From the ER to the C-Suite: How a Kelley MBA elevated Dr. Jennifer Hauler’s career

As an experienced emergency and family medicine physician—and a medical director at an emergency center in suburban Ohio—Jennifer Hauler, DO, MBA’16 was adept at making quick clinical decisions. But as her leadership responsibilities grew to include a key administrative role, she realized there were gaps in her knowledge.

“As medical director, I needed to be able to obtain critical equipment to do our jobs properly in the emergency department. To be able to write up a business proposal for a new bladder scanner and present it to the medical executive committee required a different skill set than I possessed,” she said. “It became evident that conversations were occurring where I understood the clinical piece but I didn’t understand the business piece.”

That’s when Dr. Hauler decided to pursue an MBA. She wasn’t necessarily seeking a different position; she simply wanted to do her job better, with a deeper understanding of the business behind the medicine. After carefully researching her options, Dr. Hauler enrolled in the Kelley Business of Medicine Physician MBA Program at Indiana University. The rigorous, relevant curriculum spoke to her.

I didn’t want an ‘MBA lite’ version of a degree; I wanted to know I was going to walk out and be confident in these skills. After speaking with the program director, I really felt confident Kelley could offer that.

Dr. Jennifer Hauler, Vice President of Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer of the Northern Region for Premier Health

Dr. Hauler wasn’t disappointed. She worked while completing the program online and travelling to Indianapolis for monthly residency sessions.

“I use the skills every day,” she remarked.

The insight she gained into financial analysis, accounting, economics, marketing, negotiation and healthcare IT plays a role in every administrative decision she makes. Importantly, Dr. Hauler feels the lessons she absorbed during the 21-month program are now instinctive, helping her confidently solve the challenges that stream in from all directions.

As she tackled more business-focused responsibilities and learned the most effective approaches, Dr. Hauler recognized a paradox between her two fields of study.

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Dr. Jennifer Hauler, DO, MBA'16.  Photo Courtesy: Premier Health.

“In emergency medicine, you have to quickly summarize new information, make a decision and go. You always try to make the best decision at the time. Eventually you may realize it wasn’t a perfect decision, but waiting wasn’t an option, either,” she says. “In hospital administration, you need to step back, confer with colleagues and stakeholders, fully assess all sides of a situation and then make the best choice. I find I must reel myself in a little, pause and learn more about all facets of the problem to fully understand and solve it.”

Understanding all sides of an issue means gaining consensus and buy-in from staff—something many physicians aren’t trained to do in a doctors-call-the-shots clinical environment.

“We must learn to think outside of ourselves,” she says. “It’s no longer only about the physicians and patients; it’s about the healthcare team, which includes physician assistants, nurses, therapists, dietitians and social workers. That team is what’s best for the patient, and that’s been a huge learning lesson I’ve gained from this degree.”

As Dr. Hauler was wrapping up her MBA at Kelley, a chief medical officer position became available at a large healthcare system in southwest Ohio. With her leadership experience and her new degree nearly complete, Dr. Hauler was encouraged by a medical colleague to apply. She attended her last MBA residency session in Indianapolis on a Friday, graduated Saturday and, on Monday, began her job as CMO and vice president of medical affairs for the northern region of Premier Health out of Dayton, Ohio.

“I feel called to this role. I’m more passionate than ever about bedside care, even though I’m not practicing it, because I understand the frustrations and barriers physicians face,” she said. “Now I have this skill set to move these issues forward. My goal is always to make things better for the patient and the physician. To be able to marry my skills and move toward better alignment is at the heart of why I’m here.”

In her new leadership role, Dr. Hauler has come to realize that everything she accomplishes at the health system is through influence and relationships with her staff. With only two direct reports, she must work collaboratively with her staff, inspiring them to help her effect change.

“My biggest takeaway from the MBA and from living the job is the ability to be the influencer, to be a change agent. And I am still learning every day,” Dr. Hauler said.

“I gained a greater focus on simply listening," added Dr. Hauler. "In a negotiations class, we talked about how to approach a problem, look at resistance to it and discover how to garner support. We read The Art of War and discussed the concept of ‘winning the battle before the battle begins,’ which really made an impact on how I approach challenges.”

While it’s been a year since she graduated from the Kelley Physician MBA program, Dr. Hauler says the lessons—and the support from peers and faculty—remain important. A program benefit she has come to value most is the diverse network of physician students, from across the United States, she learned alongside and with whom she continues to engage to resolve problems and celebrate successes.

“Engaging with physicians from a variety of medical specialties and learning from their organizations’ challenges and solutions was incredibly valuable,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many times a classmate has sent an email or text message to ask how someone else is handling a situation or to brainstorm an idea. The Kelley Physician MBA program broadens your circle in ways you wouldn’t believe.”