Students enroll in the Business of Medicine Physician MBA Program at the IU Kelley School of Business hoping to increase their business acumen and improve patient care through their current position or through an executive position within their healthcare organizations.
Most graduates achieve these goals. But recently, three alums—from the same graduating class—did just that with a twist: They earned executive positions within the same healthcare system.
Jennifer Hauler, DO, MBA’16; Matthew Reeves, DO, MBA’16; and Scott Kanagy, DO, MBA’16, have all been appointed chief medical officers at the Premier Health system out of Dayton, Ohio. Dr. Hauler was the first to be hired on at the system, as the vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer of the North Region of Premier Health in Dayton. She started work at Premier the Monday after graduating from Kelley’s program in 2016 and has since been promoted to system chief medical officer. When two more CMO positions opened at Premier the following year, her former classmates immediately sprung to mind.
“I knew these were physician leaders who had the skills and capabilities Premier was seeking in a CMO,” Dr. Hauler said. “And I was very easily able to talk with my former classmates about the organization’s focus on leadership and leadership development. My current position is essentially a lab for everything we used in our MBA program—accountable care organization models, system configuration—all the best practices we learned in our MBA program. It was a very exciting opportunity for everyone.”
Premier interviewed both of her physician MBA classmates, during which Drs. Kanagy and Reeves had the opportunity to showcase the sharp eye for business they’d honed during their two-year degree alongside Dr. Hauler.
“The fact that Kelley’s degree is geared toward physicians specifically was ingenious because during my interview, I had meetings with the chief financial officer and chief operating officer—and it was clear I knew what they were talking about,” said Dr. Kanagy, an emergency medicine physician. “It wasn’t a difficult conversation, and we understood one another. Both Premier and Kelley are forward-thinking organizations. I can create value by bringing my medical expertise to the table, but now I can also hold my own when it comes to marrying that knowledge with the business side of running a hospital.”
Dr. Reeves, a family practice physician and former medical director of two clinical research firms and a sports medicine group, says he historically pushed back against hospital administrators who didn’t grasp the clinical aspects of a practice. He wasn’t sure this made him a good candidate for Premier until he interviewed with the system CMO.
“She wanted an outside perspective; somebody who’d be willing to state an opinion,” Dr. Reeves said. “As long as you have a good reason behind your position and you’re not simply being an obstructionist, alternate perspectives are welcomed at Premier Health to present new possibilities. I’ve found it to be a really nice fit.”
Dr. Reeves joined in June as vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer for Premier Health’s Atrium Medical Center. Dr. Kanagy joined in August as senior vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer for the system’s Upper Valley Medical Center out of Dayton. Dr. Kanagy has since been promoted to chief medical officer of the Northern Region.
“I received my acceptance letter, and I texted them both: ‘We’ve been preparing for this together, now let’s do it for real,’” Dr. Kanagy recalled. “We’re facing the same projects we did for two years at Kelley, but now it’s making a difference in the organization and in patients’ lives. That’s huge.”
Physicians earn MBAs for a variety of reasons. For Dr. Reeves, the prospect offered a chance to better understand the decisions made by hospital administrators.
“I was often frustrated with how administration was making decisions on how to run the business that affected my practice,” Dr. Reeves said. “My wife saw the ad for the Kelley School’s Physician MBA Program, which was in our backyard. I earned my MBA to enhance my career, gain more knowledge about how to run a medical practice, and continue working as a sports medicine physician.”
For Dr. Kanagy, the inspiration struck after a hospital executive at his former institution noticed him speaking up and taking an active role during hospital board meetings.
“The chief medical officer was a forward-thinking individual, and he encouraged me to earn my MBA. He said, ‘Hospitals are going to want physician leaders who are motivated to change medicine,’” Kanagy explained. “’They’ll need physicians who understand business, who can read a financial statement, and who can speak the same language as CFOs and CEOs. An MBA is going to be a prerequisite.’”
Though their post-graduate story is unique, it underscores the Kelley advantage. The physicians grew to know each other—and their skill sets—quite well after earning their MBAs together. The program enabled them to work in teams with physicians from different specialties, from all over the country, building and testing a new set of healthcare-focused business skills alongside one another.
“The program taught skills like accounting, finance, and operations, and then it also taught a lot of soft skills like leadership development, conflict resolution, and negotiation,” Dr. Reeves said. “In this role, I’ve enjoyed strategy, especially system strategy or corporate strategy. Plus, the leadership skills are something that you’re constantly learning and refining.”
Dr. Hauler says one of the assets of the Kelley program is that it makes physicians think broadly and question a problem from all sides. This has proved particularly useful for the three Kelley MBAs, as they have integrated with Premier Health leaders and staff from various backgrounds.
“Seeing things from different perspectives gets us all to a better place in the end,” she said. “I wouldn’t want all of us to have the same experience and background. It’s a benefit that we’re in different specialties, walks of life, and all coming to the table from different vantage points.”
Along with sharpened business acumen, graduates leave the Kelley Physician MBA program a close-knit group of diverse physicians—a wellspring of knowledge that can be tapped down the road.
“When you earn an administrative role, it’s not just about your specialty anymore,” Dr. Hauler said. “Sometimes it’s helpful to be able to ask another physician how they’d handle something in their specialty. Joints are a great example. We’re going to start bundled payments for joint care and I can reach out to Kelley alums who’ve lived in bundled payments for advice. It’s great to have that contact list of 50 to 60 names that you can call for feedback.”
In addition, Dr. Kanagy says the lessons he learned through the Physician MBA program not only provide invaluable guidance for the business side of running a hospital, but also drive home the point that a hospital must run like a business.
“I’ve worked for non-profit hospitals, but if there’s no money coming in, they can’t serve their mission to provide care. That was a key takeaway from the program for me,” he said. “If you want to do good as a hospital leader, you need to know how to keep the lights on. The MBA taught me how to do that. I can sit at any executive table at any hospital and be part of the conversation, part of the team. Kelley gave me this skill set.”