Greg Wallingford, WG’19, was practicing emergency medicine while studying full-time at Wharton, when MGMT 610 inspired him to create a leadership curriculum for physicians.

Greg Wallingford, WG’19, was an emergency medicine resident at Stanford when patient volumes surged.

“The hospital and emergency department were so overcrowded that we started treating patients in the waiting room, then in the hallways, and eventually we were forced to treat patients in a tent,” he said. “That experience opened my eyes to the opportunity to help patients on a broader scale by tackling systems-level challenges, and sparked my interest in business school.”

Last summer, Greg took his clinical and business insights to address healthcare system needs at an internship with McKinsey & Company. When he returned to campus for the second year of his MBA, he served as a William P. Lauder Leadership Fellow and supported Psychology and Management Prof. Adam Grant in facilitating MGMT 610 — a course that builds leadership and teamwork skills through classroom application.

Greg’s leadership skills grew in that role and he began to see the value that deep peer-to-peer communication could add to a hospital environment. That fall, he mentored Jennifer Morganroth, WG’20, an MD/MBA candidate also studying Health Care Management (HCM).

“She came up to me and said she wished a lot of this content were in the medical school curriculum,” Greg said. “That was a lightbulb moment for me.”

Greg lectures Penn Medicine clerkship students at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP).

Now Greg and Jennifer are working on a leadership and personal development curriculum to help physicians provide better care for their patients and themselves.

“My friends, my wife, myself, the medical students and residents that I teach — most of them are doctors. I want to make sure that they have the means to develop themselves like I did in business school because I’ve realized that the traits that make you a great leader also make you a happier person. If I boil down my mission statement, it’s to leverage leadership and teamwork principles to make medicine a happier place.”

Transplanting Wharton Lessons

While the ER keeps Greg motivated and on the pulse of what’s happening in the hospital, Wharton’s unique HCM program gives him the chance to explore business resources and form connections with industry peers.

“Since I enrolled in HCM, I’ve talked to practicing physicians about the benefits of a full-time versus executive MBA probably once every other week,” Greg said. It might seem unthinkable to pursue a full-time MBA and practice medicine simultaneously, but Greg says the support he’s received from Penn and Wharton makes it one of the best decisions he’s ever made. “Classroom learning is so much more powerful when you have ongoing, challenging experiences to apply it to.”

With one foot in both worlds, Greg adapts business strategies for working physicians.

“The skill sets have a lot of overlap, but the context is different,” he explained. “In business, a difficult conversation may revolve around firing someone, but in medicine, it might revolve around death.” Teamwork in the hospital, too, is more about short-term bonding with a variety of medical teams, and often under high stakes and pressure.

Greg believes small group engagement like P3: Purpose, Passion and Principles, which he facilitated this year, could also be adapted into timely discussions for residents. As a group,  they can digest challenging work experiences while exploring their definitions of success, happiness, and fulfillment.

The Bottom Line

Greg and Jennifer are encouraging open dialogue within the medical community with their personal and professional stories, inside and outside of Penn. After presenting to 400 medical students and faculty at the 2019 Gold Humanism Honor Society Conference, Greg was invited to speak at Cooper University, Drexel University, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

After graduation in May 2019, he will head to McKinsey to learn more about health system operations and identify leadership and personal development gaps. Three months per year he plans to step out of the Dallas office and return to Penn to teach and practice emergency medicine.

Eventually, he’d like to integrate Wharton-inspired lectures into the mandatory medical school curriculum.

“As an MBA student, I know that one of the biggest motivators of change is the bottom line,” he said. “If an opportunity makes sense from an investment point of view, you enable hospitals to support mission-based projects. Through leadership development, physicians will be empowered to foster a stronger, more collaborative culture, which will result in more efficient hospitals. That’s the long-term return on investment for the program that I envision.”

Gloria Yuen

Posted: April 29, 2019

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