2016 MBAs To Watch: David Grometer, Vanderbilt (Owen)

David Grometer Vanderbilt

David Grometer


Vanderbilt University, Owen Graduate School of Management

Age: 28

Hometown: San Jose, CA

Undergraduate School and Degree: UCLA, B.S. Biology

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? UCLA Health System, Senior Recruiter and Operations Analyst

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? Kurt Salmon Consulting, Health Care Strategy and Operations & Performance Improvement Groups

Where will you be working after graduation? DaVita Redwoods Leadership Development Program

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School

  • Executive Director Internal Affairs, Owen Student Government Association
  • Vice President Alumni Relations and Events, Vanderbilt Health Care Club

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of my student leadership involvement during my time in business school. During my admissions interview, I made it very clear that I was a “joiner” in undergrad and that I absolutely intended to do the same while at Owen – to this day I believe it’s one of the reasons I was admitted and I think that speaks volumes about the type of students our school values.

Having been elected by my peers as a first-year student body senator and selected to serve as our Executive VP of Internal Affairs, I’ve been able to represent the student voice and work with my peers, adding a role as Executive VP of Inclusion under which I created an open dialogue about inclusion and diversity. We revamped the student curriculum and I served on numerous subcommittees. The result of that work will enhance the student experience for future classes. As a VP of Vanderbilt’s Health Care Club, I’ve been able to encourage continued alumni engagement, which is something I’m passionate about having served on the UCLA Alumni Association’s Board of Directors during my time in undergrad. Lastly, some of the smaller roles have proven to be just as fulfilling as my elected roles. Coaching first-year MBAs on interview skills and recruitment readiness as one of Owen’s peer coaches and helping with case competitions and the annual Vanderbilt Health Care Conference has afforded me the chance to pay it forward and express my gratitude for these two great years.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I was a member of the first class of students to go through UCLA Health’s internal Lean Academy. During the program, I spearheaded the transformation of best practice measures for hiring and onboarding for the organization and, more importantly, experienced professional management of cross-functional teams consisting of physicians, nurses, and variety of healthcare professionals.  Reporting out project results to our executive team instilled in me a new pride for bringing together a diverse range of individuals and tapping into each members’ unique skillsets to best accomplish a shared goal. In fact, having this opportunity is one of the main reasons I decided to return to school for an MBA.

From that time forward, I was entrusted with a new role to lead quality improvement projects as an internal consultant for other departments in addition to my everyday job responsibilities. I was an active leader in developing standard work procedures for our system’s recruitment, hiring, and onboarding model for our 18,000 employees. This reduced appointment turnaround times and increased patient throughput, along with increasing patient satisfaction scores. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to focus my efforts on the fast-paced and ever-changing healthcare industry where I know I can have a vital role in improving the lives of others.

Who is your favorite professor? This is a really tough call because there are some true superstars at Owen. I had the pleasure of taking Leading Teams and Organizations with Tim Vogus during our first module and recently completed Tim’s Negotiation course, as well. Tim is one of those professors who just “gets it” – he understands students’ needs and interests and caters his learning to be effective for the entire gamut of personalities and learning styles. He’s also someone who, even before being admitted to Owen, you overhear students discussing how his classes are “must-takes” prior to graduating.

I distinctly remember that, early in my internship recruiting, Tim took time outside of normal work hours to speak with me on the phone. We discussed recruiting strategies and he shared with me his deep knowledge of organizational design and effectiveness – a field I am passionate about – and specifically what this means for creating cultures of safety and reducing medical errors within the healthcare field. Not once did he indicate that I was taking up his time – which is saying something, as Tim maintains an incredibly demanding calendar while also serving as an advocate for the greater Tennessee community. Rather, Tim encouraged me, provided a wealth of thoughtful feedback, and motivated me to continue expanding my horizons and making my own impact on healthcare.

Favorite MBA Courses? Healthcare Analytics, Managing and Improving Processes, Corporate Strategy, Healthcare Delivery Organizations, Negotiation, and Owen’s Healthcare Immersion Week

Why did you choose this business school? Owen was the perfect fit in terms of what I was looking for – personal scale, high-touch administration and academic programs, and a close-knit student body. I was seeking an opportunity to be challenged by experiential and interdisciplinary learning inside and outside of the classroom – and by a staff that knows and caters to each individual’s strengths.  Beyond the general excellence in developing team players, Owen offers a unique Healthcare MBA and Nashville is also the epicenter of the provider healthcare industry. I’ve appreciated the opportunity to enroll in a wide range of healthcare electives. And I’ve benefited from Owen’s ability to partner with the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and hundreds of other local players including Hospital Corporation of America, Community Health Systems, large insurance payors, consulting firms, and many more.

What did you enjoy most about business school? I think the best way to encapsulate what I am taking away from Owen is summarized by the word “exposure.” It is exposure to challenging leadership roles and group dynamics, to new challenges and expanding my comfort zone, to a wealth of new industries and impressive recruiting companies, and to building an invaluable network of peers with whom I know I will always remain close. Coming to business school has granted me access to a much more developed sense of perspective in terms of types of people, outlooks, interests, and goals. It’s incredibly motivating to be surrounded by bright, driven peers who live their lives with intent and our discussions in the lobby and late nights exploring Nashville have been as fulfilling as the classroom learning and decision making.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? Think big picture and focus on what is truly meaningful to your development. While it is important to stay organized and on top of the daily administrative duties (email, scheduling, etc.), these two years at Owen showed me that, truly, you get out of your experience what you put into it. If you spend time feeling anxious about your busy days and all the moving pieces, you’re ultimately missing out on opportunities to learn from an extra business reading, develop rapport with a fascinating faculty member, or build a relationship with a classmate you may not know so well.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? Business school is truly a fresh slate and allows each student to redefine him/herself. No matter what your background or accomplishments, in business school you will be constantly surrounded by students who are best-of-class – whether it’s in their analytical strength, personal drive and sense of self, ability to change the world as an entrepreneur or innovator, or frankly their ability to maintain engaging conversation on topics you would never expect. I am consistently impressed by my classmates. Reflecting on graduation, it’s incredibly satisfying to see them each maximizing their futures and creating a lasting impact on the world in their next steps.

What was the hardest part of business school? Balancing the academic workload (particularly as a first-year) along with recruiting and networking – all while getting to know this vibrant city. You quickly become an expert in managing your time and working smart as well as working hard. For several weeks, I remember having to consult my calendar after every meeting in order to remember what came next – whether it was class, networking, interviewing, or putting aside time to take a breath and re-focus my efforts. Once I had landed my internship and I looked back at how much energy and effort went into the steps that got me there, I wouldn’t have traded it for a thing. First-year life adds character, to say the least!

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? Think long and hard about what your personal story and brand is missing and what you want to develop. For me, a great starting place was reflecting on what I wish I had gotten out of undergrad and balancing that with what I loved and needed more of.  School rankings and statistics are a great place to start, but keep in mind how important student life is going to be to your experience. “Fit” is just as important as what name you’re going to add to your resume, so ask yourself if you see yourself in that city, taking the electives offered, and building a network based on each school’s alumni pool and recruiting firms. I think in-person interviews are mandatory if you can fit them into your busy schedule and speak with as many current students as possible to get candid feedback rather than relying on websites and brochures. They’ll be just as willing to share the drawbacks of their programs as the benefits.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I watched my UCLA Health mentors and hospital executives make well-informed, strategic decisions. I wanted to develop a similar skillset to be an industry leader myself. I was also ready for a big change, and Nashville seemed to call to me after my nine years living in Los Angeles!”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…completing a Masters in Hospital Administration or working for a top-ranked hospital in California while continuing with community-based and clinical volunteer roles.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? I am fascinated by Taiichi Ohno (as well as Henry Ford and members of the Toyoda family) who went against the grain as industrial engineers and reinvented their industries with standard work, product lines, and lean manufacturing. It’s not just their ingenuity, but the courage it took for them as leaders to convince others of the advantages behind their new processes and to create a lasting legacy that has been replicated across innumerable industries and markets.

What are your long-term professional goals? I have a particular interest in integrated care and providing patient access that crosses the spectrum of primary and specialized care as well as behavioral, psychological, and community-based treatment. As a country, I believe we must do a better job of streamlining operational measures, cutting costs, and developing our systems so as to aid in the complex navigation of the continuity of care and thereby provide better opportunities to all of our patients. On a more surface level, I’m a big believer in people and am energized by frontline patient engagement and seeing what a difference empathy can make.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My parents, who, despite the miles that separate us, serve as my constant cheerleaders and supporters.  There hasn’t been an event or ceremony they haven’t attended and they’ve never questioned my desire to move across the country, shift my career path, or travel to new destinations. I appreciate all they’ve done to motivate me since I was a child to be a well-rounded, lifelong learner of the world around me. I’d also like to thank the staff and faculty of Owen – for being so personable, approachable, and accessible. A special thanks is in order to our career center counselors, to whom I am no stranger.

Fun fact about yourself: I was a contestant on The Price Is Right…and walked away with a consolation prize luggage set. At least I got to shake Bob Barker’s hand!

Favorite book: Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

Favorite movie: Into The Wild

Favorite musical performer: Red Hot Chili Peppers

Favorite television show: Bob’s Burgers

Favorite vacation spot: Northern Australia and the Great Barrier Reef

Hobbies? Hiking, backpacking and camping, cooking and discovering new types of cuisine, international travel, live music, and keeping in touch with old friends

What made David such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“David is both very bright and extremely creative. I immediately noticed both as it manifest in his written work and in class comments. He’s truly unique as he’s one of the most creative, yet rigorous, thinkers I’ve had as a student and he always works to model and instill that creativity and curiosity in others. He’s always asking the right generative and penetrating questions that elevate the class discussion making it more intellectually rigorous and practically relevant. Even more impressive about David is his humility and his willingness to be openly self-reflective throughout class. The reason I see that as being such a critical skill for leaders and change agents is because my research suggests that leaders need to model the behaviors that contribute to instilling a high-performance, learning culture. He does that, in spades. And he gets things done.

He’s focused and passionate about health care and has a track record of delivering results and innovating despite operating with strict resource constraints. He’s done it across the care spectrum by applying transformative lean principles to recruitment and staffing in hospitals, appointment turnaround time in clinics, and healthcare operations broadly via a consulting firm. It’s yet another reason why David has had a profound effect on the school and in the world of practice he is passionate about health care, has an insatiable curiosity about all that is occurring in such a rapidly changing industry (a frequent subject of our conversations and independent scholarly explorations of his own), and his drive to grow his leadership skills by stretching himself in numerous academic and professional leadership positions.”

Tim Vogus

Associate Professor of Management

Vanderbilt University, Owen Graduate School of Management



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