From Clinical Practice to CEO: Joseph Jasser, MD

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"My Executive MBA provided me the knowledge necessary to recognize, appreciate, and respond to the challenges of the marketplace."

Joseph Jasser, MD
Executive MBA Online, Class of 2014
President and CEO, Dignity Health Medical Foundation

Joseph Jasser, MD

There are very few professionals who have the opportunity to change people’s lives for the better the way doctors do. So what would motivate a dedicated MD to transition from clinical practice to health care leadership? When Joseph Jasser, president and CEO of Dignity Health Medical Foundation explains, it makes all the sense in the world.

“In my role, I oversee more than $1 billion in professional revenue and more than a million patient visits a year. The organizational decisions we make have the opportunity to impact the care we provide across the entire organization, not just a single physician practice. In addition, as a physician executive, I have the opportunity to design and develop new workflows and pathways to improve how healthcare is delivered. This is the most exciting aspect of my job!”

Preparing to Become a Physician Leader

Jasser remembers what an epiphany it was when he realized the large-scale impact he could have as a physician leader. “Early in my career, I was given an opportunity that provided me a path into the business side of medicine,” he recalls. “This early opportunity opened a world to me that I didn’t realize existed. The work was challenging and allowed me to impact the practice of medicine from a different perspective. As I grew in my career, I realized that as a physician leader, I would have the opportunity to impact clinical medicine in a much broader way.”

To prepare himself for that opportunity, Jasser decided to pursue his Executive MBA online from the WSU Carson College of Business. “My Executive MBA provided me the knowledge necessary to recognize, appreciate, and respond to the challenges of the marketplace,” he said. “The healthcare industry is changing rapidly, not unlike other aspects of business, and having the knowledge and understanding necessary to react to and address these challenges is something that I wouldn’t have been able to do without the education I gained from WSU.”

It may come as a surprise to hear a medical professional talk about the career value of an EMBA program — but it shouldn’t. “The Executive MBA teaches a set of skills that are transportable to any industry, including healthcare,” Jasser said. “Just like any other business, healthcare has similar dynamics, such as operational effectiveness, finance, accounting, operational design, and strategy, all of which are critical to success. My Executive MBA education allowed me to gain a deeper understanding and knowledge of the key business skills necessary for me to lead a large organization…it just happens that it is a healthcare organization. The core concepts and skills that I learned allowed me to leverage business principles and apply them to the healthcare arena.”

“Regardless of what I face on a day-to-day basis, I consistently rely on the experience and education my Executive MBA provided me.”

The Online Advantage

Looking back, Jasser acknowledges that balancing work, family, and academics was demanding — but extremely rewarding. He’s also quick to point out how helpful the online format can be. “Earning my Executive MBA while working was quite a challenging endeavor, but the flexibility that WSU afforded was priceless. It allowed me to do my school work when time allowed, either on a plane or when I was in a hotel room, as opposed to doing it ‘on demand.’ This flexibility allowed me to maximally leverage my free time without impacting my family or work demands.

“Also, having the opportunity to use my colleagues’ expertise as I worked through some of the coursework was very advantageous; it allowed me to put the coursework into the real world perspective. Finally, the format of the courses, the time of the professor lectures, and the online tools made it easy to not only fit in the course requirements, but also allowed me to access the course material wherever I needed to, at my convenience. All these factors made earning my Executive MBA from WSU a wonderfully balanced process.”

Washington State University goes to great lengths to provide busy professionals access to a top-tier business education. That explains why Jasser is such a proponent of the WSU EMBA experience. “If a colleague of mine with a lot of commitments asked about an Executive MBA program, I would recommend the WSU EMBA almost exclusively. Actually, I have done this several times already, and my physician colleagues who enrolled have thanked me for the recommendation. The WSU EMBA program is well situated for professionals like myself, combining substantial flexibility and a comprehensive education with an efficient virtual classroom.”

Jasser said he applies his WSU education regularly to meet the demands that come with overseeing more than a million patient visits each year. “Life as a CEO in healthcare is very challenging, dynamic, and never boring. The landscape is changing day by day and my EMBA education has been instrumental in providing me the knowledge and understanding to conquer the never-ending challenges that I face on a day-to-day basis. My day-to-day activities can be as basic as leading a senior leadership team meeting to dealing with the contentious negotiations of a multimillion-dollar contract. It just depends… Balancing a budget, planning for long-range financial growth, market strategy, and network alignment are all part of my responsibilities, and every given day is different. The challenges never cease, and the changing environment makes it that much more interesting. Regardless of what I face on a day-to-day basis, I consistently rely on the experience and education my Executive MBA provided me.”