2018 Best EMBAs: Katherine Mansalis, U.C. Berkeley (Haas)

Katherine Mansalis

U.C.-Berkeley, Haas School of Business

“I’m an MBA student, a veteran, a family physician and a mother of three toddler boys. 

Age: 39

Hometown: Pontiac, Michigan

Family Members: Ben (spouse), Connor (6-year-old son), Caleb (4-year-old son), and Ari (2-year-old-son), Ghost (our German Shepherd)

Fun fact about yourself: I have white water rafted on the Nile and the Amazon.

Undergraduate School and Degree: BS, Biochemistry, United States Air Force Academy; MD, Albany Medical College, Albany, NY.

Where are you currently working? Integris Medical Group and Great Plains Family Medicine Residency, Oklahoma City, OK.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: College: Starting fullback and CIC (“cadet in charge”) for the top-ranked USAFA Women’s Rugby team.

Medical School: Social Chair for the Class of 2008, planning networking and morale events; volunteer provider at Koinonia Primary Care, a free clinic for underserved patients in the West Hill area of Albany NY.

Residency: Chief Resident in the DoD’s largest Family Medicine residency program.

Currently: Member of the 401 Project, a group of parents of children with MECP2 Duplication syndrome—a rare genetic condition my oldest son is afflicted with—partnering with medical researchers working on cures.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of the very strong connections I’ve made with most members of my class. We are all so different and come from such a wide variety of backgrounds, but I have made true connections with many of them on a personal level and learned a lot from that experience.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I designed and implemented the first Physician Wellness Program at the Department of Defense’s largest medical center, to help struggling residents and colleagues suffering from professional burnout, an epidemic among physicians.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Lucas Davis was one of the first professors I had, and he taught our Data and Decisions class; his teaching style was enthusiastic, positive, and engaging. It was clear that he loves this part of his job. Andy Rose taught Macroeconomics in the Global Economy and is just a world class guy. He has a very dry sense of humor, is super bright, and able to keep control of the classroom while still making a very dense subject approachable and fun.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Our immersion weeks have been some of my favorites so far, and the latest one focusing on Entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley was really eye opening. Meeting the founders and early employees at a number of SV companies – and hearing about their journeys, successes and failures – really felt like peeking behind the curtain. To see how companies are built and grown from just an idea was really inspiring.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? The Berkeley Haas culture of service, focused on impact economics and global change leadership attracted me. I was sold once I met some alumni and current students at a networking event. Their energy and enthusiasm for the program was unmatched at any other place.
What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I really love being a student again. It keeps me young! I enjoy the after-hours social events, getting to know my cohort better on a personal and professional level, and hearing in every block about classmates who have already leveraged the network or gained knowledge from the program to get to the next level in their professional life. It’s really exciting.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The culmination of our first block was a class called Leadership Communications and it focused on finding your voice as an authentic leader. In my professional life working with resident physicians and with patients and families, one of my most important jobs is being able to communicate with empathy and authenticity. I need to gain people’s trust in a short period of time so I can help them make the best decision about how to approach their illness and find a path through it that is true to their wishes.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? My six year old son has a rare genetic syndrome and because of this has many special medical needs. He had his first seizure when I was traveling to block. I was in the air when it happened and when I landed in SFO I had a text from my nanny that Connor had a seizure. I thought hard about getting right back on a plane and flying back home. I stayed in the airport, called my husband home from work to check on the kids, and talked through everything with him. He encouraged me to stay at block and that he would make sure Connor was OK. The next day, I had to step out of class for an hour to FaceTime with the neurologist while she was examining Connor and helping us decide what to do about starting medications. The professor was incredibly understanding and my classmates were an unbelievable pillar of support for me. My husband was more than willing to take up the extra slack at home so I could be present for the next few days at school. Without all three of those things being in place (and there have been many other times throughout the program for me and for other classmates, who also have had challenges during the program), this wouldn’t be possible.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? I thought it might be difficult getting back into the mindset of studying and being a student again, with homework and quizzes and tests and projects, but it’s been a blast.

What was your biggest regret in business school? No regrets yet!  I always wish that I had more time to really delve deep and learn some of the stuff that is really new to me (especially the finance topics), but we need to move quickly to cover a lot of material. It’s amazing how much I’ve learned in such a short time, but I am a bit of a perfectionist so it’s tough to give up the chance to get an expert level knowledge of a subject if I’m given the chance.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? One of my closest MBA friends is another working mom, Marisa Mitchell. She works in the clean tech industry and is one of the hardest working people I’ve met who still manages to be outrageously fun to hang out with. She’s brilliant, energetic, empathic, and funny—and is going to change the world.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I was looking ahead to my life after the military and I knew I wanted to start over doing something completely new. I felt like this was a door I needed to walk through to start my professional life anew.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…wishing I had! I would be working full time as a faculty in a residency program and/or a hospitalist. Both of those jobs are incredible privileges and afford me great opportunity but I’m ready to be doing something new.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to change the way that everyone interacts with the “healthcare system,” from patients and families to doctors. I have been practicing for 10 years, and I know there is a better way to help people get and stay healthy while providing equal access to care for everyone regardless of employer sponsored health insurance. Because of my son’s medical needs, I have  been on the patient side much more than I ever wanted to and can say that the experience there is generally awful. Private insurance has to go and what replaces it needs to be clinically appropriate, economically feasible, and compassionate to everyone involved.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d most like to be remembered for my sense of humor and ability to bring people together for work AND play.

Favorite book: Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged

Favorite movie or television show: TV: Arrested Development

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Teach my son Connor to walk
  2. Finish my pilot’s license

What made Kate such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

As an associate director of admissions for the Working Professionals Programs at Berkeley Haas, I read hundreds of applications every year.  Unfortunately, given the volume of work and my aging memory capacity, most of these files don’t stay with me for very long.  Kate’s is a very different story; I can still clearly remember the awe I felt in reading her accomplishments as a female physician in the military but also as the mother of a severely disabled child. She was immediately a clear “admit” for our admissions committee (one of our rock stars), but we wondered if she would actually bite the bullet and enroll given all she already had on her plate.

I recall thinking that there was no way that I or any of my colleagues could ever take on the additional work and stress of an intensive graduate program if we were trying to balance a professional and family workload like Kate’s. Kate, however, never even blinked.  She immediately accepted our offer and has never failed to “bring it,” as more than one of her classmates has told me on numerous occasions.  Even amongst some of the toughest critics in this EMBA cohort, Kate is universally recognized as a top performer and beloved friend.  She is always prepared for class, makes astute and relevant contributions, and never sports any kind of ego. It is obvious to even a casual observer that Kate is admired for her intellect but also for her genuine kindness and authenticity.  She is the embodiment of our Defining Leadership Principles.

In addition to her contributions in the classroom and on a personal level with her cohort, Kate has volunteered her time and insights to recruit other bright and qualified women to Berkeley Haas. This past year, I organized an effort to expand our women’s outreach and recruiting. I asked for volunteers from the EMBA class to provide their feedback on our current process and the future direction we should pursue. The group of women met for happy hour after finishing class on a Friday afternoon. Of course, Kate was one of the first to agree to participate and provided truly valuable insights around the recruiting of female physicians. But my most vivid memory of that meeting will be the Facetime call between Kate and her son Connor, who was missing his mom. Without skipping a beat, Kate switched to “mom” mode, allaying Connor’s anxiety and assuring him she’d be home soon. She then turned the phone around and introduced all of her friends to her son so he would feel that he was included in her school experience. She made the transition with such ease that we were all left marveling at her grace and calm. It was clear to us all that Kate is a special person who is uniquely suited to handle all of the professional and personal challenges she has in her life.

We have a number of medical professionals in the Berkeley Haas MBA for Executives program, many of whom, like Kate, have the ultimate goal of transforming our current healthcare system.  There is no doubt in my mind that Kate not only has the intellectual capacity to be at the cutting edge of that revolution but also the drive and determination to make it happen.  She is truly one of the best and the brightest and is most deserving of this honor.”

Liz Rosenberg
Associate Director, Admissions
MBA Programs for Working Professionals

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