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Physician earns executive MBA at ASU to work on a better health care system

W. P. Carey School of Business Outstanding Grad juggled family, career, school

April 26, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement. 

Chizoba Ngwube has spent years helping patients, but over time, she realized that she could help heal the health care system as well.

Ngwube, a family physician and hospitalist for Banner Health, just completed an executive master’s degree in business administration at Arizona State University. She was named the outstanding graduate student for the spring semester by the W. P. Carey School of Business.

“Over the years of my clinical practice, I have seen pretty much on a daily basis the interactions between the different players in the U.S. health care system — administrators, different government bodies, insurance companies, providers and, of course, our patients,” said Ngwube, who is originally from Nigeria.

“Sometimes, the interests of these various groups align and sometimes they don’t, and when you see misalignments, regulations and policies that impact our patients and the providers unfavorably  sometimes arise," she said.

"Some of these contribute to the United States' health-care outcomes, keeping us behind some other nations, despite having the best economy in the world.”

Chizoba Ngwube, a family physician and hospitalist, just completed an executive MBA at ASU and has been named the outstanding graduate for the spring semester by the W. P. Carey School of Business.

“As a clinical leader who advocates for what I believe in, I began to see the need for me to see the business side of medicine,” she said.

“Medical school only taught the clinical side of medicine, and for me to better understand that business side and the interests of the various groups at play, I decided to come to ASU and get the knowledge I needed to become a more impactful leader, and to be a bridge between clinicians and patients and the policymakers and administrators on the other side.”

Ngwube said she was able to use what she learned in the classroom immediately as a physician.

“The leadership and management courses really drilled into how to tackle adaptive challenges, which are rampant in the health care industry,” she said.

“In my workplace I had the opportunity to use some of the tools I picked up from those leadership courses and we’ve been able to change processes and even some values, which is very difficult to do.”

So how does a full-time physician with a family also earn a graduate degree? The classes for the EMBA, a 21-month program, meet twice a month on Fridays and Saturdays.

“It was crazy,” said Ngwube, who worked weekends to make up for her class time. Her husband also works full time, so sometimes her kids came to team discussions with her.

“I packed all manner of things for them because I thought we would be very late,” she said. “The funny thing is, they loved it and would say ‘Are we going to your school today?’

“On the whole, the school schedule, my family support and an understanding workplace made it feasible.”

Ngwube answered some questions from ASU Now:

Question: What was one thing you learned in your classes at ASU that changed your perspective?

Answer: I have always known that data analytics is a powerful tool in every industry and business in the world today, but getting down to the nitty-gritty of how it really works blew my mind away. I began to see many more untapped opportunities in the data we have thus far and other sorts of data that can still be obtained to assist us to understand human behavior better and hence, make better predictions. I’m talking about opportunities to improve health outcomes and to do a better job with cost containment. We are advancing but there is much more to be done. The intelligence from data analysis creates a treasure trove of limitless possibilities in health care.

Q: What advice would you give to those considering pursuing an EMBA?

A: It’s worth it because I haven’t seen many other programs that give you the opportunities the EMBA gives you when it comes to interacting and learning from other industry leaders. It widens your perspective lenses you use in analysis and decisions.

Q: What was your favorite spot for studying and why?

A: My favorite spot on days I was not at work was the Starbucks close to my home. Personally, I love to read in an environment that has some level of noise and music at the same time. In my home office it’s very quiet. Also, my little spot in class became like a little home. We all sat in the same seats every time and it became a comfort zone all through our stay.

Q: If you had $40 million to solve one problem, what would you tackle?

A: I have seen the effect of various social disparity elements on the ability for many children and young adults to get the level of education they desire in various parts of the world. Sometimes this involves poverty, disabilities, social norms and values, lack of inspiration stemming from limited mentors, etc. I grew up in Nigeria and I did see the effects, in some parts of Nigeria. Having traveled to other parts of the world, you see similar situations.People are becoming more and more aware of the value of education. People are interested in chasing their dreams through education but are still tied down by some of these factors.

 I will therefore love to use the $40 million given to me to strategize and work toward eliminating disparities in education, ensuring equal access to all levels of education. This would not exclude vocational training. My EMBA class trip to Switzerland created an awareness of how powerful the use of vocational training can be in an economy.

In summary, I would use the $40 million to achieve equal access to education and training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations.

Top image by Pixabay

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