How a Kelley Physician MBA is changing the way we think about pregnancy

By: 

A physician chooses her career with a purpose—to improve the lives of others. And sometimes, physicians spot glaring trends that drive them towards making a change for millions of people.

Consider this:

The United States is the only developed country with a rising mortality rate, ranking 56th out of 224 countries. Mothers in the United States are 75 percent more likely to die from complications of pregnancy than in 1995.

Those disheartening facts are what keep Kelley Business of Medicine Physician MBA student Lisa Saul, MD, awake at night.

“I have a specific interest in how we keep women healthy—not just during pregnancy, but also in the preconception phase and as women raise their families,” said Dr. Saul, the president of Allina Health’s Mother Baby Clinical Service Line and a perinatologist with Minnesota Perinatal Physicians.

For more than a decade, Dr. Saul has cared for women whose pregnancies were deemed high-risk. While she’s made a substantial impact on so many women’s lives in Minnesota, she wanted to have a larger influence in the U.S.

“Throughout my medical career, I had always looked at healthcare through a physician’s lens,” said Dr. Saul, who knew in order to inflict wider change she’d need to learn the workings of business. “It was when I recognized this that I decided to pursue an MBA. And with Kelley’s Business of Medicine Physician MBA program, the degree was built for physicians like me.”

In 2016, one of Dr. Saul’s friends made her aware of Square Roots, a mission-driven organization based in New York that focuses on pregnancy health and wellness—a perfect match for the Kelley Physician MBA student.

The skills I’ve learned in the Kelley Business of Medicine Physician MBA Program have been transformative for me.

Lisa Saul, MD, MBA'17

And in the summer of 2016, Dr. Saul was appointed to the Square Roots advisory board, which consists of 22 professionals with backgrounds in healthcare, business, education and politics. The prestigious honor provides the passionate physician an avenue to implement change, in what Square Roots’ describes as a “fragmented” maternal health ecosystem.

“The coursework in the Physician MBA program has real-life applications that can be implemented in my current jobs, and can be applied to Square Roots. Whether in my financial management or law & ethics course, I learned how different regulations and scenarios impacted the day-to-day decisions in a hospital,” Dr. Saul said.

“It’s important that we pay attention to women when they are creating their families,” explained Dr. Saul. “During this time, they are paying attention to their health because they have a human life growing inside of them.”

Dr. Saul says women who begin healthy habits during pregnancy are more likely to carry those habits over and influence their families, producing lifelong benefits.

To this end, Square Roots launched Birth 40™, described as a 4-year initiative to improve pregnancy outcomes within communities while empowering local governments to take ownership over the health of expectant mothers and their newborn babies.

“The goal of the Birth 40™ initiative is to establish groups of women, who are pregnant during the same time, and demonstrate what the support of the community can do to boost the overall wellness of a community of pregnant women,” explained Dr. Saul.

Soon after the announcement of Birth 40™, a pilot program was started in Natchez, Mississippi, a city located 90 miles southwest of Jackson.

“Calling attention to this issue and including the organizational and governmental structures within the city shows how much of a village it truly takes for health and wellness to be embedded into a community,” said Dr. Saul.

The Birth 40™ initiative is still in its beginning stages, but Dr. Saul says it will be expanding across 40 cities in the U.S. As a Kelley Business of Medicine Physician MBA, Dr. Saul knows the power she holds in shaping a healthier life for families all across the world.

“As I contemplate my role with Square Roots, and I think about what we will be doing in our cities, I’m looking at it through a very different lens today than I would have before starting the Physician MBA program.”