Meet Georgia Tech’s MBA Class Of 2020

Allison Rowell

Georgia Institute of Technology’s Scheller College of Business

“Dynamic-and-empathetic-RN-turned-M.D./MBA-student, passionate about improving health care delivery systems and health equity.”

Hometown: Atlanta, GA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have a fascination with roller coasters and zip lines even though have a severe fear of heights. One of my bucket list goals is to ride the world’s top-10 tallest and fastest roller coasters. Despite my acrophobia, I’ve also done the longest Superman zip line in Latin America (one mile). I felt like I was like Supergirl, flying high above the canopy of the forest. It was one of the most incredible feelings I’ve ever experienced — but I’m still afraid of heights!

Undergraduate School and Major: Georgia Tech, Management; Mercer University, Nursing

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Morehouse School of Medicine, Fourth-year Medical Student; Grady Health System, Emergency Department RN

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I worked as a Travel RN in California. As a contract RN, you are compensated extremely well in addition to having all of your living and travel expenses paid. However, this means that you are typically walking into a pretty rough situation if a hospital requires agency nurses to fulfill staffing needs or you may be working under strike conditions. Having the ability to walk into any hospital, with a bare minimum orientation, and be able to function independently under my scope of practice at that stage of my nursing career was a huge accomplishment. This experience gave me the confidence to finally pursue my dream of going to medical school.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why?  Cohesive. Even though we all have unique experiences and backgrounds, I was amazed at how fast we came together during orientation and formed such a tight-knit community. I believe the small class size and collaborative culture of Scheller plays a big role in the strong sense of community we share.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? The new collaboration/partnership between Scheller and Morehouse School of Medicine was the critical factor that led me to choose Scheller.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? MBA Ambassador and Operations Management Club.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Health care delivery systems are becoming more complex, and healthcare markets are shifting towards value-based care. Therefore, institutions recognize the advantages of placing clinicians in leadership roles. As a clinician, I will be able to apply my understanding of medicine in the context of cost-effective, value-based healthcare delivery systems. My MD/MBA training will prepare me to pivot into this type of role after gaining experience as a practicing physician.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? Although there are several MBA degree pathways you can explore once you begin residency and become a practicing physician, I decided to pursue the MD/MBA pathway. As an MD/MBA student at Scheller, I can complete a full-time MBA program in one year instead of two. As a medical student, I am used to the grind of being in class and studying, so I wanted to take advantage of this momentum. Also, the out-of-pocket costs of pursuing an MBA after residency would be much higher, and I would have to do it while working and juggling a variety of responsibilities. As an MD/MBA student, there are fellowship and scholarship opportunities that will significantly help with the cost. Finally, I will graduate medical school with two degrees and a valuable skill set in today’s value-based healthcare system, which will make me a unique residency applicant.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I only applied to the dual degree MD/MBA program at Scheller because I wanted to take full advantage of the newly created partnership between Scheller and Morehouse School of Medicine.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? In addition to the partnership with MD/MBA Morehouse School of Medicine, Scheller’s culture was a huge factor I used to determine if it was the right fit. During the application process, I attended two classes and communicated with several MBA students. Although I have an undergraduate degree in Management from Scheller (2001), it was vital for me to experience how learning occurs in today’s business classroom since it is very different experience from medical and nursing school. Surprisingly, I walked away with so much more.

During my class visits, I already felt like I was already a part of the Scheller family. I even had the opportunity to actively participate during class. Scheller’s collaborative and supportive culture was evident during my visits and interactions with the MBA Ambassadors. The Scheller culture reminds me of the culture we embrace at Morehouse School of Medicine, which made me even more confident in my choice in pursuing my MBA at Scheller.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My defining moment was when I decided to pursue my life-long goal of becoming a physician. My path into medicine has not been an easy one. I ended up taking the scenic route, facing numerous life and personal challenges along the way. After having a major medical setback while in my post-bacc, pre-med program, my dreams of becoming a physician came to a screeching halt. My medical bills piled up, my savings dwindled, and I eventually lost everything. A strong family support system is the only reason I was able to survive my health and financial crisis. My experiences made me realize, more than ever, that I wanted to help other people who are facing similar situations but may not have a strong support system in place. I made a vow to provide compassionate and empathetic care to anyone in need when I became a healthcare practitioner, despite financial or personal circumstances.

My health gradually improved to the point that I could work and continue my pre-med education. However, it would take several years of misdiagnoses, ER visits, and hospital admissions before I received the correct diagnosis and began to regain my health and rebuild my life. In the meantime, my medical school plans were still on hold due to my health, but I wanted to maintain a strong connection to the medical community, so I decided to become an RN. Working at Grady Hospital in one of the busiest, Level 1 trauma center emergency departments in the country (and a challenging step-down unit) honed my ability to think quickly and critically during emergencies; helped me quickly adapt to unfamiliar situations; required me to learn new skills on the fly; and taught me how to remain calm in high-stress situations.

Experiencing what it’s like to be the “patient” and becoming a nurse were two of the best things that could have happened to me before starting medical school. As a nurse, I gained clinical knowledge, skills, and confidence. More importantly, I had the opportunity to provide a meaningful service to my patients by giving them high-quality, compassionate care that they may not have otherwise received. Having walked a mile in their shoes and being in a position to serve and care for the underserved population is the highest honor and privilege.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? In 2019, I will complete the MBA program at Scheller and return to the M.D. program at Morehouse School of Medicine to complete my final year of medical school. In 2020, I will begin my medical residency training in psychiatry.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years, I will be halfway through my medical residency.

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