Physicians have a variety of reasons for pursuing an MBA. Perhaps they want to advance to a leadership role, open their own practice or improve processes in their organization.
Alumni from the Business of Medicine Physician MBA Program at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business often find they didn’t dream big enough; what they accomplish after graduation far exceeds their ambitions at enrollment.
Camie Wright, MD, MBA’16, is one of those physicians.
“During my initial year in the program, a second-year student told me the goal that she’d had coming into business school was very different from her current goals,” remembered Dr. Wright. “She realized her initial goals were too modest. Now that I’m on the other side, I absolutely understand what she meant by that.”
When she enrolled at the Kelley School, Dr. Wright was a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist planning to stay in clinical care and pursue administrative roles, like chief medical officer or clinical leadership. She understood life as a provider and the challenges of bedside work, and she wanted to gain a greater voice in her microcosm of the clinical world.
“Then at Kelley, I took classes on healthcare revenue, the healthcare environment and the shift from volume to value,” she said. “It really showed me there’s much more going on in healthcare today, and we need strong leadership on a larger macro level. I decided I could be part of that leadership.”
During the program, Dr. Wright was promoted to president of medical staff. She says the program encouraged her to think beyond her current role and to consider what she could do with the new business skills she was gaining.
“Kelley’s Business of Medicine Physician MBA Program gave me a level of confidence that far exceed what I had when I enrolled,” she said. “It allowed me to realize I had the knowledge, skill and experience to translate my MBA to healthcare and then mesh it with my clinical experience to create my current role.”
As she learned more though her career and her MBA, Dr. Wright realized many decisions affecting healthcare are made from the payer side. Providers, she discovered, are typically reactive and base their strategies upon payers’ expectations.
“I thought it would be helpful to gain experience on the payer side, to truly understand what drives the decisions that payers make and, perhaps, have some impact on and input into those decisions,” she said.
“I realized that I can have a much greater impact on the payer side than I could at the bedside.”
Dr. Wright recently became the market medical director for CareSource, a managed care company providing Medicaid and Marketplace plans, as well as population health measures, to members in Indiana. In her role, Dr. Wright works with leadership to identify needs and gaps in members’ health behaviors.
“I help craft the clinical strategy for the Indiana market. I am accountable for clinical quality and the attainment of our quality metrics, so I work closely with our quality and case management teams to develop strategy and initiatives that encourage members to take better care of themselves,” she explained. “For example, our data suggested that our members are not receiving all the required prenatal care and recommended newborns screenings. We are crafting strategies such as home visits and member incentives to address that.”
In the end, Dr. Wright was able to accomplish her goal of creating more positive change. At CareSource, her decisions impact thousands of patients. Also, she hopes to allay the often adversarial relationship between providers and payers, which she considers a disservice to both sides.
“As someone from the provider community, I think that our voice and our impact are truly necessary on this payer side. I’m happy to try to be that voice.”
While her role CareSource is to be the clinical voice at the table, Dr. Wright also brings an understanding of the business implications of clinical decisions. In a sense, she can now speak both “languages.” Concepts that are second nature to her after a decade and a half of clinical experience aren’t always known by business counterparts.
“Having the MBA allows me to frame my clinical concerns in a way that they will understand,” she said.
The boost in confidence for leadership roles isn’t limited to Dr. Wright. In her class of 2016, there are other physicians who joined the payer side, several alumni who took clinical leadership roles, one classmate who started a niche practice, one who was appointed to a government role and another who launched a concierge practice. Dr. Wright feels that many physicians don’t realize there is a world of opportunity for leadership available to them.
“In medicine, there’s this expectation that you become a clinician and then you do that until the end of your career. It’s a very linear perspective,” she said. “I think medicine is actually very matrixed, and there are so many things you can do with your MD degree—especially if you have a business background—that people may not have considered. That has been a huge lesson for me, having gone through this program, and it’s one I wish more physicians knew about. There’s so much more you can do.”
Dr. Wright has noticed another hesitation on the part of physicians considering an MBA: a loss of credibility as a bedside physician.
“I’ve had people say to me, ‘Oh, you didn’t want to be a doctor anymore?’ I tell them I’m still very much a physician,” she said. “I take care of thousands of people; I just do it in a different way. I don’t do it with a stethoscope around my neck.”
In fact, Dr. Wright says she enjoys feeling challenged to use her mind in a different way each day. One of the projects she’s leading helps to meet the needs of those formerly incarcerated in the criminal justice system as they reenter society. Dr. Wright is developing protocols to meet the medical needs and social concerns of this population in the most effective way.
“If you’d told me two years ago that I’d be leading a criminal justice program, I’d have never believed it,” she said. “But I’m enjoying it tremendously. I feel challenged to approach issues in a different way. I’ve had to recall a lot of clinical information that I didn’t necessarily use on a day-to-day basis as an OB-GYN, and I’m finding it all to be rewarding.”
As she continues to expand her expertise as a physician on the payer side of healthcare, Dr. Wright encourages other physicians to pursue non-traditional areas of medicine. Earning an MBA at the top-ranked Kelley School of Business helped not only to open her eyes to new ways she could care for patients, but helped her realize she could pursue them – something, she says, every physician should consider.
“You can stretch so much farther than you think,” said Dr. Wright. “Don’t be afraid to be very ambitious. Kelley gave me the skills, and also the confidence, to leave my comfort zone and do something truly different.”