First MBA for Executives Class Graduates, Pledges to Make Healthcare More Affordable, Accessible and Efficient

The Yale MBA for Executives (MBA-E) program began two years ago with 22 candidates and a mission to educate a new generation of leaders in healthcare. On Memorial Day, those 22 students graduated. What just a few years ago was an idea for a new kind of business education for executives now had its first graduating class, a group of men and women from across all sectors of the healthcare industry.

“This is an amazing group,” said Howard Forman, co-director of the MBA-E program and professor of diagnostic radiology and management. “We’ve already witnessed more than half the group attain either higher or better positions. They’ve excelled academically. In every way, I believe they’ve exceeded expectations.”

The program launched, determined to use the resources and mission of Yale to create leaders on both the national and international level in healthcare, people who Forman said are taught to work collaboratively to further the public good. Unlike other industries, he said, people don’t treat healthcare in strictly economic terms. Throughout the world, including in the United States, the government plays a large role in financing, delivering and managing services.

“I think you need to have a different background in order to work within that area and be successful,” he said. “That means appreciating both the public and the private sector management. Yale was founded on those principles.”

Added Yale School of Management Dean Joel M. Podolny, “The MBA for Executives-Leadership in Healthcare program is a natural fit with the school’s mission. Our graduates are known for their commitment and facility in tackling the hard problems at the intersection of business and society. And it is precisely those kinds of problems that are common in the healthcare field.”

For the students, the time spent working toward their MBAs was intense. Unlike other executive MBA programs, the standards for the MBA-E are no different from a traditional MBA. Classes were structured to accommodate students with full-time careers, held every other Friday and Saturday, plus intensive in-residence periods of two weeks in the first summer and one week in the second. But the requirements for graduation are the same as the standard SOM program.

Chidi Chike Achebe, medical director for the Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center outside Boston, said he often spent four hours each day studying, after a full day at work. “Sometimes I'd leave work at 8:00 or 9:00 and do my homework until 1:00 in the morning, plus reading. I'm talking through the week, weekends, very little time with your family,” said Achebe, who holds a medical degree from Dartmouth and a Masters in Public Health from Harvard. “So for me it was incredibly challenging. This is one of the best investments, I think, I've made in my entire life. I would gladly do it again.

“One of the things that I found incredibly fascinating was the array of talent within the class, just in terms of the skill sets that my classmates brought to class,” he continued. “We have a neurosurgeon; we have a cardio-thoracic surgeon; we have executives; we have a CEO, we have executives of Aetna, we have nurses who have done incredible work; we have an interventional radiologist; we have Pfizer executives who are also MDs. It's an incredible class.”

Sostena Romano, the clinical director of the Pediatric AIDS Care Program at Yale-New Haven Hospital, said that for her, one of the best aspects of the program was the staff and faculty, who were not only talented and dedicated, but accommodating of student needs. “I think it's really important for people that are looking at this program to understand that there's such a welcoming feeling by the administrators,” said Romano, who holds a masters from the Yale School of Nursing. “This is very high stress, you have a lot of work, no breaks, and it's very nice to know that the support staff — I mean everyone—is there supporting you, and helping you, and encouraging you. You won’t find that in other places. There's a real intimacy to this program. And I think that’s a key to its success.”

Dan Jorgensen was chosen by his classmates to give a speech at the graduation. Jorgensen, a graduate of Yale College, earned a medical degree from the University of Wisconsin and a Masters of Public Health at the University of Washington. He is a senior director for Pfizer’s Global Research and Development arm. He is one of four employees of Pfizer enrolled in the classes of 2007 and 2008, and he said that the MBA-E program has become an important part of the corporation’s career development emphasis.

“There's a very positive buzz about the program, and those of us who are in it are being sought out by others who are interested in doing it,” he said. “My supervisor asks for updates. This is the only program of its kind in the country. The word is getting around.”

As for his speech at graduation, he said he wanted all those gathered for the SOM graduation to come away with as much excitement for the MBA-E program as he has. “This isn’t just a brand new program,” he said. “It’s a unique program, given its focus on healthcare. And it's an exceptional program, in terms of the quality of faculty and students. We learn a lot from each other. There’s a give-and-take in the classroom, not just between students and professors, but between students themselves. The conversations continued way past the end of the day. It’s been this remarkable learning laboratory.”