2023 Best & Brightest MBA: S. Ryan Pierson, University of Texas (McCombs)

S. Ryan Pierson

The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

“Healthcare leader with a passion for value-based patient care and improving healthcare access.”

Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri

Fun fact about yourself: Multiple injuries sustained while playing Division-I basketball led me to a diverse career in healthcare, including dietetics, exercise physiology, and medicine.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Vermont, B.S. Dietetics, Nutrition, & Food Sciences

Graduate School:

  • Concordia College, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Graduate Dietetic Internship
  • University of North Texas Health Science Center, M.S. Biomedical Sciences
  • Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin, M.D.
  • McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, M.B.A.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Owner, Operator, and Chief Clinician as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) at Pierson Wellness Services

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? Department of Surgery and Perioperative Care at Dell Medical School; Austin, TX

Where will you be working after graduation? After graduation, I will be joining a graduate medical education residency program in orthopaedic surgery. The national resident matching program concludes on March 17th and the location of my program will be determined at that time.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Entrepreneurship in Food and Nutrition, President
  • Mentorship in Business and Pre-Health Program, Co-President
  • Value-Based Care and Leadership at the Department of Surgery and Perioperative Care, Lead Researcher
  • Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Regional Co-Chair
  • Healthcare Access Affordability Dietetic Volunteer Group, Founder and President
  • Orthopaedic Surgery Leadership Group, President
  • Honors and Awards During Business School:
    • Sord Scholar (GPA > 3.8 in core MBA curriculum)
    • Dell Scholarship Recipient at UT Austin (2019-2023)
    • Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Medical Society Inductee (2023)
    • Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2022)
    • Distinguished Scientist Award awarded by the Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2022)
    • Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year awarded by the Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2021)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The achievement I’m most proud of during business school is founded in my reasoning for attending business school in the first place—bridging the gap between healthcare and business. This is a multifaceted challenge and many clinicians are on a similar track to myself with a growing number of medical schools offering MD-MBA dual-degrees.

Part of the dysfunction in our healthcare system lies in miscommunications between those mainly involved in clinical duties and those primarily involved on the business aspect of medicine. Achieving an MBA as a clinician allows us to better translate between the clinical and business languages. I’ve used this newly developed skill to critically evaluate and provide evidence-based suggestions for improving business curricula created for physicians in graduate medical education to learn basic business concepts without requiring the time input of achieving an MBA. This curriculum involved both qualitative skills required for leadership (e.g. negotiating skills) as well as quantitative skills (e.g. accounting and finance). Although it is just a small step, it’s one of many steps I plan to take towards restructuring our healthcare framework towards a more value-based care system.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Before entering medicine, I owned a small practice as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and exercise physiologist. Something I regularly saw was the need for dietetic services in patients who weren’t able to afford them. These dietetic services help to manage many health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, eating disorders, and obesity, which may eventually worsen and take a toll both on the individual needing care and the healthcare system as a whole. I founded a volunteer project to offer free dietetic services to those unable to afford it, providing care to hundreds of patients. Through this experience, I witnessed firsthand the number of barriers many patients face in accessing healthcare and it motivated me to learn how to use business skills to overcome these obstacles more effectively in the future.

Why did you choose this business school? There are numerous compelling reasons to choose McCombs. For me, the most important factor was the sense of community and extensive alumni network, particularly in my field of interest, healthcare. Their graduates work in hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, consulting firms, and government agencies. McCombs also has established a strong relationship with Dell Medical School, opening the door to more healthcare connections in the future. Before enrolling in the program, I had the opportunity to speak with several current McCombs MBA students. I instantly knew the exposure to this diverse group I’d be joining, in combination with the program’s focus on teamwork, would allow me the opportunity to learn many new approaches to problem-solving strategies that I wouldn’t have access to elsewhere.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor was Dr. Kristie Loescher. She teaches a course called Healthcare Business Ecosystems aimed at investigating how healthcare organizations have gained, sustained, and lost competitive advantages. Her approach included light readings and case studies for learning outside of class, while using the classroom as a forum for guided multidisciplinary discussions and debates amongst students. I walked away from her course potentially learning more than any other course I’ve previously taken, including medical school coursework. This is due to her level of preparedness and unique teaching style that is unmatched. I also had the opportunity to publish an op-ed with Dr. Loescher about the unique challenges of educating physicians in preventive health and the financial effect this has on the U.S. healthcare system.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? In addition to Healthcare Business Ecosystems, my other favorite course at McCombs was Operations Management. This core MBA course, while incredibly challenging, offers the opportunity to truly test your problem-solving skills at the next level. In short, this course can be described as assessing systematic designs, operations, controls, and how to improve business processes. I developed many analytical techniques in this course, such as risk pooling, waiting line analysis, and network diagramming. This course taught me how to manage processes in the real world. Since completing the course, I had the opportunity to apply these concepts to evaluate and improve the functions of an interprofessional healthcare clinic actively being used by the Dell Medical School.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? There are few top tier business programs in this country at schools with similarly top tier athletics programs, which is something I was looking for as a previous collegiate student-athlete. UT Austin is consistently one of the strongest schools in all collegiate sports and doing your MBA here offers you the opportunity to attend all sports. To top this, McCombs holds their own tailgates for sporting events. These events are one of the best forms of networking among students and alumni. Even if you have no interest in sports, the opportunity to network in an informal setting at these events is absolutely worthwhile.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why?
The MBA is a difficult degree to achieve and learning often feels like drinking from a firehose, particularly if you’re entering the MBA without a previous foundation in formal business education. That being said, your time will go by quick and you need to make the most out of the experience. If I could do anything differently, it would be networking with more classmates while I had the time. Fortunately, McCombs offers more opportunities in the future for alumni and I fully anticipate taking advantage of those opportunities.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Prior to entering McCombs, the myth I heard most was this program was geared only towards energy. While this can be a focus you take here, I would argue the strength of this program is the ability to shape your education how you want and supplement the education with alumni connections. I felt like I achieved everything I wanted and more with a healthcare focus.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in this country with great weather, outdoor activities (parks, lakes, trails), food scenery (restaurants, food trucks, breweries), culture (galleries, museums, festivals), sporting events, and unlimited job opportunities if you wanted to stay here after graduate school.

What surprised you the most about business school? How fast it goes by and how little time you have to participate in all the activities you want. There are as many learning opportunities to have outside of the classroom as there are inside of it. Take the advantage as much as you can while you have the opportunity.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? The most important aspect of the MBA application process is having a clear understanding of why one wants to pursue an MBA and effectively communicating this to the admissions committee with confidence. Personally, I took the time to thoroughly articulate my past experiences and what I could contribute to McCombs, which required effort but ultimately strengthened my application. I highly recommend all applicants to undertake this process before the start of application season.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? An MBA peer who made a positive impact on my experience during business school was John Carter. John has a fantastic work ethic and unconditional commitment to achieving excellence. We worked together on several projects throughout business school and he is perhaps the hardest worker I came across, always willing to do more. He exemplified many leadership skills we all should strive for.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?  My mentor Kevin Bozic, MD, MBA has imparted many pieces wisdom during my time with him at UT Austin. He has achieved and successfully participated in many leadership positions, including Chair of the Department of Surgery and Perioperative Care at Dell Med while also serving as the President of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. One item on my professional bucket list is following Dr. Bozic’s footsteps and become a leader within the medical community. A second item on my bucket list is supporting our up-and-coming leaders in both business and healthcare industries. As an entrepreneur, I have found success by learning from the experiences of others, and I would like to pay forward the advice I’ve received from my mentors so that others can also achieve success in pursuing their dreams.

What made S. Ryan such an invaluable member of the Class of 2023?

“Ryan Pierson is an exceptional MD/MBA student studying to be an orthopaedic surgeon, taking advantage of a cutting edge, unique collaboration between Texas McCombs and our new Dell Medical School.  Dell Med is highly selective, receiving over 4,500 applications for the entering class of 50 students. Dell Med recruits and trains physicians of the future—leaders who are comfortable taking on systemic challenges in health.

Ryan completed his MBA in his third year of medical school during their “Innovation, Leadership and Discovery” block, which allows MD students to choose a dual degree option to augment their medical degree. He gained an advanced understanding of business administration and will receive our Sord Scholar award for achieving above a 3.8 GPA in our demanding core curriculum. In addition, Ryan enriched our MBA classrooms with his diverse knowledge and unique perspective and took many leadership positions in entrepreneurship, nutrition and healthcare.

Dr. Kristie Loescher, who teaches our Healthcare Business Ecosystems, shares “Ryan is the type of student that always goes above and beyond; for example, when approaching an assignment requiring an op-ed on healthcare reform, Ryan set out to get his published. He completed multiple drafts and integrated my feedback and then submitted the finished product to a number of publications and was accepted by Medpage! Ryan sets high aspirations for himself and then goes after them with diligence and good humor; he is a delightful student to work with, and I have very high expectations for his future success as a physician leader.”

I have no doubt that Ryan will achieve his goal of bridging the gap between healthcare and business to further the Dell Medical School mission to develop leaders who will be better equipped to lead health transformation and the adoption of value-based care.”

Tina Mabley
Assistant Dean  


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.