2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Dheera Keerthi Kattula, Boston University (Questrom)

Dheera Keerthi Kattula

Boston University, Questrom School of Business

“Motivated physician leader, passionate about improving healthcare access to underserved people and communities.”

Hometown: Bhimavaram, India

Fun fact about yourself: I am a medical detective helping to solve complex medical cases at CrowdMed. My interest stemmed from a 7-year healthcare journey to find an accurate diagnosis for my autoimmune condition.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

MBBS and residential internship at Rangaraya Medical College, India

Clinical clerkships at Albany Medical Center and Tulane University School of Medicine

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Director of Community Outreach at Sri Surya Teja Hospital & Foundation.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020?

Bola AI, Boston: Business development intern

Carescribr, Boston: Digital Health Marketing intern

The Institute for Health System Innovation & Policy (IHSIP) at Boston University: Research on the impact of COVID-19 on patients with autoimmune conditions.

Where will you be working after graduation? Undecided

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Awards and honors: Dean’s scholarship, Innovation scholarship.

Leadership Roles:

Facilitator and connector at Next Move: BU Health Sector Management piloted a program called “Next Move” as a resource to support graduate students in their effort to navigate the complexities of the MBA program. My role as a connector and facilitator is to connect with my group members, build an atmosphere of trust and safety, lead the weekly sessions, and facilitate the meetings. I continued to facilitate meetings remotely during the pandemic, which was a rewarding experience for all participants.

Peer mentor for first-year MBA students: Mentoring a group of first-year students to gain confidence regarding academics, internship search, clubs, and extracurriculars.

Community work:

Consultant to local non-profit through BU Link day program: Designed a strategic plan to improve the work-flow process for a national early literacy organization that works with pediatrics providers to promote a home literacy environment in populations at risk.

Consultant to local non-profit start-up through BU’s partnership with Mass Challenge: Conducted market analysis, identified the most effective channels for the development of continuing education programs in children with learning difficulties.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? It was winning the “Best of the Best Team” for the GSK consulting capstone project by competing against six other teams through two rounds of presentations. I had the opportunity to work with an incredible team to develop recommendations for expanding the market for the Shingrix vaccine. This was the first capstone project in the MBA curriculum where I had the opportunity to apply knowledge from my medical background in addition to business skills learned during the MBA program.

I was excited to jump into the process by interviewing physicians and analyzing feedback from provider focus groups. My team interviewed family members and together we gathered information from different perspectives. Our professors judged round one and peers gave us feedback. After winning round one, we had to alter our recommendations to adapt to the expectations of GSK executives. Our team pulled together to prepare the final presentation in 2 days. This culminated in an exciting final presentation. Ironically, this was the last in-person presentation we had the day before pandemic restrictions began. Working on this project not only taught me beneficial professional skills, but also the power of teamwork, the importance of navigating uncertainties, working well under pressure with limited and vague information, and making the best of the circumstances you are given.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My father, who is a pulmonologist in India, established a healthcare foundation to improve access to care in rural India about 35 years ago. I participated in various activities as a volunteer when I was younger and went on to take up the responsibility of designing and implementing community outreach programs. Tuberculosis (TB) is highly prevalent in India due to the lack of awareness, social stigma, delayed diagnosis, and the cost of treatment. To address this, we implemented awareness campaigns and offered information materials. We also held community meetings in 400 rural villages in India. Through this program, we screened about 200 people per village and offered medications, at no cost, for patients who tested positive through Directly Observed Therapy (DOT). We offered counseling and support to address the social stigma associated with the disease. My experience planning and implementing the project taught me how to work with communities in need and the importance of patient education in promoting health and well-being.

Why did you choose this business school? My goal was to concentrate in the Health Sector and to develop a strong network within the industry. The Boston University Health Sector Management Program seemed to be the best fit for me. I was drawn to the robust curriculum covering various aspects of healthcare, networking opportunities with distinguished alumni, and experiential learning opportunities.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite MBA activity/tradition was the Outward-Bound teaming at Thompson Island. Interactive activities throughout the day helped us strengthen the bond with our team members. My favorite activity was building a raft with the team and racing with other teams. We not only had fun but also gained insights on the distribution of roles in a team, effective problem solving, and communication.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you would do differently and why? Given the opportunity to go back and do things differently, I would certainly socialize with my classmates more and attend various cohort cultural events in person. (Note to my pre-pandemic self).

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth I heard about my school was that most of the icebreaker networking conversations would revolve around sports. This is not true; I was successful in all the networking events without knowing much about sports and by talking about the weather in Boston.

What surprised you the most about business school? Going into the MBA program, I assumed that the school would be a highly competitive environment. I was surprised by how collaborative the culture is. Smaller cohorts at BU, team projects, clubs, and activities, and networking events fostered a close-knit community feeling.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I believe that attending admission events and connecting with current students and alumni, gave me a better insight into the BU culture, career opportunities, and inside tips to the admission process. This not only demonstrated my interest but also helped me craft the “Why BU” essay with a deeper understanding of the program.

Which MBA classmate, do you most admire? Sofia Julian is passionate, kind, highly-organized, and not afraid to speak her mind. As a board member of Questrom Women’s MBA Association, she helped to successfully organize various events and panel discussions. I had the pleasure to be on Sofia’s team twice during the MBA program during which I have learned a lot from Sofia. Especially how to be productive and meet deadlines, which helped me juggle three internships this summer. She was incredibly supportive and helped me find my own path through the intense first semester of business school.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? I went home for spring break and could not come back to campus until the end of my internship due to the lockdown and travel restrictions. I was able to adjust to the online format of classes. However, I had a difficult time initially with logistics regarding the team projects, networking, and internship remotely. Despite the situation, I was able to craft my resume and land remote internships during the summer with the help of Mark Cohen at the Career Management Center and Subhadra England at the Feld Center for Industry Alliances.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Both of my parents supported me in pursuing an MBA. While my interest stemmed from my father’s compassion and hard work to improve access to underserved communities, my mother was the biggest influence behind my decision to study business. She is a natural leader, an expert in managing people, making financial decisions, and getting things done efficiently. She is incredibly kind and has supported my father with the healthcare foundation activities while pursuing Law school and successfully managing the family when my brother and I were young children. She taught me the importance of persistence and patience in pursuing dreams. She pushed me to apply to BU and stood by me every step of the way. Having said that, I could not have thrived in the MBA program without my in-laws’ encouragement and my husband’s unwavering support through the two intense years of long-distance while he was in South Dakota finishing up his Cardiology fellowship.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

1) Develop a patient education platform to enable people with autoimmune conditions to take a proactive role in their healthcare.

2) Mentor non-traditional MBA applicants and students.

What made Dheera such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“Dheera Kattula, trained as a physician in India, not only jumped into her MBA academic studies once arriving at Questrom, she brought the same level of curiosity and commitment to the community she joined. She volunteered to pilot a new program, facilitating a group of first-year health sector students to navigate the uncertainty of future internship opportunities and career aspirations. With unwavering support and compassion, she maintained and established new connections with peers, staff, faculty, and industry leaders. When the COVID pandemic disrupted all our lives, she stayed in close communication with many members of the Questrom community, trained to serve as a COVID-19 contact tracer, and excelled at her graduate studies. With the restrictions due to the pandemic, she proposed a creative experiential pathway for her summer health sector internship to expand her learning and design needed innovation in healthcare. In her second year, she continued her commitment of service to her graduate school community all with a deep sense of caring and humility.  She is not just a model MBA student, but a model citizen of any community.”

Ned Rimer
Faculty Director
Health Sector Management Program
Executive in Residence, Senior Lecturer
Boston University Questrom School of Business


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