This is installment one of a three-part story of two FEMBA classmates, their journey through FEMBA, and their path to forming their own company. This first installment features Oscar Rodriguez MD, FEMBA 2014. Installment two will profile Hanson Chang, also 2014, and the final installment reveals their newly founded company, Care|Mind, by Reassure Analytics.
Dylan: Let’s start with the back-story. Oscar, tell us where you were before Anderson.
Oscar: Ah, the tumultuous road before Anderson…I found myself at DaVita Inc. in 2008 after making a major decision in my life to step away from my general surgery training and pursue a career in medical informatics. With a background in biomedical research and a love of technology, data and taking care of patients, I believed that predictive analytics would be the place I could make the biggest impact in the healthcare. DaVita was just going to be a temporary stop on my way to Stanford’s Medical Informatics program.
My station as a “Process Engineer” – a somewhat foretelling title – was a six month appointment to get some insight into and experience with working with large sets of patient population data before continuing on to my path towards medical informatics. However, I was so awed by the DaVita culture and the pervasive enthusiasm to truly make a difference in the quality of life of its dialysis patients that I applied for a more permanent position and became the Clinical IT Liaison for the Office of the Chief Medical Officer (OCMO).
In that role at DaVita, I got the opportunity to really impact the lives of both our patients and our Medical Directors. In my first year at DaVita, I helped devise and roll out a tool to help coordinate our clinical teammates and non-DaVita vascular surgeons to track, educate and encourage our patients to give up their catheters – an important nidus of infection and cause of morbidity and mortality – for a permanent access.
When we started, over 24% of our patients were using catheters to dialyze; today we boast the lowest catheter rate in the industry at 13%. I also began tackling the challenge of educating our 1600+ medical directors who are contracted to provide clinical oversight of our facilities. In just over 3 years we created three online courses and a highly sought out day-long live training to better prepare our medical directors to tackle challenges of being the clinical leaders of our facilities.
Dylan: Ok. I remember why your FEMBA application was so strong! But what happened to have you decide to go to business school?
Oscar: I considered going to business school because I wanted to contribute more, both strategically and operationally, and become a leader at DaVita. Looking at the leadership construct of DaVita, it became apparent that an MBA education was an important element in the profile of the most successful leaders at DaVita. I wanted the benefit of a formalized education in business to supplement my medical background and bring a new level and valuable skill set to my work at DaVita.
Dylan: And specifically, why did you choose FEMBA?
Oscar: As I weighed the pros and cons of going back to school for an MBA I knew a few things to be true. First, I wanted a program that allowed me to continue thriving in my position at DaVita. Second, I wanted a part-time program that granted me an MBA with the same distinction and respect as that of a full-time MBA. To me that meant access and exposure to the same faculty, curriculum, rigors and resources of a respected full-time MBA program. Third, I wanted a truly functional educational experience. I didn’t want to graduate from a program with just a degree in business, but rather a new found confidence and skill set as a businessman and leader.
I reached out to my colleagues at DaVita for guidance and narrowed my choices down to Wharton’s Executive MBA program in San Francisco and Anderson’s Fully Employed program. Both were very distinguished and respected programs that allowed me to continue working at DaVita, in El Segundo, California, and complete my MBA education. However, the faculty in the Executive MBA Wharton program consisted of mostly part-time or guest faculty with the occasional full-time program faculty member that would make the flight out to San Francisco from Philadelphia. Moreover, the resources available at Wharton’s San Francisco program were limited due to its sheer distance from the University of Pennsylvania.
The tipping point for me was when I reached out to one of my fellow DaVita teammates and good friends, Sajid Sindha, FEMBA graduating class of 2007. We started at DaVita around the same time and first met during DaVita’s Academy for new teammates – a 3 day-long immersion into all that is DaVita. Working from the same office in El Segundo, we quickly became friends and I got the opportunity to see how easily Sajid created functional teams and seamlessly led strategic projects at DaVita. Sajid shared with me his inspiring experiences at Anderson, from Leadership Foundation to GAP, and I was sold. Sajid connected me with you (Dylan) after which I proceeded to do everything I could to get into Anderson, including taking the GMAT twice!
Dylan: Thanks for the plug for re-taking the GMAT…And did your experience at Anderson live up to your expectations?
Oscar: The Anderson FEMBA program didn’t just live up to my expectations it expanded my horizons beyond anything I had previously imagined.
In my first week at Anderson, I found myself taking both a metaphorical and actual leap of faith as I jumped off a 30-foot pole to a swinging trapeze as part of my Leadership Foundation ropes course. The camaraderie started then as my fellow classmates, whom I had just met, encouraged me past my slight fear of heights to make that leap. That Anderson fellowship and support grew throughout my three years at Anderson and continues to this day.
My three year career as a student at Anderson was a whirlwind of eye-opening experiences. It was non-stop learning from the get-go. I found myself, almost weekly, taking what I learned in class and using it in my work at DaVita.
I entered Anderson thinking I would concentrate on healthcare, given my medical training and interests at DaVita. I join the Anderson Healthcare Business Association and participated in the UCLA Business of Science Center’s (BSC) weekly meetings where clinicians, engineers, science and business students gathered to discuss topics that intersected business, science and innovation. Through the BSC, I got the opportunity to work with a fellow full-time MBA student, and two PhD students from the UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry department on the business plan for a research project being conducted by UCLA’s Neurosurgery Neural Systems & Dynamics Lab (NSDL).
We met regularly with the co-principal investigators, Dr. Xiao Hu and Dr. Neil Martin, Chair of Neurosurgery at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, and devised a business plan for their SuperAlarm system to predict heart attacks in the hospital setting and ended up semi-finalists in UCLA’s 3rd Annual BSC Venture Competition. I got to take a class co-taught by Dr. David Feinberg, then president and CEO of UCLA Health, called Global Healthcare where one of the guest lecturers, Shannon O’Kelley, Chief Operating Officer at UCLA Health Systems, gave me the opportunity to shadow him and his team for a day at the UCLA Medical Center’s Santa Monica location. I attended a lecture given by Dr. Molly Coye, Chief Innovations Officer at UCLA Health, who introduced me to the burgeoning role innovation is playing in healthcare.
Despite my focus on healthcare, Anderson opened my eyes to so many other fascinating opportunities in business management and helped me discover and develop skills I scarcely knew I had. I took two classes in business law, taught by full-time professors at the UCLA School of Law. I delved into real-estate taking classes taught by faculty from the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate. I even participated in the High Tech Business Association/Amazon.com Inc. Case Competition where my team ended up as semi-finalists. But the ultimate experience was the Global Access Program (GAP).
Dylan: You jumped in the deep end! I’ll give you that Oscar. And what was it about GAP that made your experience at Anderson so special?
Oscar: GAP was one of my most remarkable learning experiences, period.
Four classmates and I worked as a consulting group for a Finnish company interested in bringing one of their products into the US. Over a six month period we researched the market, interviewed 135 industry experts and stakeholders, and traveled to Europe and Canada to determine the financial viability of bringing the product into the US, devise a market entry strategy, and provide the Finnish company with a comprehensive business plan.
GAP made us put all that theory we had learned in the classroom into real-world practice and ultimately defend our business plan in front of three industry-expert judges. The Finnish company was so impressed by our work that they not only decided to enter the US with their product but the CEO invited us to visit Finland on their dime! I have since kept in touch with the Finnish company and have been doing further consulting work for them as they put their new entry plan in place.
Dylan: Looking back now, a year after graduation, what was the most challenging for you during your three years at Anderson?
Oscar: The time commitment. I made a promise to myself that if I was going to take on the burden of yet another student loan to get my MBA, I was going to make the most of it. As such, that meant sacrificing time with my wife and family. In fact, during my second year, I found myself in a hotel room in Cartagena, Colombia, missing most of the reception of my cousin’s wedding because I had assignments to turn in.
Fortunately, before committing to Anderson I not only garnered the full support of DaVita and my boss, but more importantly I sat down with my wife and family to have a frank discussion about what I was getting into and what I would need from them to make this work.
Dylan: Tell our readers what has happened since graduating.
Oscar: I was one of 16 students awarded the Global Access Program Fellowship at graduation. As a GAP Fellow I came back the year after graduating to mentor 3 teams of 5 students through their 6 months GAP experience.
As a GAP student I had been frustrated by lack of a system to track and report our primary research interviews. As a GAP Fellow I decided to build a tool for the following year’s students to facilitate the process for them so they could spend less time on the logistics of tracking and reporting their interviews and more time interviewing and analyzing the information.
The process I created was coined–by Professor Bob Foster, Director of the GAP Program–“The Oscar System”. Although it was optional for the students to use, 63 out of 65 teams used it the first year and it ranked highest among all the resources provided to the GAP students. When the full-time program got wind of the tool they wanted one for their students so I helped create a similar tool for them.
This year, I am the Co-Chairman of the GAP Fellows Alumni Board and will be working with a student from last year to improve upon the tool I devised, which will now be mandatory for the GAP students to use.
I have also partnered with one of my GAP teammates, Hanson Chang, to build a product for elderly care. It’s focused on addressing the growing population of seniors and the shrinking resources available to care for our elderly loved ones. It’s been exciting!
Dylan: Thanks Oscar. We’ll profile Hanson next, part-two of the story, before we complete with the profile of your new company. Thanks for making UCLA proud!