Health Care UST MBA
Meet Tim Sielaff
I am a hepatobiliary and pancreatic (liver, bile ducts and pancreas) surgeon and president of the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute at Abbott Northwestern Hospital and the Allina Oncology Clinical Service Line in Minneapolis.
Following undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and medical school at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, I trained in surgery and obtained a Ph.D. in the area of cellular engineering at the University of Minnesota, then did fellowship training at the University of Toronto. I worked at the University of Minnesota Medical School, ultimately as an associate professor, before moving to my current position at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, where I have led the development of multidisciplinary organ-specific programs that foster a patient- centered and research-oriented care model.
The clinical practice of medicine is rewarding and challenging, but I saw an opportunity to have a significant impact on a much broader population. A turning point for me was reading Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat. In it, he talks of “mash-ups,” two different skill sets that, when combined, are very powerful. I realized that an M.D. / M.B.A. would be a powerful combination to achieve my goals.
Before I started the Health Care UST MBA program, I was the medical director for the cancer center and worked with hospital and system-wide administrators. It was clear that they had a different language and different skill sets than mine. The approach I took in these interactions was to champion “do the right thing for the patients.” However, at some point, I knew that this would not be a sufficiently compelling argument to get things done. My goal was to become an expert at the language and to learn to use the MBA skill set to ask better questions and answer them more effectively.
An MBA is not right for every clinician. My advice is to figure out what your goals are and what your potential roles might be. You need to be interested in working between the two worlds (clinical and administrative) for it to be the right fit for you. The combination gives you the skills to both advocate with administrators AND articulate the story to clinicians about why change must happen. I’ve found that both clinicians and administrators are equally suspicious of someone trying to play in both worlds, but if you’re interested in leading change, the Health Care UST MBA is a powerful choice.