Profiles In The Business Of Health

business of health

They come for all kinds of reasons but share one thing in common: All of the students want to have the skills and tools to have greater impact in the world.

Some MBA seekers came to Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School to transition from to health care from an entirely different background. Others, including doctors and nurses, come with health care experience to transition into leadership roles.

Carey Business School

Vanessa Battista is earning two degrees from Johns Hopkins University

Vanessa Battista had been a pediatric nurse at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia but wanted a larger role with leadership potential. In 2018, she entered the dual-degree program at Johns Hopkins for a doctorate in nursing practice as well as an MBA. The degrees, both earned in 2021, allowed Battista to shift into a leadership role in Boston as a senior nursing director of palliative care at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Shrey Kapoor, an MD/MBA candidate with Carey, is using his educational experience to help create his own business-of-health startup. Founder and CEO of MedSetGo, Kapoor is using the latest generation technology to consolidate the fragmented home care ecosystem, resulting in improved patient outcomes and lower costs of care.

After spending ten years in nursing at two hospitals in Hawaii and gaining a promotion to vice president, Sondra Leiggi Brandon believed she needed an MBA. As the VP of patient care for the behavioral health department of The Queen’s Hospital in Honolulu, she also is a dual degree candidate, pursuing a doctorate in nursing practice with an MBA from Carey.

For Battista, who had earned her BS and MS in nursing from Columbia University, getting a doctorate in nursing had always been a long-term goal. “But as I explored that option I realized that it would be much more enhanced by also having a business degree,” she says. “I knew I wanted to go into leadership in health care and having a business degree would only make that all the more valuable.”

Over three-years, from 2018 until 2021, she pursued her studies online so she could keep her job and practice what she learned in a real world setting. “It was a lot of work but it was also an amazing experience,” says Battista.

“I was in the executive track program so we were all working full time. It was a lot of work to have a full time job while doing two degrees, but it worked well. Everything we learned in the classroom we were able to apply to real life examples in our work. While it was an arduous schedule, it really helped to apply it in the real world to see what worked and what didn’t work. It was really exciting to learn from experts in the field who were teaching us innovative things.”

Often, her tasks at work completely dovetailed into her studies. When she had to write a memo to our team about an important work change, she drafted something as a class assignment. When she had to help organize a retreat, she challenged the team to first list the objectives and expected outcomes, something she would not have done without business training.

“We did that all the time, learning practical skills that just helped you do your work even better,” adds Battista. “This may sound a little bit hokey but not a day goes by that I don’t use the skills I learned in the program. When you are in leadership you are always thinking about what you say and how you say it and how the message is received. Those are all skills I learned in the MBA program.”

In the process, she also learned a new way of thinking. “I found more of my tribe in the MBA program because it was different,” says Battista. “It was people who were thinking differently than I had been trained and taught to think for many years. I went to nursing school and we just learned to think as nurses. I found it refreshing to be in a program where people came from diverse backgrounds. There were certainly many working in the health care space but also there were business people, engineers, lawyers, and teachers. It was so refreshing to think about problems from different perspectives. That was really enriching.”

No less important, Battista found the professors at Carey Business School approachable and engaging. “The professors were reachable and they were real,” she says. “One time I struggled with an assignment over the Thanksgiving Day holiday when we were all with our families. Our professor wrote back and said, ‘Take the day off and enjoy it with your family.’ And I thought, Wow, these are people who really care about us and they are fascinating and brilliant.”

Ultimately, the programs not only gave her more self-confidence, they also changed her. “I just think about things differently,” she believes. “I view healthcare from a business lens and business from a healthcare lens. Being in a leadership position in a healthcare environment, you think about it all the time. Someone says, ‘I want to do this and it will be great for our patients.’ 

“And I say, ‘Yes, it would be great for our patients and how are we going to pay for it, and how are we going to have enough staff for that, and what will the outcomes be and how are we going to measure them? I just think about all the challenges I face from both lens.

“The goal is to provide the best care we can to patients. But we all know there is so much going on from behind the scenes to get to that point. From my perspective, I am asking myself how we deliver the best care by looking at the outcomes and making them measurable. It doesn’t feel like two separate things to me. It feels like bringing it all together and showing up every day to bringing my two lenses to the challenges. It feels like a privilege to be able to do that.”

John Hopkins Carey Business School

Shrey Kapoor is in the MD/MBA dual-degree program at Johns Hopkins University

Kapoor grew up in San Francisco and first went to Johns Hopkins for his undergraduate degree in public health and natural sciences. He graduated summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA in 2019. The very next year, he enrolled in Johns Hopkins Medical School for an MD and ultimately the Carey Business School for his MBA. He is currently in his clinical year, the fourth out of five years of med school, having finished the MBA last year.

“I came in knowing what I wanted out of it which was entrepreneurship skills and understanding networking and how to leverage relationships,” he says. “I started my company five months before I started the MBA, and I have exhausted every Hopkins resource I have. The level of resources are unparalleled.”

Among other things, he used his marketing class to create a go-to-market strategy for his startup. He also learned how to sell stakes in his company to potential investors. “The big thing was learning how make a pitch deck and how to pitch,” adds Kapoor. “If you looked at my previous slides, they were filled with a bunch of text. We just secured a quarter of a million dollar check exclusively from the pitch deck. From a team perspective, I manage 15 people which include in-house counsel, and a chief operating officer.

Kapoor took an artificial intelligence class, an important building block for a startup with a heavy focus on using AI for patient care. “There aren’t too many places out there focused on innovation and health care the way Hopkins is,” he says.

What most surprised him was the amount o group work in every MBA class. “In med school, a lot of it is you have to learn for yourself. In business school, you have to learn how to work with others in a way that pushes you. I thought that was fun. Everyone was enthusiastic and innovative. People were really focused on entrepreneurship and accelerators.”

“I think the Hopkins ecosystem has such great power. What I am seeing now and what I want to do is for Hopkins to crate, innovate and commercialize. The ability to leverage Hopkins scientists and researchers….we are second to none in health care. As one professor told me, ‘We don’t read books. We write them.’ There are resources here that are not available anywhere else in the world.”

As for creating a company on his own, Kapoor thinks he may have started something of a trend. “Now there is a med school student who wants to do exactly what I did,” he says. “It’s exciting. It’s new. The advice I have is keep an open mind because it is a new field. There are so many opporunities—in devices, software, pharma, remote patient monitoring and more. Health care is a massive market and it still lags beyond every other industry in innovation and change.”

Carey Business School

Sondra Leiggi Brandon is getting a doctorate in nursing practice and an MBA from Johns Hopkins

Brandon’s experience was similar, studying remotely from Hawaii for both degrees. Before beginning the program, she did something that many may find unusual but was vital to her career advancement. “I sat with my boss and a huge catalog of classes and we went through it and checked all the things that were strategic and would help me grow in the hospital,” she recalls. “I could apply things almost immediately, and he started seeing changes after my first year.”

She was able to balance her studies with her work, front loading the eight-week-long classes during the fall. “We usually had online asynchronous learning with synchronous classes every two weeks,” she says. “My study groups with classmates were every week, and I went to a lot of open office hours where I was able to do a lot of work with whatever professor I needed help with.”

That led to an assignment she might never have gotten before: Full reign over an acquisition being made by the hospital.

“I was surprised by classes that would be inherently-oriented toward health care like business communications. A lot of the cases were so dynamic and changing and current to the work being done here. An economics course called Frameworks is an example.”As much as I thought I would hate economics, putting economics to health care was just exciting,” she says. “And I loved the professor because he was well versed in economics.”

She especially enjoyed the MBA’s focus on leadership. “A lot of clinicians go through their programs without being taught any leadership skills,” she says.
Brandon found her classmates intelligent, thoughtful and hard-working. “For me, doing this remotely, the professors at Carey were actually still working in health care and a lot of the references were from the field. At the schools in Hawaii, many professors hadn’t worked in the field for many years.

“Healthcare is going to be outside of hospitals’ four walls,” she predicts, a reference to the explosion in tele-health and other changes in the way health care is being delivered.

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