Networking is a common practice in business — perhaps as ubiquitous as spreadsheets — but it’s less frequently used to advance within the medical community.
In the Business of Medicine Physician MBA Program at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, interactions among physician peers and other medical professionals are central to the learning process. Such networking helped Holly Robinson, MD, MBA’18, create new connections, transition to a new sector and earn her current role as senior medical advisor at Eli Lilly and Company.
“The Kelley Physician MBA is a very intimate program, and we got to know the faculty and staff personally. They were aware of our capabilities, interests and career pursuits,” said Dr. Robinson. “Kelley professors were on-site at Eli Lilly providing physician education when they were approached about MBA students for an open position. It turned out to be an excellent opportunity for me.”
Many physicians enter the Kelley Business of Medicine Physician MBA Program seeking to advance to a leadership position. Dr. Robinson, however, was already vice president of quality at a rural health system when she enrolled in the 21-month, physician-only program. She decided to pursue an MBA to grow and strengthen her business skills.
“I loved my VP role and wanted an MBA to become better,” she said. “Because I worked in a rural area, I also wanted to meet like-minded physicians looking to achieve change beyond direct patient care. Not only did I connect with similar physicians, but I still engage these contacts in my role today.”
The physicians in Dr. Robinson’s cohort joined her from all over the country, motivated and ready to make changes to healthcare. But where to begin?
“Like most physicians, I chose medicine because I want to impact people’s lives in a meaningful way,” she said. “Most of us do this on a daily basis, one patient at a time. But once you are keenly aware of how the flaws in our current system negatively affect everyone, you want to create fundamental change.”
A pediatrician by specialty, Dr. Robinson found that the Kelley Physician MBA Program opened her eyes, not only to the basics of business — such as finance and process improvement — but also to innovative solutions for wide-scale challenges. The program’s experiential learning model allows physicians to gain hands-on experience solving real-world healthcare issues.
“In one course, we were part of a strategic engagement with two large pharmaceutical companies and competed with our classmates to pitch a strategic, innovation solution,” she said. “What an exciting way to learn deeply about the pharma and medical device industries!”
Even though physicians in this program are seasoned — with an average of 14 years of post-residency experience — many find the courses on the history of healthcare, and its evolution to today, particularly enlightening, even empowering.
“Once we could appreciate where we’re at and how we arrived here, I noticed many of my colleagues gained a much more positive outlook on healthcare,” said Dr. Robinson. “Despite all the challenges that remain, gaining a deeper understanding of how the complex pieces fit together makes us a lot more optimistic and less frustrated about where we can go next.”
In addition to taking the new role at Eli Lilly, Dr. Robinson also felt empowered to widen her entrepreneurial pursuits. She’s the medical director for a care coordination company that provides case management for behaviorally challenged youth. She’s also begun evaluating life science companies for small startup investments and, most recently, was appointed to the Indiana State Department of Health Executive Board.
“The Kelley Physician MBA Program empowers you to get involved because you realize there is so much change that needs to occur, and a lot of that is at the policy level,” she said. “I’m amazed by how many different opportunities I was exposed to during the program. Combining my medical background with a deeper understanding of how healthcare fits together certainly makes me more confident in these new roles.”