When Amy Chiu wanted to transition into the provider side of health care, she picked Wharton’s Health Care Management Program as the most flexible degree.

I want to impact the everyday person, and I didn’t get that feeling from crunching numbers. I never would have pinned myself as an MBA, but I chose Wharton because it had a health care focus. Most people who go into hospital management get a masters in hospital administration. I did dozens of informational interviews, and I decided not to go that route because the degrees were so specific to hospitals.

I thought about the world of health care and what was needed to improve or disrupt it, and I wanted a broader view. With the health care MBA, I could work on a start-up or in a medical group — there were so many directions I could go in the long run. The MBA was the most flexible degree. I knew I wanted to be in the health care industry, but I wanted flexibility to try different paths.

When everyone was recruiting for consulting jobs, I felt the pull too. HCM Director June Kinney was really good at keeping me grounded and focused on the provider setting, and not just do what was comfortable or what my classmates were doing.

I was a summer intern at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California in their Performance Excellence group, working on projects that would be rolled out to all their 20 hospitals in the region. The internship confirmed that I wanted to be in a provider setting — I didn’t want to recruit for anything else.

Some of my health care services classes really helped me understand the insurance industry or the hospital side. I have also used Operations and Information Management a lot. I didn’t take that as an undergrad even though I was an engineering major, but I absolutely loved it.

It was so fun when I could actually apply concepts to an emergency department during my internship — like if we add a nurse or bed here, how will it change throughput? I ended up taking more OPIM classes on how to deliver services, and I was an OPIM TA.

The Network Opened up Options

As part of the health care program, we have mentors through the alumni network, and they’ve been really helpful for my career. I felt like a rare breed going into hospital administration as an MBA, but although there aren’t many of us, the alumni network is so strong.

Even if you don’t see a lot of people like you in your class, generations of Wharton alumni are doing what you’re doing. If you think about where alumni have been in the past 20 years, it’s amazing. The mentors I had assigned to me are CEOs of health care systems.

Alumni in other fields help too. At Kaiser I made an effort to network with everyone who was from Wharton, no matter what their division. So when I told an alum in the venture capital arm that I wanted to be a CEO of a provider system, he was able to put me in touch with a friend in his network who is in just that position. He opened the door.

I always wanted to make a difference in a global area with under-resourced health care access. In my summer at Wharton, in addition to my internship, I went to India by myself and did a volunteer consulting project at LiveWell, a startup launched by the Aravind Eye Care System to provide physical rehab for patients who had strokes and other debilitating conditions.

Aravind is the world’s largest eye care provider, asking those who can to pay to subsidize care for the others, like rural farmers who can’t afford cataract surgery. The rehab startup gives life back to patients and their families by helping them recover in a holistic live-in rehab facility. I helped them develop a business plan to triple patient volume.

Now in my new job I’m helping open up a 200,000 square foot clinic in San Carlos which will have primary care, medical and surgical specialties, a surgery center, labs, imaging, and urgent care. It’s a large facility and I’m involved with all operational details of it — IT, staffing, furniture, how to predict demand. My goal is to be able to go into any city in the world and be able to open a clinic.

Posted: February 17, 2016

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