“I’ve got credentials. When I walk into the executive board room, it carries weight—I’m not just another angry doctor.”
Aaron Hattaway, MD, MBA’20. is someone who speaks up about problems. As an experienced radiologist, he was often frustrated by restraints placed on patient care from regulatory or insurance concerns, and he recognized the importance of a physician’s role in solving these problems.
“I truly believe if we’re going to fix our healthcare system, it will be led by physicians and clinicians who understand business, who can make educated arguments and always prioritize taking care of patients.”
Dr. Hattaway discovered the Physician MBA Program at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business and decided it would be a great way to marry his medical education with the operations side of healthcare in order to lead change. As the chief medical officer and vice president of medical affairs for South County Health in Wakefield, Rhode Island, Dr. Hattaway felt like he understood a lot of healthcare administration, but not always the “why” behind business decisions. He thought an MBA would provide a good knowledge base.
“The Kelley Physician MBA gave me the language and tools to express what I felt were the shortcomings of our healthcare system. The tools ultimately suggest their own solutions,” he says. “So many doctors get frustrated and throw up their hands—I understand it, but it’s not productive. What is productive is having the ability to understand why a problem exists and be able to discuss it with people who aren’t physicians.”
The Kelley Physician MBA gave me the language and tools to express what I felt were the shortcomings of our healthcare system. The tools ultimately suggest their own solutions.”
During the 21-month program, Dr. Hattaway was living in Florida, where he was previously CFO of a radiology group. He traveled from Florida to Indianapolis each month to attend in-person residency sessions on campus, which are paired with online instruction and collaborative team work. Like many physicians who attend the program from outside of Indiana, Dr. Hattaway relished the monthly experiences to focus on himself and his business education, while strategizing with and learning from other physician leaders.
“The opportunity to separate yourself for the weekend and be surrounded by physicians with similar experiences, all trying to solve the same problem, is incredible,” he says. “After the residency weekend, you return home physically tired but mentally renewed. On Monday, I’d attack work, ready to tackle these issues. It was wonderful—it really fills your tank.”
Dr. Hattaway says the healthcare-focused curriculum allowed him to learn practical business competencies around accounting, finance and operations through the lens of the healthcare industry.
“The physician-only cohort was fantastic—it challenged me. If I’m the only physician in a group of 10, the rest of that group will defer to me on matters of healthcare, assuming I’m the expert,” he explains. “Whereas in a group of 10 physicians, I’m no longer the expert. I’m being challenged and learning from my peers about things I might not otherwise be exposed to.”
In a group of 10 physicians, I’m no longer the expert. I’m being challenged and learning from my peers about things I might not otherwise be exposed to.”
This strong network didn’t end at graduation. Dr. Hattaway has gained lifelong friendships with physicians from his cohort, still traveling for get-togethers every few months and sharing ongoing group texts with his former classmates.
“The first day of class, I was assigned to a team who started a group text chain that’s still going,” he says. “You make lifelong friends and colleagues, and they still shoot me questions about radiology because I’m a radiologist they trust. Another physician is a breast surgeon. The network gives you a powerful resource to draw upon.”
During class discussions and over dinner with fellow physicians throughout residency weekends, Dr. Hattaway says the Kelley Physician MBA Program gave him a unique experience to explore his peers’ perspectives in open discussions about how each of them approaches similar challenges.
“It’s so powerful to sit in a room with 40 other doctors and discuss how to fix Medicare. Where else can you possibly have that educated conversation in which you can passionately disagree but still maintain a respectful, intellectual discussion? There’s nowhere else in our country you can do that right now. It is so refreshing. It restores your faith in the system.”
Dr. Hattaway found that the healthcare-focused curriculum was directly applicable to his work. Rather than learning about automotive business practices, he says the Physician MBA Program focused on topics and takeaways relevant to his role as a physician leader. From resolving staff turnover through change management to economic forecasting, Dr. Hattaway says he uses what he learns daily.
“Every day I review profit loss sheets and manage budgetary issues. We discuss economic principles daily, and I use what I learned in the program to forecast predictive models based upon patient flow and population analysis,” he says. “We are opening a new office, and we have done extensive demographic and population studies, tracked incidences, occurrence rates and the age of the population to predict future demand for specific services we provide. All of that tracks right back to the MBA.”
Dr. Hattaway took advantage of the elective immersive global healthcare studies course in the Physician MBA Program that took him to
Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Zurich and the Netherlands to study healthcare systems in other countries.
“Kelley does a great job immersing you into the inner workings and the people who influence healthcare change in other countries,” he
says. “You get to talk to these people and learn how all these places provide healthcare. It gives you a much better perspective on how we do it here.”
Dr. Hattaway’s new skill sets have also been useful outside the hospital. His wife, Robyn Hattaway, was elected in 2018 to the Port Canaveral Commission in Florida, the second woman commissioner since 1957 and first since 1980. Dr. Hattaway says he applied skills from the Kelley MBA while serving as his wife’s campaign treasurer.
“I certainly used my MBA skills, both in the accounting aspect—campaign finance requires very meticulous recordkeeping,” he says. “It’s also been helpful for networking and speaking with constituents.”
Dr. Hattaway will continue this work in the future because Robyn filed paperwork in August 2021 to declare her candidacy for the Florida State House of Representatives. Dr. Hattaway is also returning to Florida to assume a new role as a radiologist at Radiology Partners, one of the largest radiology practices in the United States.
As he leans into a new role in a large system, he sees an opportunity to continue the work he began in the Physician MBA Program.
“The experience was life changing. It completely transformed my outlook and perspective on healthcare and what I am called to do as a physician,” he says.
“I no longer feel like as a physician my primary job is to take care of one patient at time. I feel like it’s my job to fix our system to take care of and improve healthcare for as many patients as I can, and one patient at a time isn’t good enough.”
This is so true. MBA is life-changing as someone who has done it recently as well. More physicians need to do that so we can improve our healthcare approach.