John Podraza attended medical school at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo under the U.S. Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program. After graduating and completing his residency, John completed a fellowship in neonatal perinatal medicine at the National Naval Medical Center—the President’s Hospital—in Bethesda, Md. He loved the job from the start, but quickly started thinking about his long-term career aspirations.
“In the military, I noticed that a lot of the service chiefs and executive officers didn’t tend to have much business training,” says John, who first became interested in medicine when working as an EMT in college. “Many of the higher ups worked their way up through the chain of command, and there is something tremendous to be said for that. For me, I started thinking early in my career about pursuing more training than just on-the-job training.”
The Search for the Right MBA Program
Although John knew he would like to pursue an MBA, he felt that one with a healthcare focus would benefit him the most. An online program was also a must. “I knew that as a really busy physician who works 80 hours a week that I could never get an MBA in person,” he says. “I spent a lot of time researching healthcare-focused master’s programs, and discovered that American Sentinel was the only MBA Healthcare out there.”
American Sentinel’s support of military students was an added bonus. “They accepted TA benefits and offered discounted tuition and book scholarships,” he says. “It was a total win, and I knew it was the school for me.” John started at American Sentinel in 2008.
Making it All Work
John is an attending staff of pediatrics and neonatology at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center—where he did his fellowship (then called National Naval Medical). He also moonlights a couple nights a month at Johns Hopkins Hospital as an associate staff. 14-hour work days are not unusual.
So how does he fit in school? “It’s not easy,” John admits. “I try to stay very organized and run everything by the clock. My work schedule means I do a lot of school work at night and on the weekends. But American Sentinel’s setup worked for me because it is 100 [percent] self-paced. You set your own schedule, and I couldn’t have made this work without that flexibility.”
New Skills to Augment His Current Ones
As a doctor, business course work has been challenging for John, but definitely worthwhile. “The program pushed me a lot,” he says. “I appreciate the texts and the way they raise business management problems and others issues that I might confront in the future.”
The professors, too, have exceeded his expectations. “All of them have been very good. It is great to read their bios and see that I’m learning from people who have run businesses and earned Ph.D.s. These are impressive individuals,” says John.
Plans for the Future
It’s been a long road with multiple deployments, but John completed his MBA Healthcare in November 2014. He has his sights set high—his long-term goal is to become the CEO of a major healthcare system. An MBA Healthcare, he says, is key to him reaching that goal.
“In the United States, many hospital administrators do not have business education, and we’re seeing more and more that major systems are being run by MBAs without medical experience,” John says. “I believe strongly that the best person for the job, however, is a nurse or a doctor who brings ground-level insight. That whole-picture perspective is so important, and it’s what motivated me to get my MBA Healthcare.”