During the 11 years he served as a medical director, Rex Hoffman, MD, MBA’18, was invited to a variety of conversations and decision-making tables. He quickly noticed the decision-makers around him had expertise in areas he lacked.
“Seeing where they were and where I wanted to be made it pretty clear what the difference was,” says Dr. Hoffman. “I was in my first year as co-chair of the Cancer Institute for Providence Health System which, at times, placed me in meetings with members of the health system’s senior leadership team. I was impressed by how each of them approached various situations and viewed challenges through a different lens. I recognized that I had blind spots, and I sought out the Kelley Physician MBA Program to help address them.”
Although located in Los Angeles, Dr. Hoffman chose the Kelley School in Indianapolis because he wanted a program with an excellent reputation, a curriculum that would be amendable to his full-time work and an MBA targeted toward physicians.
“I interviewed with several other programs but quickly realized they were composed mostly of non-physicians. Physicians are a minority in most MBA programs,” he says. “I wanted to be on an even playing field, studying specifically the business of medicine and in a format that would be conducive to my work schedule.”
Ultimately, Dr. Hoffman enjoyed the monthly plane rides to Indianapolis for in-person residency sessions, during which he’d have time to focus on his studies, finish online coursework and consider ways to apply the lessons he learned. As he progressed through the Physician MBA Program, Dr. Hoffman noticed a difference in his approach to different conversations; an outcome he says was among the greatest returns on his investment in the degree.
“Completing an MBA program lends you a newfound credibility among others at the table. People realize you’re more than just the physician who knows about the science of medicine – you understand the vocabulary of business and can converse in areas like finance and strategy,” says Dr. Hoffman. “You also bring to the table a powerful network and the ability to call a classmate or a Kelley professor to discuss an issue or challenge. You gain a lot of resources that you did not have before.”
People realize you’re more than just the physician who knows about the science of medicine – you understand the vocabulary of business and can converse in areas like finance and strategy.”
Shortly after he graduated with the MBA, Dr. Hoffman became chief medical officer at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center. Recently, his position was expanded to include chief medical officer of the eight Clinical Institutes in the Southern California Region of Providence. A radiation oncologist by specialty, Dr. Hoffman now provides oversight for clinical programs like cardiovascular, oncology, mental health, neurosciences, orthopedic and spine, women’s and children’s health, research and neurosciences at Providence’s hospitals in southern California.
Dr. Hoffman used to feel like he didn’t have the same knowledge as other administrators when negotiating multimillion-dollar contracts, but he says the Kelley courses in leadership and negotiations prepared him to dive into these discussions.
“Having gone through the Kelley Physician MBA Program, I now feel more confident because I have more tools in my toolkit,” he says. “If someone mentions a finance or accounting concept, I am much more likely to understand what they are referring to. Now, when those same negotiations occur, I feel much more prepared to help my team achieve a successful outcome.”
Dr. Hoffman says these newfound capabilities have led to more invitations to the table as his decision-making skills have become more valued, particularly in the areas of strategy and healthcare administration.
“I’ve always had a philosophy of leaning into challenges, and I think a lot of it is based on what I can bring to the table. Now, I find myself leaning into more challenges; many of which I would not have approached before because I didn’t have the confidence,” he says. “I’m no longer intimidated by certain topics; instead, I’m ready to dig in. I’m now much more engaged in almost all facets of what I do.”
I’m no longer intimidated by certain topics; instead, I’m ready to dig in. I’m now much more engaged in almost all facets of what I do.”
Dr. Hoffman feels like “the lightbulb got turned on at Kelley.” Business school illuminates different parts of a physician’s learning capacities compared to medical school. Having reinvigorated a desire to learn, many physicians find that they continue to do so long after they’ve earned the Kelley MBA.
“Five months after graduating with the MBA, I ran into two classmates at a Certified Physician Executive event through the American Association of Physician Leadership,” he says. “In that environment I felt extremely well prepared compared to other physicians because of my experience at Kelley. It sets you up to be successful in many different venues.”
The Kelley School of Business is known for its network – with more than 120,000 alumni worldwide – and it’s a facet of the Physician MBA Program that many students consider to be a top advantage. Each year brings together a new, diverse cohort of physicians who are subject matter experts in various fields and healthcare organizations. When Dr. Hoffman was considering the chief medical officer position, he connected with a classmate already serving that role.
“One thing I really enjoyed about the Kelley experience was talking with Jeff Postlewaite, DO, MBA’18, about his challenges in his role as vice president of medical affairs and the solutions he’s discovered over the years,” says Dr. Hoffman. “That experience helped me look forward to the challenges I’d face as a chief medical officer. At Kelley, you gain friends you can contact anytime, like a family of physicians, and we stay connected through LinkedIn. I know I can pick up the phone and call any one of them.”
It’s important for Dr. Hoffman to give back in any way he can. Inspired by a leadership development course at Kelley and the knowledge he’s gained from his network, he feels strongly about nurturing future leaders in his own network. Currently, Dr. Hoffman is mentoring four physicians at his hospital, two of whom aspire to the role of chief medical officer, and one who is pursuing the entrepreneurial side of medicine. He believes it’s important for today’s physician leaders to pave the way for the future chief medical officers who will change and improve healthcare.
“At some point as a leader, you’ll vacate the position. You want to have a transition plan and people in place who you are teaching and helping to develop professionally,” says Dr. Hoffman. “Kelley gave me a sense of giving back and sharing what I’ve learned so others can be successful in their own right.”