Executive MBA for Physicians Blog

Educating physician leaders in the new science of medicine and management

Tag: student profile (page 2 of 2)

EMBA Alum receives funding to expand his Executive Team Consulting Project

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.

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

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

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

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.

It’s nothing like it was: EMBA for Physicians Alumnus Dr. Tom Tracy on his experience after the program

Years ago, my wife and I tasted the most incredible pinot noir. Long after, we visited the winery where it was made. The owner took us to every corner of the vineyard to help us understand the hard work that went into the experience of every sip. Every small detail– why those particular cultivars, the specific days of harvest, the microclimate on that hill, and the barrels in this shed– helped us to better understand and value the wine. This wine for us is now nothing like it was before we had this experience.

As my career progressed through the surgical care of children, to the development (and funding) of a respected lab, and to the opportunity to lead and grow a new children’s hospital, I found the challenges tremendously satisfying. As “the crucibles of leadership” presented themselves, I found I could get through them more or less by following prior examples, good or bad. The teams I had were adequate and collegial but often hindered by limited know-how. I was at the table for most conversations mainly out of respect, not expertise or enlightened perspective. Like many in academic medicine, I had arrived at the role of Chief Medical Officer with enthusiasm for the opportunity to help make clinicians, their teams, and their programs successful. But is enthusiasm enough? How would my partner executives and I actually help the organization harness and deliver the innovations just over the horizon? I knew enough to know that, as in medicine, a deep fund of knowledge and the understanding of how to apply it was critical to successful healthcare leadership.

I had considered business school many times for no specific reasons. Finance or project management, marketing and economics, even strategy, were the scattered and poorly understood concepts that I contemplated. Ultimately, I just couldn’t see the return on investment.  That is, until I reached a point where I was floundering to conceptualize, develop, and deliver meaningful solutions. I could no longer fall back on, or move forward with, solely my past experiences.

Brandeis’s Executive MBA for Physicians was a chance and a risk for me and my growth as a leader. Together with a group of unique and very accomplished classmates, we were led through each business foundation to discover just how much we lacked in our background and experiences. The program, like the tour from the wine makers, gave us the opportunity to break down the elements of a process, understand them more fully, and explore how to best fit them together for your desired results.  We eventually developed into master blenders who could craft future paths through intersections of business, policy and clinical care.

Currently, I am a CMO in a big system with a large scope. My perspective now reaches further than managing a greater number of direct reports, interacting with cost centers, or ensuring a place at the table with accomplished leaders. The EMBA developed in me different and powerful faculties and internal resources. As a result, I can use my better understanding of complexities, required collaboration, and meaningful controls to find new ways forward. The barriers to health care delivery, in reality, have not changed, but my former frustration rapidly fades into fair process and business systems approaches to bring the best into and out of any challenge.

I had a call with my long time executive coach one afternoon after a particularly intense series of crises. I shared with him just how much the change I had experienced during the EMBA meant to me. I now brought a different skill set to working with an associate to bring a new genomic test “into our market” or with lean teams to develop new operational excellence at an over-capacity surgical service. Three more examples later my coach cut me off and said, “For now I’m going to leave you in your bliss, we’ll talk next month” and hung up. Listening to the dead receiver I thought, “Just like the wine, now it’s nothing like it was.”

Dr. Thomas Tracy is an EMBA for Physicians alumnus, class of 2017 and is currently the CMO in a large medical system.

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