More than a degree: How the Kelley Physician MBA inspires physician business leaders

When he was ready to assume a healthcare leadership role, Wael Azer, DO, MBA’18, didn’t think he needed another degree. The emergency medicine physician already possessed an MD, a DO and an RN—the latter two he earned from scratch after his medical degree from Egypt didn’t allow him to practice in the United States.

No, Dr. Azer didn’t need another degree. But what he sought was more credibility as a leader. He felt he could gain this by earning an MBA.

“I’d moved to Georgia after 14 years in New Jersey, and I accepted a position that would give me opportunity for leadership,” he said. “The system was playing catchup in a lot of areas of business, but they had experienced leadership. I wanted to earn an MBA to provide credentials to the new ideas I presented to them.”

Dr. Azer heard about the Business of Medicine Physician MBA Program at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Even though the school was located three states away, Dr. Azer was attracted to the Kelley reputation and the combination of online learning and monthly weekend residency sessions in Indianapolis. He felt there was far more to learn about business than he’d picked up throughout his medical training.

“As physicians, we don’t learn anything about the business of medicine in medical school. If you follow the news and what’s happening in the medical field, you realize that, without business knowledge, you cannot get by,” he said. “I think previous generations learned the business aspects of healthcare by trial and error, but I thought it would be more beneficial to acquire it through formal education. Each doctor—from small offices to large surgeon groups—needs business information and skill base.”

Another title Dr. Azer gained while working through the Kelley Physician MBA is “entrepreneur.” He has launched two companies: Scribe Company and Vita Fuse. Scribe Company is a service provider that brings together scribes and physicians during patient visits. It’s a company he created with his sister, Rania Aziz, MD, MBA’17, a pediatric anesthesiologist who also successfully completed the MBA program. The scribe transcribes the details of the physicians’ charts into medical records, allowing the doctor to focus solely on examining and treating the patient.

 “This service improves the flow of the ER and improves both the physician’s and the patient’s experience,” said Dr. Azer, who has signed contracts for Scribe Company in large health systems in Georgia.

Using lessons from his marketing class, Dr. Azer further developed a business concept he’d created with alongside another emergency medicine physician, Dr. Alan Medley. He discussed their idea for Vita Fuse during his MBA venture class to gain feedback from his peers, Kelley faculty, and industry leaders. Drs. Azer and Medley have expanded this in-home IV infusion service to include a wide menu of products.

“These business concepts had been on my mind for a while, but I needed the business tools to bring them to life. That’s what I learned at Kelley,” said Dr. Azer. “I learned how to launch a business, how to speak the lingo and how to analyze data. The leadership lessons from my Kelley MBA also were crucial because ideas cannot grow into a business without vision and execution.”

"To learn the theory behind business and then learn how to be an effective leader may seem intuitive, but when you learn the science behind it, it makes a world of difference."

Like many of his fellow alumni, Dr. Azer feels one of the greatest returns on his investment after completing the Kelley Physician MBA Program is the expansion of his peer network around the country. The alumni network includes many years of graduates and two cohorts of current physician MBA students who often intersect during residency weekends and networking events in Indianapolis.

“This means you have access to hundreds of talented people with new ideas. Some already serve as CMOs and CEOs; some are entrepreneurs, and others are looking for new roles,” said Dr. Azer. “All of this creates an amazing ground for growth. I learned more from my classmates than anything else. It’s an incredible opportunity for networking and creating lifelong friendships with the next generation of leaders.”

Dr. Azer is among this next generation of leaders. Six months before completing his Kelley MBA, he was offered the role of emergency room medical director at HCA Healthcare in Waycross, Georgia, one of the largest health networks in the country. Like many physicians, Dr. Azer approaches business much like he approaches medicine—he needs to understand it at the molecular level in order to know how to practice. He says the Kelley Physician MBA Program equipped him to do this.

“Certainly, each MBA course had its own lesson to be gained, but the entire Kelley Physician MBA Program opened up my mind, particularly to leadership and marketing because I was in the middle of launching businesses,” he said. “To learn the theory behind business and then learn how to be an effective leader may seem intuitive, but when you learn the science behind it, it makes a world of difference.”

These business concepts had been on my mind for a while, but I needed the business tools to bring them to life. That’s what I learned at Kelley.