Why Anesthesiologist Vanessa Olbrecht Decided to Earn an MBA

The Council on Foreign Relations estimates that the United States spends approximately $2 trillion per year on health care expenses, so understanding the business side of medicine is increasingly important for doctors and other health care practitioners. With this in mind, Vanessa Olbrecht, a pediatric anesthesiologist and pain physician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, continued her education with MBA@UNC, an experience that she says has given her a “new perspective on medicine.”

In her current role as a pediatric anesthesiologist, Olbrecht cares for patients, oversees trainees and conducts research on a non-invasive device to objectively measure pain in children. "When I’m in the operating room, I am usually supervising two to three nurse anesthetists, residents or fellows," she says. "I am responsible for overseeing clinical activity and making executive decisions about patient care and management."

This go-getting doctor already wears several hats, and MBA courses help her to gain an even broader view of the health care field. “By taking classes in marketing, economics and finance, I have new insight and have been able to begin thinking about the business and economic side of medicine,” Olbrecht explains.

"Many of the examples we discuss in class are related to health care, and given the changing nature of the field of medicine, I feel I am well ahead of my colleagues in terms of understanding these changing dynamics," says Olbrecht.

Olbrecht's prior education focused on science and medicine, so pursuing an MBA also gave her the chance to study leadership, finance, economics and communication—subject areas she hadn't previously explored during college, medical school or residency. "MBA@UNC has provided me with a strong foundation in these areas, which will help me be a successful leader in the field of academic medicine," she adds. "By building my foundation of knowledge, I feel that I will be much better equipped to learn from my experiences in medicine and use those experiences to continue to grow professionally."

Olbrecht says each of her courses have been useful and relevant to her professional life.

"Economics has given me a strong understanding of supply and demand and markets—these concepts can all be broadly applied to medicine and working toward improving efficiency and function. Classes like Developing Management and Leadership Skills and Business Communication have given me formalized tools to be a better leader and communicator, which ultimately allows me to be a better physician, mentor and patient advocate," Olbrecht explains.

One experience that stands out in particular is the final project in Developing Management and Leadership Skills. Students in the course were assigned to develop and write a professional development plan for themselves for the next few years. "As part of the project, we had to sit down and set professional goals for ourselves and map out a specific timeline as well as an action plan with milestones to help monitor our progress," Olbrecht says.

"In my career, I never had to think about my long-term professional goals and how I planned on accomplishing them. In medicine, we are very focused on day-to-day activities, and are not pushed to think about long-term career development. I have my professional development plan in my office and use it as a reference for my overall career progress. It was truly one of the most useful activities we have had to do."

In addition to the knowledge and skills she's gained over the course of the program, Olbrecht says she's also made valuable connections through MBA@UNC. "Networking is one of the most important aspects of obtaining an MBA, and although one would not think it would be possible to network through an online program, that has not been the case at all! The virtual classroom environment and the immersions allow you to meet many interesting people and form wonderful bonds. My classmates have formed quite the team. And, because of the diversity of our backgrounds, we each have something unique to offer," says Olbrecht.

Olbrecht encourages prospective MBA students to strongly consider MBA@UNC. "As an online program, it provides you with tremendous flexibility, but you are not sacrificing any aspect of your education because you are still getting a wonderful, top-notch education," she says. "Although it is a lot of work, the material you will learn and the connections you will forge make this program absolutely worthwhile!" Read more about MBA@UNC students on our blog.