As a professor and neurosurgeon, Dr. Dan Sciubba, WG’21, came to Wharton’s EMBA program because “the future of medicine requires leaders in healthcare and business.” He explained, “I was working at a leading academic healthcare institution and wanted to combine my knowledge and experience with business skills to take my leadership to the next level to make a bigger impact.”
Of course, going back to school in his 40s wasn’t an easy decision. “I was in a great position as a full professor at Johns Hopkins and a practicing physician, but I was wondering what was next — and how I could drive change in healthcare. An MBA seemed like the best way to find out,” he said.
Not wanting to leave his job at Johns Hopkins, Dan began researching EMBA programs. “When I talked with Wharton alumni who are doctors, they said that if I really want to understand healthcare from a business point of view, Wharton’s EMBA program is unparalleled. When I looked into the program more, I saw that the students in this program are truly game changers in their fields and that I would be part of this dream team. I could have gone to another school to get promoted at my current job, but I came to Wharton to learn how to change medicine.”
Once Dan began Wharton’s EMBA program, he saw first-hand the value of his classmates in the learning process. “When we talked about cases or recent business events in class, a classmate would raise their hand and say they were part of that deal and shared their experience. And when we talked about healthcare, I shared my experiences. This created an extremely rich learning environment.”
He noted that the professors “enjoy” their role as teachers and facilitators of classroom discussions just as much as the students. “There is mutual learning happening in class because we learn from the professors, and they are also learning from our experiences. That makes it a lot of fun. It’s a very welcoming environment for everyone to share experiences and perspectives.”
When Dan came to Wharton, he wasn’t thinking about launching a company. However, he is now a cofounder of BioPhy.ai, which he started with two classmates.
He explained, “A classmate who works in finance was frustrated by the lack of understanding in the finance industry about how to invest in biotech. He wanted to find a better way. He teamed up with a data scientist at J&J and they came up with an idea using artificial intelligence to predict the success or failure of biotech startups. I came on board as a cofounder and chief medical officer, and we are growing the company and meeting with investors. My two cofounders are now running the company full time. This type of opportunity is one of many facets of this gem called Wharton.”
Leading on a Larger Stage
When word got out that Dan was in Wharton’s EMBA program, he began receiving calls to become chair of neurosurgery departments across the country.
The offer he found most attractive came from Northwell Health in New York. Today, Dan is chair and professor of neurosurgery at Northwell/Hofstra at Northwell Health, senior vice president of neurosurgery, and co-director for the Institute for Neurology & Neurosurgery at Northwell Health. He oversees one of the largest academic neurosurgical organizations in the world and leads clinical, research, and training programs directed at providing the most innovative treatments for patients affected with disorders of the brain, spine, and peripheral nerves. As chair, he oversees eight neurosurgery centers in the Northwell system.
“The people who interviewed me for this position noted that I spoke differently from other candidates because I could speak in the language of business. My focus is on building programs and teams, and I learned that at Wharton. I also learned about empathy at Wharton, where everyone shares their perspectives, and everyone is smarter than me at something. This put me in a growth mindset and gave me a more holistic view.”
Now leading on “a larger stage,” Dan credited Wharton with his leadership skills.
He said, “The leadership coaching and Prof. Stewart Friedman’s classes broke the mold on what I thought leadership was about. I learned that it’s really about stakeholders who care about you and who you care about. The focus is on leading together to reach common goals. This replaces the old-fashioned view that leadership means you are a boss, and everyone reports to you. I now approach leadership as a partnership with a team. That was worth the price of admission to Wharton.”
Dan added that his finance and strategy classes also taught him about financial responsibility. “There is a stereotype of doctors where they want to help patients regardless of cost. That sounds good, but it is irresponsible, and you lose part of the healthcare system when you talk like that. We need to be financially solvent and find financial and clinical strategies that can be accepted across both the healthcare and business sides of the aisle. We need to care about all sides of healthcare to change it,” he said.
Advice for Doctors Thinking About Applying to Wharton
“I went to a Wharton information session and heard someone say that we are all here because we are disruptors. We all have great jobs, but we want to disrupt the status quo and be even better. That resonated for me as a doctor because healthcare is changing, and it is challenging. Doctors don’t learn how to be disruptive in medical school. We need to learn to see the world through a different lens – a powerful lens. Wharton made this happen for me,” he said.
Dan added, “We need more doctor leaders in healthcare and Wharton is one of the best places to learn how to be a leader. We also need doctors who speak the language of healthcare economics and business because healthcare is expensive and there are access and payment challenges. We need people with these skillsets. If you are interested in driving change in healthcare, there is no better place to go than Wharton.”
— By Meghan Laska
Posted: January 17, 2022