This episode is part of a special mini-series of “Career Conversations” focused on MBA summer internships. We asked rising second-year MBA students to check in from their summer internships, where they are applying the lessons of their first year at Yale SOM.
Diane Somlo ’21 is an MD/MBA candidate at Yale. She is spending her summer at Geisinger, a hospital and health center comprised of 13 hospital campuses, 3 research centers, a college of medicine, and a health plan serving more than three million residents in central, south-central, and northeast Pennsylvania. Somlo discusses the choice to pursue an MBA after starting her MD; her summer projects at Geisinger; and the ways in which the healthcare system is evolving.
Transcript provided by rev.com.
Emily Kling (00:05):
Welcome to Career Conversations, a podcast from the Yale School of Management. Each episode of Career Conversations is a candid conversation between a student here at SOM and a member of the Yale community who's doing something that we're curious about. Kind of like an informational interview, except you get to listen to in. I'm Emily Kling, a full time MBA student in the class of 2021 and we continue on a special Career Conversations mini series focused on MBA summer internships.
Emily Kling (00:31):
We are joined today by Diane Somlo. Diane is a full time MBA student also in the class of 2021. She's spending her summer as a medical student business fellow at Geisinger. Diane, welcome.
Diana Somlo (00:43):
Thanks for having me on.
Emily Kling (00:46):
Of course. Can you introduce yourself to our listeners?
Diana Somlo (00:47):
For sure. Hi, I'm Diane Somlo, as Emily introduced. I'm medical student at first and I then joined the joint degree MD MBA program at Yale. Having just come out of my first full-time year in the MBA, I was super excited to start my internship at Geisinger Medical Center this summer. A little more background about me. I'm from Connecticut, born and raised and went to Cornell University undergrad, where I graduated with a biology degree. After that worked for a year as a biology research assistant and then started medical school. That brings me up to here.
Emily Kling (01:23):
When you started medical school, did you know that you wanted to also pursue an MBA degree?
Diana Somlo (01:29):
I actually had no idea. No, I didn't know until, probably the first time I thought about it was a month into my first year of medical school, mostly because of a mentor I worked with.
Emily Kling (01:41):
Well, what made you want to do it?
Diana Somlo (01:45):
The mentor I was working with is a cardiothoracic surgeon who was doing work specifically with patient bed flow through the hospital. And when I learned more about that project, I was like, oh my God, this is so cool. I really like thinking about systems, about how hospitals operate and how providers like myself in the future would be interacting with management and different aspects of the healthcare system. I realized by around midway through second year, when I learned about the MD MBA program, that it would be a perfect way for me to kind of cut my teeth, learn the finance aspect of healthcare management, learn about payers and pharmacy benefit managers, how all the pieces come together to make hospitals work. And then that way, when I was coming in as a resident, after I graduate this coming year, I would have a different perspective and potentially be able to help improve the system as I'm a part of it.
Emily Kling (02:40):
Since starting the MBA program, which core courses have you found to be the most helpful?
Diana Somlo (02:45):
Yeah, that's a great question. I found actually most of them to be helpful. It's hard for me to narrow it down because coming in, I had no exposure to anything finance, accounting, marketing. I had no exposure to any of that, other than what was I had read in the news or just pop culture or talking to my friends who are in consulting. I would say the biggest leaps forward for me were the finance course with investor. That was the name of it, yeah. Investor was a big leap forward for me. I took a elective course with Dr. Howard Forman, Healthcare Finance Policy and Econ. And that was another big leap forward because that was again, kind of learning about all the different parts of the healthcare system that I from a medical student perspective had not known about before.
Diana Somlo (03:36):
And then lastly, I would say accounting was probably the third biggest leap, just because learning about kind of technically how businesses organize their finances internally was really helpful. I don't know if it was down to the debit or credit level that I would say is directly applicable moving forward, but having exposure to that and understanding it was definitely important.
Emily Kling (04:02):
Totally. Those are the three courses I found really, really hard. Great, but I'm glad they were so helpful. When you're not doing classes either in the MD program or the MBA program, what clubs or student run organizations are you a part of on campus either again, MBA or MD?
Diana Somlo (04:23):
Yeah. Outside of the MD, my time was mostly spent doing research and I'm still doing that. I'm doing outcomes research, specifically looking at how patients do after certain cardiac procedures. That's one big thing. I'm also a second year co-president for the Healthcare Life Sciences Club and I was a first year VP leader for that. Really enjoyed putting together events for them, helping develop educational materials and helping other students in the club. I also, co-founded the health and wellness subcommittee of student government with Jonathan Goldberg, a fellow full time MBA student. And that's been really rewarding because we were looking at how we could improve the students' advocacy and access to health and wellness resources at the school of management.
Diana Somlo (05:12):
That kind of included, we did things like got a massager that people could use and put it in the student lounge. That was a fun one. This is where getting hand sanitizers stood up in the building got rolled into. I was also doing work with advocating for bringing flu shot clinics to the actual SOM campus although that's still an ongoing conversation, hopefully we'll have renewed vigor considering the pandemic situation and the threat that the flu coinfection faces for current ongoing pandemic. And then outside of that, I also volunteer with Love 146, a local nonprofit that supports kids who are victims of child trafficking abroad. It both gives educational materials for people in general to learn more about the issues and also provides recovery courses and social support for victims who are in recovery. That's something I care about and I was volunteering to help them.
Emily Kling (06:12):
Those are so many awesome organizations. That's really great. You mentioned a bit earlier, but could you tell us more about your internship this summer?
Diana Somlo (06:20):
Yeah, absolutely. My summer internship, I am working with multiple areas of the Geisinger health system. Just a bit of background about Geisinger and why I got drawn to it. Geisinger is an integrated medical system based in Danville, Pennsylvania, so central PA. And it's unique in that it's one of those health systems that both owns and runs hospitals, but also has its own payer. They give insurance and they take care of people and they are one of the most innovative healthcare systems in the country in that they really made strides in both using technology and multiple different services and healthcare to try and manage total care for their patients. Everything from running free Zumba classes for patients who they insure, to providing transport to and from medical appointments, to even basically running an adult live in center for seniors who need a lot of home healthcare support. They have their hands in a lot of things.
Diana Somlo (07:24):
My specific role here is kind of to one, get me as a medical student interested in healthcare administration and leadership exposure to all these different components and two, to get me some boots on the ground experience in project management and helping Geisinger advance some of its initiatives. Two main projects that I'm involved in at this stage are one, implementation of a virtual triage health solution for the entire health system. To say more specifically what that means is, they're basically putting up a virtual assistant chatbot on the Geisinger web pages. And so I've been a part of actually designing what kinds of questions it's going to ask, where people get routed based on the symptoms that they may ask the bot about, making sure that people are routed to the appropriate areas, making sure that all of the bot's functions and access points are internally aligned with the different departments here, including the nonclinical areas like bill pay, like our health plan and all of the clinical end points like clinics, urgent care, emergency department, et cetera.
Diana Somlo (08:33):
And the other main project I've been involved in is helping with contact tracing for COVID-19. Like every other healthcare system, Geisinger's really been focused on COVID and has had a huge financial blow because of it. But they're still expending a lot of resources to try and manage the population health for their local community and protect people from COVID. I've been helping them stand up a system to help with tracing contacts across the 13 counties that the clinical enterprise footprint covers. And that's been really rewarding because I've been working with other medical students actually to bring them on as volunteers to help call contacts and positive patients and make this whole system work.
Emily Kling (09:12):
That's just so important right now, especially. It's profoundly relevant. And you're in person, unlike most people. You're in office. How has that been?
Diana Somlo (09:26):
Yeah, that's been interesting. I'm in an office building. My co-intern sits in the cubicle next to me and there is maybe a handful of other people on our floor. And then in this whole building, basically everyone's been sent to work from home. We're here because the space is available and because we're temporary, but yeah, yeah, it's been really fascinating. We've been able to go into meetings with the executive leadership. The CEO, Jaewon Ryu, and the CMO of the health system, Dr. Ed Hartle have had us in on a lot of their meetings and it's really been cool for exposure because I'm not sure it would be the same as if I was virtual for this.
Emily Kling (10:06):
Totally. Do you just show up every day in business formal and a mask?
Diana Somlo (10:11):
Yes, absolutely. That is the look. That is my go to. That is business formal, super business formal.
Emily Kling (10:18):
That's your summer 2020 uniform. Do you have to double mask because you're in a medical facility? I've heard that's a thing.
Diana Somlo (10:25):
No. Yeah, no exposure to medical areas and I wear a mask everywhere, but in the privacy of my own cubicle.
Emily Kling (10:34):
That makes sense.
Diana Somlo (10:34):
Take it off to eat.
Emily Kling (10:38):
It's just so funny, because no one else is in person and meanwhile not only are you in person, but you're in a medical relevant or a medical institution and your business formal attire.
Diana Somlo (10:52):
Oh yeah. No, it's a bizarre combination. I was honestly surprised that they A, still had my internship and B, that I'm in person. I'm really glad to be here.
Emily Kling (11:02):
Totally. Geisinger from my understanding of it, it's kind of like a one stop shop of many medical needs. And do you think in some ways that's the future of medicine? Why or why not? In what ways could it be? What are those limitations in your opinion?
Diana Somlo (11:20):
Yeah, no, that's a great question and something that comes up in some internal meetings here, for sure. Integration is definitely the trend in the healthcare industry for healthcare systems that kind of perceive value based care models becoming the norm. Right now we sort of have this payment system in our health system called Pay for Service, where you do something, you get paid for it and a lot of people, especially those who are trained in population health, realize that that drives a lot of unnecessary expenditure, a lot of unnecessary procedures and over focus on procedures rather than preventative health and holistic health.
Diana Somlo (12:00):
In one sense, integration is the trend. But on the other hand, it's not really easy for health systems to look like Geisinger. Geisinger started to become the way it is now basically from its inception. And it would be a lot harder for other hospital and health systems to transition over to ensuring and managing their own patients and also having their hands in all these other areas of care, like home health and rehab, in addition to their traditional hospital focus. That's sort of a short answer. I hope that answers your question.
Emily Kling (12:37):
Yeah, definitely. It fully answers the question. What's a one big takeaway from your internship?
Diana Somlo (12:44):
One big takeaway. Well, other than that, I really like working on the managerial side of a healthcare system, another big takeaway is just sort of the advice that I've gotten from the many different physician leaders I've encountered and non physician leaders I've encountered, thoughts about how to maximize growth at this stage of my career. And a great piece of advice that stuck out with me is, the best thing I can do right now is really just get broad exposure to a bunch of different topics and work on developing skillsets that are complimentary to my ultimate goal is being in medicine, but may not be necessarily as common, but will be really useful as a physician. People really emphasize like understanding the payer system and having that inform my future career choices and how I practice.
Emily Kling (13:40):
Building off of that, what's your plan for when classes start back up in the fall? Or actually you might have a different schedule technically. What are your plans in the fall?
Diana Somlo (13:49):
Yeah, I don't start in the fall. Sad times. I will be back in the spring in classes with everyone though. In the fall I will resume full time research. That is going to be my primary, but I am also still going to be on as the co-president for HCLS along with TACO. That will be a lot of fun. And I'm going to keep up with the health and wellness committee student government and I'm going to try and resume doing some COVID support volunteering. I know that Yale Health has quite a few areas where medical students like myself can get involved to help.
Emily Kling (14:20):
What's one thing going on this summer that has absolutely nothing to do with your internship, with school. I was going to say something else, but that's it. Nothing to do with those two things.
Diana Somlo (14:33):
Those are the two main aspects of my life, so let me see. The other thing going on. Well, definitely been exploring nature a lot out here. That's fun. I recently started playing tennis again with Mike Warren, also an MD MBA at Yale. He's come to hang out here in [inaudible 00:14:51] so that's been great. Yeah, so there's a lot of nature to explore here. That's been really fun and that's more or less been my triad of things. Yeah. Sorry. Wish I had a better answer for that.
Emily Kling (15:03):
That's a perfect answer. If you could go back in time and tell your pre MBA self one thing, what would it be?
Diana Somlo (15:13):
Study more for accounting? No.
Emily Kling (15:17):
I would tell myself that every day. I would tell myself that now so I can understand it.
Diana Somlo (15:26):
I guess I would say, trust that the MBA is definitely the right choice and that my initial impression is that it would be really important for my perspective were a 100% spot on. And also that I would meet so many terrific people at Yale and that I'm just super fortunate to have been accepted for the joint degree. I would just basically say, "This is the right call. Good for you for thinking of this way."
Emily Kling (15:54):
That's perfect. Thank you so much, Diane. I think that's all the questions we have. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you want to share anyway?
Diana Somlo (16:06):
No. Other than, I just want to say hope everyone's staying safe and healthy, washing your hands, wearing masks, the whole nine yards and can't wait to see all of your lovely faces again, virtually and then hopefully in person soon.
Emily Kling (16:22):
Yeah. And she is an MD MBA so you have to listen to that. She knows.
Diana Somlo (16:26):
Almost a doctor, 2021.
Emily Kling (16:28):
Almost a doctor, wear masks, wash your hands. Thanks Diane.
Diana Somlo (16:34):
Emily Kling (16:36):
You've been listening to Career Conversations, a podcast from the Yale School of Management. If you like what you heard today, please subscribe to this podcast. You can find Career Conversations on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or however you take your podcasts. You can also find the show on our website at som.yale.edu/careerconversations. Career Conversations is produced by SOM. Our producers are Amy Kundrat and Emily Kling. For Career Conversations, I'm Emily Kling. Thanks for listening and we hope you'll tune in again.
Diane Somlo ’21
Hometown: Westport, CT
Clubs and affiliations: Healthcare and Life Sciences (Co-President), Student Government Health and Wellness Committee
Favorite New Haven eatery: Prime 16