2018 Best EMBA: Sanford Littwin, University of Pittsburgh (Katz)

Sanford Littwin

University of Pittsburgh, Katz Graduate School of Business

“I am a resourceful, self-aware, pragmatic person who is sophisticated, articulate and imaginative. Enough said.”

Age: 47

Hometown: New York, New York

Family Members:

Wife: Susan; Sons: Sam age 12, Simon age 9; Dog: Sterling age 18 months; Cat: Felix age 3-1/2 (yes the only house member not to have an “S” name)

Fun fact about yourself:

  1. I was on the anesthesia team that did President Clinton’s heart operation.
  2. I weighed 2lbs 4oz when I was born.
  3. I was voted most likely to sell drugs in high school and get rich doing it. (Not far off from my day job…)

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Wheaton College, Norton MA. BA in biology, Minor in chemistry and philosophy

Tulane University Medical School. MD degree, New Orleans, LA

Residency: Anesthesiology-Stanford University Department of Anesthesiology

Fellowship: Columbia University Department of Anesthesiology-Cardiothoracic; Pediatrics (by way of examination)

Where are you currently working? UPMC Presbyterian and Montefiore Hospitals – Clinical Director of Operating Rooms

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  1. William Warring Award for Pediatrics (Tulane Medical School)
  2. Teacher of the Year Award (Attending anesthesiologist St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals)
  3. Member, Hospital Executive Committee, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital
  4. President of cooperative board, 1200 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY
  5. Medical mission work, last mission-Dominican Republic

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am very proud of how, as group, we have learned from each other. It is why I chose this program and it is what made it the right choice. I am pretty proud of re-learning Statistics, and the many other courses that I had not much, if any, exposure to during my college and medical school years. I am also very proud to be nominated for this award. It is the cherry on top of 10 months of grueling work with 9 more months to go. It is definitely a boost in my determination to finish strong.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The teaching awards I have received mean the world to me. They are the fruits of the labor of love for my profession; a tangible affirmation that what I pass on makes a difference. I have a quote that I give to my residents each year and expect them to always work toward it. “I want them to become, the anesthesiologists’ anesthesiologist.” If (when) someday I look up and have to count backwards, I hope the person whom I am looking up at is someone I trained well. Educating the future is by far the best part of us that we can pass on.

The other part of my professional life that makes me proud of what I do is the mission work. Helping people in need that would otherwise not benefit from the advances we take for granted every day in the society we live and thrive in.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Although not over, so in fairness to the rest of the semesters, I am picking without full knowledge of all the courses. Sara Moeller’s course on Finance was phenomenal. Her teaching style makes the information come to life. Understanding the foundations of the financial system, valuation, capital budgeting and how stocks are valued is exactly what I hoped to learn from my MBA program. I learned to better appreciate the financial and business problems of running a major medical institution and, more importantly, how to put these skills to immediate use.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I chose the Katz MBA program because it has an excellent reputation, had a program focused on healthcare management and mixed classes with independent work and study groups. The program enabled me to juggle an extremely demanding work schedule as well as remain an active parent and husband. The program offered top quality classes with top faculty and complementary online and group work.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I surprised myself by actually enjoying coming back to a lecture hall and setting my brain to work on problems I hadn’t thought about in more than 20 years (if ever). I enjoyed the camaraderie of my classmates, and I enjoyed meeting and learning from so many excellent professors.

On the more personal side, I enjoy most being told by my two sons “No offense dad, but if I was allowed to take your MBA class I would get a better grade than you” and “if you need more math help (for Stats), you can come to my school and start over.”

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? I have learned to critically evaluate current and potential programs and processes. While I have very strong clinical skills and could make important and useful changes to clinical programs, my experience in finance, scaling programs, and management was not as strong. The MBA program has provided me with so much information and the ability to incorporate all aspects of a hospital system into my vision for my organization.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I gave my wife a level-4 membership to Nordstrom, talked my kid’s teachers into giving them more homework than I would get on a daily basis, and gave family loads of bribes for future events that bought me a few extra hours of time to study. And the real story is…

I wake every weekday morning at 4:40 am, and I am at work by 5:50. When time permits, I sit in a small alcove near the ORs and open my books. I spend every waking moment either dealing with some irate surgeon, problematic patients or class problems that often make me want to cry. The hours don’t end at five; I stay late most nights to get a few hours of reading in after work. Home late, quick dinner, and bed. I put in the work, because I’ve set myself a goal. My family is understanding and my wife is amazing. She takes the kids to soccer tournaments all over the east coast. I’ve missed almost all, but know in 9 more months it will all be worth it.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Do it. It is the absolute best way to incorporate what you learned from your past experience and will put academic underpinning and structure to your everyday routine. You will understand the “why” behind all your work, and you’ll do it better. Your MBA program will help you shape your understanding of complex systems and situations and you will make better and more effective choices in your work and career development.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? How hard can it be? You’ve made it through college (or graduate school already). It’s harder! It’s intense. It’s fast-paced. The subject matter is not familiar. Going back and getting my MBA is akin to diving off the high diving board when I was pretty expert on the low board. This is much more a game changer; a new perspective on how school will change you and your ability to conduct business when you are done.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I do regret not doing this a bit earlier in my career. It’s a double-edged sword; it is good to already be grounded in your career, and it helps to bring all your practical experience to an MBA, but it is also good not to let too much time go by between the end of your last academic year and your MBA.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? A very loaded question because I can’t think of a class that is closer and more cohesive than ours. I get value from each of my classmates and hope that I can give them a fraction of what they give me. I do have a rock in the class. She is my “class wife,” Ms. Corrie Berk, whose intellectual and emotional companionship are an inspiration to me.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…it became clear that my career advancement required a better understanding of all areas of business.”

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…less capable of advancement in my career.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To utilize my substantial knowledge of the operational side of medicine and to grow this into leading a healthcare organization into the 22nd century. I hope to use good business practices and technology advances to supplement and improve direct care to individuals, to make medicine cost effective, while maintaining the highest quality patient care as possible. Likewise, I believe my degree will open-up new business avenues to watch for and incorporate the technologies that come down the intellectual highways and align those that are ready with medicine and its practice today.

On the broad front of healthcare reform, I would like form a strategic group to encapsulate the seemingly disparate sides of medicine-hospitals, insurance organizations, and pharmaceutical industry into a viable, sustainable and quality-oriented delivery device to tackle how we provide care to everyone.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As a person with trenchant wit, who is sardonic, satirical, who brought to class (and the program) effort and fortitude that has made each of them proud to get to know me and to have helped create dynamic environment where we all learned from each other.

Favorite book: Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, by Robert Wright

Favorite movie or television show:

  1. Shawshank Redemption
  2. Princess Bride
  3. MASH and Cheers, loved the shows and how they made me want to explore both medicine and human interactions.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Climbing to Everest Base Camp, and perhaps a few other peaks
  2. Be the star of a TV comedy called “sleeping with Sanford” I think you can see the irony in this…

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

“Sanford has a thirst for knowledge and a desire to make the world a better place – combinations that create great leaders in the healthcare field. The Katz-UPMC Executive MBA in Healthcare is about envisioning the future and developing the plans for how to get there. Sanford helps us achieve this vision – he is about the future while leading today. In class, Sanford is a true leader – he listens and asks tough questions challenging the status quo. He is also the first one to put up his hand when asked “Who wants to go to happy hour!” It is this combination of seriousness and fun-loving that has made Sanford and invaluable member of the class.”

William T. Valenta, Jr.
Associate Vice Provost for Professional Programs
Assistant Dean MBA & Executive Programs, Katz Graduate School of Business

“We are writing this letter in joint support of Sanford Littwin’s nomination for the best and brightest MBA students. Dr. Littwin is a student in the Executive (Healthcare) MBA program at the Katz School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh and is an Associate Professor and a full-time faculty member in the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

In August of 2016, Dr. Littwin joined UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh. As the Clinical Director of Operating Rooms, he has the demanding job of organizing the clinical schedules and daily running of the ORs in the main university hospital.

Dr. Littwin is an excellent clinician and has more than 10 years of managerial experience. The changing environment in medical institutions requires an in-depth understanding of business practices. Dr. Littwin understands the importance of obtaining his MBA to advance his career in medical management.

At the start of his tenure in the department, we mapped out a plan to help him obtain his MBA. Despite a rather grueling work schedule, which starts at 6:15 am and often ends late in the evening, he has set clear goals to obtain his MBA degree, while he continues to maintain excellence in his job performance. He takes care of the areas sickest patients, is a resource to his colleagues, and has been able to maintain outstanding academic record in his MBA program.

Sanford also continues to publish both book chapter and journal articles and to help foster the education of residents. As clinical lead educator for the Anesthesiology residency elective “Perioperative Business Rotation,” he is responsible for demonstrating the importance of effective dynamic operating room and staff management in a complex surgical services environment, adding tremendous value to the rotation’s management training.

Dr. Littwin is a rare example of a leader who can balance tireless efforts to enhance his leadership skills, and advance his career, while never sacrificing his commitment and dedication to providing the highest level of quality care to our UPMC patients and our community. We strongly support his nomination, and believe he will bring great credit to the University and the Katz program. We further believe he is destined for continued success in new leadership roles in the future.”

Marshall W. Webster, MD
Interim Chair
Department of Anesthesiology
Senior Vice President, UPMC

Mark E. Hudson, MD
Executive Vice Chair
Department of Anethesiology

“It is with great pleasure that I submit this nomination for DR. Sanford M. Littwin in support of his nomination to the Class of 2018: The Best Executive MBAs. I have had the privilege of working with DR. Littwin over the past eight months developing objectives and a solid foundation for anesthesia quality and efficiency reporting. During this short period of time, it has become clear that he has the passion and drive to improve quality in the operating rooms at UPMC.

His abilty to manage his role professionally while comopleting the MBA program is impessive.

It has been an honor and privilege to work with Dr. Littwin. I highly recommend and support his nomination to the Class of 2018: The Best Executive MBAs.”

Tami Minnier
Chief Quality Officer, UPMC

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF 100 BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBA GRADS OF 2018