new role, the promotion process, what it is like to work at an organization during a merger, and how pursuing an EMBA has helped her along the way.

Please tell us about your new role. What are you responsible for? I recently transitioned into being the Associate Chief Medical Officer for the Beth Israel Lahey Health Performance Network. In my role, I work with key stakeholder groups in advancing our goals to improve quality and increase efficiency. Our priorities in 2020 are to improve quality measure performance in cancer screening and diabetes process and outcomes in the ambulatory setting. In the hospital setting, we are working with our network hospitals to improve Hospital Quality Measure performance. We are also looking closely at improving efficiency for our Medicare ACO and have identified targets and programs we will launch in early 2020. I lead focused programs and initiatives and also act as a coach to facilitate success in Population Health.

What role were you promoted from? What are the differences in responsibilities? I was previously Medical Director of BIDCO, the ACO of the legacy Beth Israel Deaconess system. My prior role had a broad range but not as much depth. My new role, to a certain extent, is narrower and more focused as I’m working with fewer groups. I’m relishing the opportunity to work more closely with key leadership at the organizations within the larger system.

Tell us about the process you went through to get the promotion.  I had already been doing a very similar role previously for 1.5 years and had worked at Beth Israel Deaconess for more than 12 years. I have the advantage of having worked in this system, knowing the culture, knowing how to execute within our system, and having worked with leadership from my previous role as medical director at one of the large primary care practices. It was a natural move for me to now work closely with the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Clinical Officer.

I know your organization has been undergoing a major merger. What has it been like to be in a position of leadership while significant changes have been happening?  I think you can’t know what it’s like to go through a merger without having experienced one yourself.  There has been a lot of transformation in our Population Health team. While there can be uncertainty, I try to maintain calm and optimism for what is ahead. Working with a larger health system gives us opportunities to question the status quo, transform and land on a new way of operating. While change can be hard, we can take a fresh look at challenges and develop a new path.

Did pursuing the EMBA for Physicians impact your ability to achieve this promotion? If so, how?  The EMBA has stimulated my growth in many ways. It’s fantastic to study amongst colleagues who also want to contribute in a different way beyond direct clinical care and are interested in leadership, health care policy, strategy, and health care finance.  That in and of itself is an inspiration.  I have learned so much about leadership styles from the professors and my classmates. The EMBA has been so valuable not only in gaining concrete knowledge but also in giving me confidence.

How has the EMBA for Physicians program helped you in your new role?  I love reading the leadership and strategy articles and cases, amongst others, and almost all of them have given me a pearl I can apply the very next day in interacting with others in my new role.


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.


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