Sometimes you can be in the correct professional industry—but not in the right job for your strengths and interests.
Johanna Rohler, MBA’19, had become a registered dietitian after her undergraduate studies, and although she was happy in her choice of pursuing nutritional science, she wanted a role that involved strategy and leadership. She considered earning a doctorate or master’s degree in healthcare and, ultimately, decided to pursue a graduate business education at the Kelley School of Business at IUPUI.
“I don’t think it was ever a degree I was seeking; it was an outcome,” said Johanna. “Ever since I was a child, I’ve always been a leader, always able to unify people. One of the most rewarding things for me is to equip others with the skills to grow and succeed. I sought greater leadership opportunity.”
Johanna pursued one of several graduate business offerings available at Kelley, the Evening MBA Program, which now offers a Graduate Certificate in Medical Management
specifically for non-physician healthcare professionals. Johanna worked as a clinical dietitian by day, while attending classes in the evening.
“I’ve always been very practical and pragmatic. I approach things from a business standpoint. I was looking at graduate programs that were academically rigorous because I wanted to gain excellent training, and I also wanted a school that would be a good value for my money,” she said. “The Kelley School of Business came out on top. Kelley is both the greatest value and the most well-regarded option in Indianapolis.”
Chrissy Arsenault, MBA’19, is another registered dietitian who pursued a Kelley graduate degree for greater career options. She says the lessons she gained in business helped her create change and provide leadership in environments where change was often slow or resisted.
“When I was working as a dietitian, a typical response to making improvements is, ‘That’s how it’s worked for the last six years; why would we change it?’ In Kelley’s program, people don’t have that mindset. They have a challenger mindset to improve the business and create value,” said Chrissy.
She says the program also changed who she is as a person and as someone who will lead healthcare.
“I began the program fairly timid because I was self-conscious as a woman leader. I felt like I didn’t have the experience to ask questions or make recommendations,” she said. “But Kelley professors and my classmates helped me ask the right questions, challenge what’s normally accepted and think of creative solutions outside the box. These traits helped me right away. Now, I approach meetings with fresh ideas and greater confidence in workplace conversations.”
Both Chrissy and Johanna tapped into different skill sets than they used in nutritional science. In some ways, subjects like organic chemistry and accounting were similar, but business provided a new way of approaching concepts they hadn’t previously experienced. One opportunity for Johanna was the result of a healthcare management course that opened her eyes to new ways of providing high-quality care.
“That class was one of my favorite classes of all time! It helped me see things through a new lens. Patient satisfaction is the primary driver of reimbursement in healthcare, and patients’ nutritional status is one of the primary indicators of outcomes.”
The lesson hit home for a dietitian like Johanna. It inspired an idea for a program at the surgical hospital where she worked.
Mortality risk more than doubles when some patients develop a condition called severe protein calorie malnutrition. “It’s a pandemic among the geriatric population. Since approximately 25% of the patients at my facility either had inadequate nutritional intake or had been diagnosed with malnutrition, an important part of my role was helping treat my patients with compromised nutritional status,” said Johanna.
Because calorie and protein needs increase after surgery, people who already have compromised nutrition status need even more protein and calories. But rarely do patients feel like eating after having major surgery.
Johanna applied her nutrition knowledge to craft specialty supplement and meal-replacement shakes in gourmet flavors to appeal to patients suffering from a poor appetite.
“Meal-replacement shakes are offered at every hospital, but few patients like the taste. I devised a supplement program with a menu of better-tasting shakes: flavors like peach pie, strawberry shortcake and peanut butter pie. And they all tasted really good! I started offering these shakes to my patients, and it became the most popular thing in the hospital. It lives on today!”
Because it was so well received and successful with patients, Johanna’s new program gained physician support. Patient satisfaction scores—so vital to modern reimbursement—increased significantly.
“It was this super simple idea I was able to scale up quickly and successfully using lessons learned in the classroom at Kelley,” said Johanna. “It involved a lot of high-level application of business concepts to get this rolling, but at the end of the day, it had a huge impact on patient outcomes as well as patient satisfaction. Several patients who would’ve ended up on nutrition support with a feeding tube were able to meet their nutrition needs through these shakes alone.”
As healthcare providers learn the various aspects of business, they may not apply every lesson in their day-to-day jobs, but Chrissy says the holistic approach has been crucial to understanding how her decisions fit into the wider picture—because now she knows how the organization works from the inside out.
“I feel confident about managing financial responsibility at the management level because I had excellent training in finance at Kelley,” she said. “Finance was a challenging but fun course because I grabbed the bull by the horns: It was probably the hardest lesson I learned.”
Johanna says her Kelley business degree has helped her approach and think about healthcare differently by balancing what she knows about patient care with what she’s learned about being an effective decision-maker. She considers these traits critical in today’s healthcare leaders.
“As we think about where healthcare is and where it’s going, our success will come from having people at the helm who know how to balance budgets and create operational efficiencies,” she said. “It will be led by people who are trained to consider healthcare through a business lens while simultaneously having compassion and the clinical understanding of what quality care needs to look like.”