The Science of Ross Business: Healthcare Management At The Ross School

Doctor working in hospital writing prescription clipboard, working an Laptop on desk in hospital with report analysis, Healthcare and medical concept, selective focus

Coming into business school, my long-term goal was to become a leader in the healthcare space. Besides my own prior experience in the field, I was motivated by strong growth opportunities that came from the increasingly high demand for experienced managers with knowledge of the healthcare industry.

When considering which MBA programs to apply to, I looked for schools with strong healthcare offerings. The Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan has provided me with many opportunities to explore healthcare management through academic courses, club activities, and internship recruiting FACT groups – all of which were crucial in developing my skills in this area.


Vaishnavi Sitarama

Out of the various healthcare-focused courses, one class I consider particularly essential for all aspiring healthcare managers is “The Commercialization of Biomedicine”. This course dove deep into different subcategories within the healthcare space – biotech, medical devices, pharma, payers, and providers – and demonstrated ways how products are taken from conception to actualization. The course is intended to be an introduction to key issues faced by companies as they merge science with business to bring products to market.

One such issue that we discussed was how companies classify products for FDA approval – should a product be classified as a medical device, a biologic, or a drug? Certain classifications lead to lower regulation, while others require stringent clinical trials. Beyond regulatory considerations, these different classifications present differences in risk and potential payoffs. For example, medical devices are significantly more loosely regulated, but also sell for lower prices and therefore have lower profit margins. Hence, we explored questions like the best conditions to operating in this space. The course also presents current practices, rationales behind company decisions, and analytic frameworks by which to understand regulation, financing, risk, alliances, and organizational configurations in the life sciences space. Given that many managers in these industries operate in product-focused roles, this course provides a window into the topics that we as future healthcare managers may be expected to tackle in our post-MBA full-time roles.

The course is also interdisciplinary and welcomes students from other schools at U-M, such as life sciences, engineering, pharmacy, and public health. I really appreciated this aspect of the course because it allowed me to learn from the experiences of peers in complementary fields. One discussion topic that proved particularly applicable to my path in healthcare consulting involved the adoption and marketing of new products. Considering drug and device marketing, we explored different methods to enter healthcare markets, such as by working with physicians during the development process and obtaining pre-market insurance coverage. The diversity within the class led to deeper exploration of this topic as members from different backgrounds all had different viewpoints. Students with medical backgrounds strongly advocated for involving physicians from the early stages of the development process, whereas others with pharma backgrounds supported distancing from the medical field in the initial stages to allow for unconstrained creativity and exploration.

2020 Ross MBA MAP Reveal


In addition to academic courses, Michigan Ross provided opportunities to interact directly with the healthcare space through the Healthcare and Life Sciences Club. HLS caters to people switching into the healthcare field and offers speaker series and informational sessions on various healthcare subindustries. In particular, the HLS Bootcamp at the beginning of the academic year and the HLS Symposium are great opportunities to learn about the field and interact with Ross alums working in healthcare positions. These events offer informational sessions, discussion forums, and networking opportunities. Together, they provide real world exposure to the healthcare field and help many career switchers understand the differences between the subindustries. At the HLS Symposium this year, panelists from various life sciences companies spoke about the advent of digital health. As a future consultant with a focus in health technology, I found this an incredible opportunity to network with professionals working in the field and analyzing trends in the industry. I hope to take the connections I formed and grow them further as I enter the workforce post Ross.

The Career Development Office’s (CDO) FACT groups are small CDO Peer Coach-led groups that help MBA1s with internship recruiting. CDO and Peer Coaches collaborate on the weekly curriculum, and these also play a large role in understanding the healthcare-specific post-MBA paths. Although the primary focus of CDO FACT groups is recruiting, many groups have informal journal club-like series designed to introduce MBA students to new developments in the field and speak knowledgeably on related topics. My CDO FACT group was healthcare-consulting specific, and many of the topics we spoke about related to management practices when working with doctors, engineers, scientists, and people from highly technical backgrounds. One such topic that we explored in my CDO FACT group was being able to translate highly technical jargon into layman terms that were understandable to not only scientists and engineers but also executive level and non-technical staff. By learning to simplify our own prior career experiences and by practicing translating external technical documents, we were able to develop communication skills specific to technical fields. This skill proved incredibly useful during my internship last summer as I was able to help translate some of the client jargon into more easily communicable concepts.

The overall Michigan Ross healthcare MBA program, and particularly the healthcare management concentration, gives students a strong base in healthcare topics and prepares students to tackle specific issues healthcare managers may face as hospital administrators, medical practice managers, insurance executives, pharma and biotech leaders, medical device product managers, and more. Ross helped me develop as a business leader in the healthcare space and I can’t wait to put my new skills to use as a healthcare consultant after graduation.

Bio: My name is Vaishnavi Sitarama and I am a second-year MBA student at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. A Californian and Silicon Valley native, I received my degrees in Molecular Biology and Public Policy from the University of California, Berkeley.  With prior experience in metastatic breast cancer research and afterwards in artificial DNA design, I am now pursuing my MBA to gain knowledge in scientific management and the business of healthcare. This past summer, I interned with Strategy& (part of the PwC network) as a Strategy Consultant in their Healthcare vertical. Aside from work, I am a flautist (I even played with Beyonce, Coldplay, and Bruno Mars in the 2016 Halftime Show!), an avid reader, and an amateur DIY crafter. Follow my Linkedin and Instagram to learn more about me and my time at Ross!



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