Journey into healthcare innovation: my MBA module at Johns Hopkins
MBA International Healthcare Management / 18 August 2023
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MBA International Healthcare Management Class of 2024
Woei had nearly 20 years of work experience in the banking industry before pivoting into healthcare three years ago. He was most recently a Director of Strategy for a governmental medical city in the UAE when he started his MBA. He is currently a freelance consultant in healthcare as he continues his journey in MBA International Healthcare Management at Frankfurt School.

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Healthcare is evolving at lightning speed, and the pandemic has, in many ways, changed the landscape of healthcare globally beyond recognition. Arguably, it is often for the better but has undoubtedly exposed the weaknesses of different healthcare systems, whether public or private.

Diving into healthcare innovation

This module is hosted by the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School in Baltimore. On the first morning, we were welcomed by Vice Dean for Faculty and Research, Dr. Goker Aydin, and Vice Dean for Education and Partnerships, Dr. Lasse Mertins, before the fully loaded module got underway.

We first looked at the industry, the ongoing cost conundrum in healthcare from the perspective of businesses, providers and payers, as well as the impact it has on access to care for patients. We had some prominent guest speakers, Dr. Reuven Pasternak, a U.S. Health Policy Senior Advisor and Dr. Marty Makary who discussed the “re-design of health care”, which was about the importance of prevention in healthcare.

Throughout the week, we delve into various transformations in healthcare, drawing from case studies in pre-module reading materials such as Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, the evolution of Walmart Health and the different strategies adopted. Dr. Toby Gordon’s very practical and hands-on approach to teaching (including roleplay) also got everyone very engaged in sharing their own experiences.

On disruption in healthcare through innovation, we explored different technologies that changed the industry, from aspects like cost, processes, quality and care delivery to patient engagement by both clinical and non-clinical teams. Further guest speakers shared their journeys with us, like Dr. David N. Maine, CEO of the Mercy Hospital, and Dr. Mitchell Schwartz, President of Luminis Health, to mention some of them.

Watching healthcare innovation in action

On a sunny Sunday, we were hustled into a bright pink bus at 7.30 am headed for Washington DC. Upon arriving at Johns Hopkins Sibley Memorial Hospital, where we would spend most of the day, we were met by Dr. Al J. Browne (Director of Community Health Design), who introduced us to two inspiring healthcare entrepreneurs, Dr. Jalan Burton and Ms. Tambra Raye Stevenson, that went into business because of massive gaps in their own communities that needed desperately to be filled due to the failings of the healthcare system.

We then had the opportunity to visit the new soon to re-open ICU that has been future-proofed and innovation clearly centred around patients and their families. This was definitely a kid-in-a-candy-store moment for me; having the opportunity of a guided tour with Caroline Shafa proudly (and rightfully so) highlighted and answered questions on all the thought processes that went into behind-the-scenes design and implementation.

Johns Hopkins ARCADE Lab

We also visited the Johns Hopkins’ ARCADE lab led by Dr. Mathias Unberath. How often do you get to play with a Davinci Robot (amongst others) while learning about what the team is working on to further enhance the value to care delivery? Dr. Unberath gave us an overview of her journey into entrepreneurship before we were whisked away to the next site.

At Protenus’ large open office space, CEO Nick Culbertson presented a very different kind of technological innovation utilising AI to create a sustainable method of managing risk in healthcare. For me, having so many years of technology and risk management background in banking, this was an inspiring product that I did not expect until now. Hats off!


Digital health and AI might be what most people associate with innovation; there is so much more to it and so much more opportunities out there. Cost is obviously a huge factor, but the innovation to manage that can come from so many directions, payers, providers, processes and prevention, just to name a few.

I really enjoyed Prof. Toby Gordon’s approach to teaching. I was very open about discussing the strengths and pitfalls of the United States healthcare system, particularly when it comes to access to care. If we can’t be transparent about the problem, we are limiting the opportunities to learn from it. It appears to me that most of the guest speakers also adopt the same mentality hence carving out opportunities for their own niche. No surprise that the United States is one of the largest investors in healthcare innovation.

If there was one thing that stuck to my mind, it was something Dr. Jalan Burton said during her presentation. In her own words, she is a reluctant entrepreneur that went into business out of necessity. She combined her passion for serving her community and her frustration with a system that is failing this same community to create an opportunity that makes a difference and a new career for herself. She didn’t try to solve the world’s problem (or even the country’s) but instead did something great for her community where the state has failed and influenced other similar communities across the country to do the same. That inspired me.

Friendships of an MBA Journey

One of the many rewarding aspects of this small group specialised MBA is the strong network built even within the intake. We started the journey together for all our own individual motivation and will likely complete this chapter of our career investment together in 2024.

As we stand today at the official mid-way point of the MBA, the most rewarding to date is the friendship that some of us have developed, like we have known each other for years. It has been a challenging few months for me, and perhaps without realising it, some have been a massive support to me, whether during the module or beyond.

We know healthcare is about people and caring for people. Medical degrees, innovation and MBAs do not replace the need for basic human compassion, and it certainly isn’t lost on me that I am on this journey with a small group of healthcare professionals and many that we meet along the way, who value this as much as I do.