MBAs and Health Care: A Winning Match

Darin Szilagyi FACHE, MBA '94

The healthcare industry is one of the largest and fastest growing industries. With the aging and growing population, greater prevalence of chronic diseases, and new costly innovative advancements in digital technologies, the demand of health care services and expenditures has greatly increased. In order to meet this demand, healthcare organizations need unique expertise, new business models and care delivery systems to solve problems and continue building a sustainable foundation for high quality healthcare.

This is what makes the health care industry a tremendous sector for MBAs. There is currently a wide range of opportunities for MBAs - and the opportunities will only continue to increase in the future. If you’re a current or future MBA student, especially one with a strong interest in healthcare, this is great news!

One of the best ways to discover the many opportunities for MBAs in the health care sector is to hear from someone who has built a successful career applying their business skills, leadership and innovative spirit to this complex, rapidly changing industry. As a TCU MBA alum, current VP of Marketing and PR at Methodist Health System and TCU professor, Darin Szilagyi has firsthand knowledge of the tremendous demand for classically trained MBAs with a firm understanding of the business of health. Learn more in our Health Care Executive spotlight discussion with Darin below.

Tell us about your experience in the health care field and the factors that led you down this career path.

After receiving my MBA from the Neeley School of Business, I spent the first 10 years of my career at Halliburton and AT&T in strategic marketing leadership roles. In 2004, as Memorial Hermann Health System was transitioning its CEO, its brand and its business model, I was offered an opportunity to build and then lead the health system’s service line marketing and growth functions. I jumped at the chance because I personally connected with the mission of improving the lives of the people in our community. 

After eight years at Memorial Hermann, I became the Chief Strategy Officer at Trinity Mother Frances Health System. After leading TMF’s merger process with CHRISTUS, I returned to the Metroplex as the Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for the Methodist Health System.

What trends are you seeing within the health care industry? How has the industry changed over the last few years, and how do you see it changing in coming years?

Health care is undergoing change at an unprecedented pace. First, patients are now much more engaged with their health care decisions and are demanding not just great outcomes, but also amazing, timely experiences. The role of the patient has fundamentally changed the thinking in C-suites across the country.

The second change is the very rapid growth of captured data and the way it is aggregated, analyzed, shared and transformed into actions. There isn’t a discipline in health care that is not impacted by the proliferation of information. Every department has the ability to leverage it and improve efficiency and outcomes.

I see the next ten years as a renaissance for caregivers and those who support them. As an industry, we’re starting to realize that there is a proper equilibrium between new technologies, such as machine learning, AI and predictive analytics, and the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship, as well as the mind/body/spirit aspect of how care is delivered.

Numbers aren’t people. We can’t forget that. Great people matched with great tools will always be a winning proposition, and that’s where I see health care going.

How do Health Care MBA graduates fit into the health care industry, and why is it important for the health care field to employ MBAs?

I’ll answer that with words a colleague offered me during a time of business turmoil. He said: “You’re lucky. You’re an MBA. You can do anything. You aren’t pigeonholed.” The good news is that the tumultuous time ended well for both of us, but his thought still resonates.

Classically trained MBAs gain a broad basis of business decision-making skills. As operators, we are adaptable. As strategists, we are uniquely qualified to see the big picture and anticipate accretive opportunities. We also fit across the whole spectrum of health care and the related industries that support our efforts. Flexibility and adaptability are crucial when you consider a thirty or forty-year horizon.

What skills do you think are necessary for success in this industry?

Strategic thinking, building and fostering relationships, organizational agility, political savvy, financial acumen, discernment and a deep emotional connection to improving lives. Health care is as much a mission as it is a vocation. 

As an alum, how do you stay connected to the TCU MBA program?

For 30 years, and probably even longer, TCU’s Neeley School has had an unwavering commitment to individuals, from their small classes with instructor-student integration, to their use of student-led investment funds as a practical learning laboratory and even to being among the early MBA programs to commit to group learning and integrated projects.

I stay connected because I still feel a sense of family with everyone who made a commitment to my growth and success 25 years ago. Likewise, I feel a sense to stay connected in return. No matter when a Neeley MBA graduates, they share a sense of common identity for the beauty, diversity and value of people. When I see a Neeley MBA resume, I immediately assume that the person’s communication skills and collaboration are very strong. They will understand how to be politically agile. It’s our “brand.”

I have been given the grace and honor to influence the development of Neeley’s Health Care MBA program. Neeley started from scratch and put together a team of leaders from various types of companies in the health care continuum with the objective of crafting a program that capitalized on its newness. By that, I mean that there were no scared cows, no complicating factors — just a strong desire to ensure the program and curriculum would be of value to both the student and their potential employer. I also serve as an adjunct professor in the program, where I currently teach a course on population health.

What type of background is preferred in students entering the Health Care MBA program?

The industry looks for two types of people: People with sound business analysis skills (such as statistics, finance, accounting and analytics), and people who understand how businesses come together and how they grow.

What can a Health Care MBA candidate expect from TCU’s program?

Expect to get the best of a classical MBA training matched with the specificity of what’s relevant for health care.

What does a typical career path look like for students graduating with a Health Care MBA from TCU?

MBAs in health care are well-suited to running a business unit, a multidisciplinary clinical practice or a care delivery function. But more than that, a Health Care MBA will have a strong eye for the pressure points in care delivery and thus be well-suited to pharma, health CPG, health care investments and M&A. It’s a wide spectrum of opportunity.

What advice would you give to prospective TCU Health Care MBA students?

Health care is changing. There is value in being flexible. As you select a career path in the health care industry and choose a program, make sure you hardwire your professional agility to move and be flexible as the industry changes. Every single day in this industry provides a new reward. Commit. It’s worth the ride.

Excited to build a successful career in the health care sector and start making a difference? Our Health Care MBA program provides determined individuals the ability to make an impact on the wellness and well-being of those in our families, communities and beyond.

Contact us via phone or email to discuss your career aspirations. One of our team members will be happy to answer your questions about our Health Care MBA program and the admissions process.

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