2016 Best EMBAs: Linda M. Liau, UCLA (Anderson)

Linda Liau UCLA

Linda M. Liau, MD, PhD

UCLA Anderson School of Management

“True leadership is much more about ‘we’ than about ‘me’.”

Age: 49

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Family Members: Marvin Bergsneider, M.D. (husband); Brandon Bergsneider (son, age 17); Bianca Bergsneider (daughter, age 14)

Education: Brown University (B.Sc. in biochemistry and B.A. in political science); Stanford University (M.D.); UCLA (Ph.D. in neuroscience)

Where are you currently working? Vice chair, Department of Neurosurgery, UCLA Medical Center

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

2016-present: Executive Committee, American Association of Neurological Surgeons; 2015-present: President, Western Neurosurgical Society (WNS); 2014-2020: Board of Directors, American Board of Neurological Surgery (ABNS); 2015: Local Arrangements Chair, Neurosurgical Society of America (NSA) meeting; 2014-2017: Board of Governors, Stanford University Medical Center Alumni Association; 2013-present: Member, Society of Neurological Surgeons (SNS, “Senior Society”); 2012-present: External Advisory Board, MGH/Harvard NCI Training Program in CNS Tumors; 2012-present: Member, Neurosurgical Society of America (NSA); 2007-present: Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Neuro-Oncology; 2005-present: Castle Connolly’s America’s Top Doctors for Cancer; 2007-present: America’s Top Surgeons; 2007-present: Best Doctors in America; 2009-present: Castle Connolly’s America’s Top Doctors; 2010-present: U.S. News Top Doctors (top 1% in neurosurgery).

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? While in business school, I was elected as the first woman president of the Western Neurosurgical Society (www.westnsurg.org), which is the premier neurosurgical society of the Western United States & Canada.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Developing the first cellular vaccine (DCVax) for brain cancer.

Who is your favorite professor? Prof. Antonio “Tony” Bernardo. He makes complex corporate finance topics very practical and easy to understand.

Favorite MBA Courses? Finance courses — I love the quantitative aspects of finance

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I chose the UCLA Anderson executive MBA program because it is a top 10 EMBA program with a rigorous curriculum taught by high-caliber professors.

What did you enjoy most about business school? I enjoyed meeting new people with very diverse backgrounds and experiences. The teamwork and camaraderie with my classmates and peers is what I enjoyed most.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? The biggest lesson I gained from business school is the importance of personal relationships and teamwork. True leadership is much more about “we” than about “me”.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? To me, the most surprising thing about business school was how different it is from medical school and graduate school. In medical school and graduate school, students are rewarded for individual abilities and achievements. In business school, the emphasis is much more on working together in teams and helping your team succeed.

What is your best advice for juggling work, family and education? Just do it! There’s no way to plan ahead for how to juggle everything, so it is best to just jump in with two feet and live in the moment.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your executive MBA program? The UCLA Anderson executive MBA program is truly a life-changing experience. It gives you a “different worldview.”

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when …” I first went to a UCLA Anderson information session and saw how passionate the students were about their MBA program.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be …” Hitting the glass ceiling at my current position as vice chair (rather than chair) of my department. Going to business school has allowed me to grow in the areas that I needed to develop in order to move ahead with my career goals.

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? Meg Whitman. She has very impressive academic and business credentials, and is a true inspiration for women leaders. Also, she’s married to a neurosurgeon (Dr. Griffith Harsh IV). Being married to a neurosurgeon is much harder than being one yourself.

What are your long-term professional goals? My long-term professional goals are to become chairman of a major academic department of neurosurgery, and then eventually become a dean of a medical school, director of a cancer center, or CEO of a major academic medical center.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My family. Without the love and support of my husband and children, I would not be able to go back to school at this age.

Fun fact about yourself: I was not able to afford medical school when I graduated from college. So, in order to pay for medical school, I obtained a California real estate license and sold houses each summer in order to pay my medical school tuition. I was able to finish medical school at Stanford debt-free

Favorite book: The Great Gatsby

Favorite movie: The Big Short

Favorite musical performer: Celine Dion

Favorite television show: “Grimm”

Favorite vacation spot: Lanai, Hawaii

Hobbies? Brain surgery

What made Linda such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“I first heard about Linda Liau, M.D., Ph.D. from reading an article about her in UCLA Health. The article tells the story of her standing outside the neurosurgical operating room talking with her husband, also a neurosurgeon, about who was going to pick up their two kids after school. Her spouse mentions he has a meeting to attend, to which Dr. Liau responds by jabbing her thumb over her shoulder toward the operating room responding, ‘Yes, but I have a brain surgery to do.’ Who knew that five years later, I would be interviewing Linda Liau, M.D., Ph.D. for the executive MBA program at UCLA Anderson. The mother of two teenagers, spouse of a neurosurgeon, first woman president of a premier neuroscience organization and developer of the first cellular vaccine for brain cancer as shown on YouTube … Linda is also a member of the EMBA Class of 2016!

“Linda is a dream-come-true for an admissions director. She graduated magna cum laude from Brown University at the age of 19, with a B.S. in political science and B.S. in biochemistry. When I met her the first time, she told me that after she graduated, she was torn between business school and medical school. But her love for the science and discovery of medicine rose to be her first choice as her mother was diagnosed with cancer at the time. Linda believed as a physician she would have the biggest impact on her mom’s life and the lives of others. She knows the value of a mentor in our lives — for while at Stanford, Linda met a female neurosurgeon who inspired her to pursue a career in the male-dominated field of neurosurgery. During her residency, her mom sadly passed away from metastatic cancer to the brain. Her death influenced Linda to complete a Ph.D. degree in molecular neuroscience in order to learn more about that disease.

“In a field dominated by men, Linda’s reputation as a surgeon and scientist is international. She thrives on defying stereotypes and tackling the most challenging surgical problems. Over the past 20 years, she has made her mark as a pioneering scientist by developing new techniques to safely remove brain tumors in regions of the brain previously deemed to be inoperable. Consequently, she receives referrals of brain tumor patients from all around the world.

“The EMBA program at UCLA Anderson has a leadership curriculum as a part of the core. As a neurosurgeon-scientist, Linda has brought a combination of leadership traits into the EMBA classroom; in honesty, intelligence, and decisiveness, which are considered “absolutely essential,” Linda has modeled these among her classmates. Our reputation at UCLA Anderson is that we are a school of intelligence, not arrogance. Linda is the epitome of this tradition. Her classmates refer to her humility, eagerness to learn, always being prepared — and always doing her part while representing one of the most important industries of our century, health care — and the innovation and changes happening within it.

“One of the myriad of things that impressed me about Linda early on is that she will do what it takes to reach her goals, i.e., when she was a student in medical school at Stanford, she acquired her real estate license and from the commissions she made selling houses over summer breaks, she paid for her medical school education. As a leader, Linda did what it took to finance her own education — her expectations of herself are what motivate her.

“Linda joined the faculty in neurosurgery at UCLA in the late 1990s. She was the first woman faculty member in the department. Over the past 20-plus years, she has developed a successful career as an academic neurosurgeon-scientist, with over 120 publications in major scientific journals, presentations given to over 50 professional organizations/universities, and numerous patents. Linda is mirroring for all her EMBA classmates that there certainly is room in an organization for strong female leadership with an emphasis on empowerment and collaboration.

“Linda is clearly one of the most extraordinarily talented professionals I have ever met. Because of her unique skills and talents as a practicing board-certified M.D. neurosurgeon with an international referral practice of complex tertiary/quaternary brain tumor cases, as well as a Ph.D. neuroscientist who runs a large multi-disciplinary research program in brain cancer, she has used her years of experience as a physician-scientist to bring new perspectives and diversity to her executive MBA classroom and three study groups she’s be a part of — in fact, she has added value to the entire UCLA Anderson community and the world.

“With these stunning accomplishments, you might expect someone different than the humble, very respectful student we see every other weekend on campus. Linda is the epitome of UCLA Anderson, a professional of intelligence, not arrogance. She is and will continue to be an inspiring leader and incredibly respected in our executive MBA program. Anyone who knows her would agree that she is a valuable addition to the EMBA Class of 2016 at UCLA Anderson.”

Sylvia K Haas
Executive Director
EMBA Program — Admissions
UCLA Anderson School of Management

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