As we celebrate five years of success since the launch of the Kelley Physician MBA Program in 2013, we’re featuring some of the first physicians who completed our program. These updates highlight alumni achievements and the leadership roles they’ve assumed since earning their Kelley MBAs.
As president of the adult academic health center (AHC) at Indiana University Health, Ryan Nagy, MD, MBA’15, is responsible for determining the strategic vision and priorities for IU Health Methodist and University hospitals. With responsibilities that extend throughout the organization, he relies on his distinct mix of medical and business backgrounds.
Dr. Nagy has had a unique journey to the C-suite. After earning his undergraduate degree in economics at IU Bloomington, he worked at a financial firm trading equity derivatives at the Chicago Board of Options Exchange for four years before returning to IU for medical school. He was a practicing anesthesiologist when he decided to enroll in the IU Kelley School of Business’s new Physician MBA Program when it launched in 2013. The timing was fortuitous in that Dr. Nagy was appointed chief of anesthesia for his hospital during his first semester at Kelley. He was leading thirty faculty anesthesiologists – many of whom had trained him. The physician-only MBA program gave him the opportunity to experiment with new concepts.
“Earning my MBA at that time allowed me to bounce ideas off my classmates at Kelley before implementing them in real-world situations,” said Dr. Nagy. “A few months before graduating from the program, I was appointed CMO, which was a nice segue to begin utilizing what I’d learned there. In the few years since, I’ve taken on the roles of acting and now president of the adult academic health center.”
In that time, Dr. Nagy completed the part-time degree at Kelley, which is conveniently composed of both online instruction and in-person residency weekends. “I was able to complete a two-year MBA part time, without any interruption in my work,” he said.
Even with his background in capital markets and economics, Dr. Nagy says he was seeking a wider breadth of knowledge surrounding the business aspect of medicine when he enrolled.
“The physician MBA allowed me to get up to speed quickly on entities specific to the management of healthcare organizations and frankly, the diverse cohort of physician students allowed me to gain a perspective much wider than my own as an anesthesiologist,” he said. “It also provided a very broad context of healthcare, educating me on topics you wouldn’t traditionally encounter as a physician.”
That context, Dr. Nagy says, is something he couldn’t have gained on his own. A lifelong learner who still enjoys reading up on the economy, Dr. Nagy says Kelley’s Physician MBA provided more than the business basics he could’ve gleaned reading on his own. The combination of interacting with fellow physician classmates, learning from expert Kelley faculty and experiencing the dynamic curriculum and immersive class trips made him reevaluate his perception of healthcare.
“Learning from business faculty who are world-class experts in their own right gives me much more confidence to stand up and make bold changes,” he said. “The way the cohort is designed and the interaction that happens with Kelley faculty force you to rethink your perspective and as a result, you gain much greater context about how organizations, communities, populations and even how we as a nation approach healthcare. That perspective allows you to interact better with others and make what I’m certain are better decisions as your leadership opportunities progress and increase in responsibility.”
“As a leader in healthcare, your job is to see around the corner and view the outside landscape with more clarity. The MBA prepared me to do this.”
The courses Dr. Nagy enjoyed the most at Kelley were those that helped him work through risk analysis. “As a leader, you make decisions and trade-offs. Knowing where the risk points are helps you to mitigate them,” he said. The area of study that created the most impact for him were those that were the most ambiguous. Physicians are trained to practice evidence-based medicine, and forcing them to identify creative, novel solutions to obscure challenges helps them step out of traditionally rigid problem-solving models.
“The ambiguity forced us to be creative about solutions that aren’t laid out for us. In medicine, we’re trained to test a solution and put it through randomized control trials so we know it works before we apply it,” he said. “In business, if I waited for a multi-center, randomized control trial on the best way to build the hospital of the future or to build a team or to make a decision on which service line or business development entity to invest in, it would take a decade to complete and we’d be behind the curve. As physician leaders, we have to learn how to be very comfortable with ambiguity.”
Traditionally seen as leaders of the medical team, physicians in the MBA program often say the teamwork components of Kelley’s curriculum are among the greatest educational takeaways. Whether the classroom deliverables culminated in a proposal, presentation or strategic plan, Dr. Nagy says he and his physician classmates rendered the end result as a team, not as individuals.
“Teamwork is essential to any organization. An organization is not one person making a decision, regardless of their rank. I’m currently the president of the medical center, but by no means do I render decisions based solely on my isolated opinion, research or experience, regardless of the topic,” said Dr. Nagy. “What I have learned through life, through my various roles and at Kelley is that there are plenty of known and unknown factors. Having the appropriate people or groups involved in decision-making will usually help everyone arrive at a better choice.”
As a physician leader at IU Health, which has the largest network of physicians in the state of Indiana, Dr. Nagy has many opportunities to influence other physician leaders. Particularly as his health system builds its new, academic health center of the future, these physicians will play a major role in the future of healthcare. Dr. Nagy advises fellow physicians who may be considering earning an MBA. “I usually suggest that they speak with their leadership and express interest in exploring administrative options and volunteer to staff a current initiative,” he said. While the Kelley MBA allowed him to get up to speed on a number of business concepts critical to healthcare and test new theories, Dr. Nagy says the combination of new skills he gained along with real-time application helped him to stand out in front of the momentum of the past.
“I refer to it as courage. It’s what I see in the IUH team. I view courage as a very important quality for the team to foster because as society, the world and our missions continue to evolve, it’s reasonable to expect better results in healthcare,” he said. “In order for us to achieve our goals, successfully realize our vision and add value to the communities we serve, we must be honest with ourselves when we don’t know the answer and be willing to change how we think in order to be better in the future. Quite frankly, I think that takes courage.”
At a recent retreat with fifty director-level leaders who report to VPs at the academic health center, Dr. Nagy insisted on the creation of an environment of leader-leader (not leader-follower) management in order to ensure that the authority for change exists closest to the source. Drawing on personal and professional development he gained during his MBA, he is challenging how his leaders think about the future.
“Certainly, we must have a two-way loop of communication. But I want decisions to be made as close to the site of care as possible, when appropriate, because these are the people who often have the best knowledge,” he said. “My role is to foster a culture that creates leaders. Many of the current and future problems that we will need to solve in health and wellness are still elusive and even unknown. This demands an environment where everyone is engaged – staff, patients and the community alike.”
“Leadership is about how you think and the culture you promote, not necessarily what you individually know about specific instances. This is what will set us apart and be the progressive, leading-edge healthcare system of the future.”