EMBA Commencement Speaker: Laura Lee, EMBA’23

May 21, 2023

Laura Lee wearing a cap and gownDistinguished members of the Heller School faculty, fellow graduates, dear friends and family, it is my honor and privilege to represent the 2023 EMBA physician cohort.

Dr. Christine Cassel, a renowned pioneer in healthcare quality, who spearheaded the Choose Wisely Campaign among so many other accomplishments, came to mind as I reflected on our shared experience over the last 16 months.

Dr. Cassel stated, “Most of us in medical school were not taught to manage change. In business school, there’s a course people are taught called change management. And you’re taught to be ahead of it. To be with it. That it’s an exciting thing, when things are changing around you. A lot of doctors are saying, ‘Oh my God, what are they doing to us now?’ Feeling like a victim of change, rather than an agent of change.”

Everyone in our class brought different strengths and perspectives to our cohort. The diversity of our class has truly been a gift. One conviction that we share in common, is we will strive to no longer let ourselves, nor our care teams, feel like victims of change.

Thanks to the vision of Jon Chilingerian, whom we will all carry dearly in our hearts, we are now versed in the future of the practice of medicine, sometimes called “system science.” We can now be excited about change, because we have a working knowledge of strategy frameworks, relational coordination, system mapping, medical ethics and public policy.

My late mother, Geraldine Ferraro, mustered a fight against cancer that made her political accomplishments look like a cake walk. She once said, “What are my sources of strength? My husband and my three kids, my health care team, and my religion.”

I doubt she was the only patient to view her health care team nestled between family and religion. I think that humbling honor has made it extremely complicated for many of us to talk about the cost of care. Yet, why do we readily accept that churches, synagogues, and temples all have balance sheets and income statements?

Through our accounting and finance classes, we learned a language that has historically excluded physicians. The lexicon of business and policy is what empowers us, not taints us, to be agents of change.

In theater, one is best positioned to succeed if one can act, dance, and sing. Lacking any one of those skills  limits potential. My EMBA classmates, each of us can now act, dance, and sing on the health care stage. Put another way: We can heal. We can financially problem solve. And we can articulate frontline realities embedded in policy. Our time together catalyzed the rate limiting steps that brought each one of us here.

In closing, I know you will act toward your patients with the same kindness, curiosity, and wonder exhibited in class; you will dance with your colleagues at your home institutions through process improvement, change management, and innovations yet to be imagined; and you will sing. Your voices will be heard in the Gemba, C-suite, and state and federal legislatures. Informed by the Heller School, and largely by each other, we will shape the future of healthcare.