2019 Best EMBAs: Elizabeth Martin, Rutgers Business School

Elizabeth Martin

Rutgers Business School

“Physician, researcher, mom, fact checker, cook, owner of a quirky sense of humor.”  

Age: 37

Hometown: Manasquan, N.J.

Family Members: Roger Estafanos (husband); children, Mark, 6, Felicity, 5, and Andrew, 3.

Fun fact about yourself: I am scared to fly, but I love everything about airports and airplanes. I love watching planes take off and land, the tiny pre-packaged food on planes, and the hustle of getting through the airport.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Fordham University- BA; New York Medical College – MPH; West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine – DO

Where are you currently working? Merck, Clinical Director- Infectious Disease

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I enjoy cooking for friends and family, traveling, and Cross Fit.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of business school? Getting through the finance classes. This is not in my academic wheelhouse and was a huge challenge for me.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am a clinical director in the HIV program and, along with my team, develop and monitor clinical trials. I am proud of the work we do to improve the lives of people living with HIV and I feel privileged to be a part of the cutting-edge science being done at Merck.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Farrokh Langdana, the EMBA program director and our professor of macroeconomics and international trade.  He made the information accessible, relatable, and interesting. Most of all, he got to know each of us on a personal level.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Financial strategy with Dr. Ben Sopranzetti. This course really began to put together the pieces of everything else we had been learning over the previous three semesters. We began to combine those basic fundamentals we had learned with a bigger picture understanding of how to drive decisions in the best interest of the firm.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program?  My husband got his Full-Time MBA from Rutgers Business School about 15 years ago and highly recommended the program. He felt he received an excellent education and it has served him well over the years. I needed a program that was going to provide me a good education at a reasonable price and a convenient location. With the demands of my job and three young children, I could not be flying across the country to attend classes or driving hours to spend a weekend away from home. I also needed to be able to pay for the program without taking out loans, which would not have financially made sense for me. It wasn’t until after I started the program that I realized how lucky I was to also be in a program with such a supportive environment both from the faculty and the other students.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I enjoyed being exposed to a completely new field and being able to apply what I learned on the weekend at my job on Monday.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work?  Sound business decisions require connecting the dots between different disciplines. Drug development requires assessing multiple decision points and not only evaluating the clinical benefit. I now have an appreciation for how the decisions to move forward with a program are made and what my role is in the decision-making process.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education?  As a working mom of three with a husband who often travels for work, this occurs quite frequently. One especially busy week, I had exams coming up on the weekend and my husband was away all week. My kids spent most of those evenings having cereal for dinner and watching cartoons while I studied. After that weekend and life returned to normal, my kids asked, “When can you have an exam again so we can have cereal for dinner every night?”

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Choose a program that will give you the best return on your investment. All programs require a financial investment, but some cost twice as much as others. A more expensive program will not necessarily get you a better position or a significantly higher salary.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? Many people think they should wait until their kids are older. Life with kids is always busy, and it’s just busy in different ways at different ages. Also, you can talk about going to school in a few years, but if you just started now, you’d be done with the degree in a few years.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret from business school is the same regret I have from every stage of my education: “I wish I paid more attention in….”  The truth is that we can only do the absolute best we can every year in every class. It’s impossible to internalize this much information 100 percent. Graduating business school is like graduating from kindergarten. You get some basic fundamentals, and continue to build for the rest of your life after that.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Rojo Mathai, our class president.  He balances his academic responsibilities with his family and even home schools his kids. He always has a very insightful comment or question during class. Most of all, he is great at resolving conflicts and finding reasonable solutions when there is a concern from the students.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I began to understand the different possibilities for career advancement in the pharmaceutical industry and how having a business degree would open up opportunities in areas other than R&D.”  

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To be a Chief Medical Officer and combine my background in medicine and clinical research with my understanding of business to drive company development strategy.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d like to be remembered as witty, but capable and hard-working.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? To see the Northern Lights and to drive across the country.

What made Elizabeth such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“Making the transition from a world of basic science and medicine to a large pharmaceutical company’s research and development department is huge in itself, but then going further to embrace finance, strategy, accounting and statistics is almost overwhelming. Not only has Dr. Elizabeth Martin made these transitions in the Rutgers EMBA program, but she has done so with flying colors. She reports that in her annual review, she was told by senior management that she was “already doing the ultimate in career development.” In fact, even before starting school, Elizabeth was being noticed for just considering doing this program. Shortly after starting the program, Dr. Martin received a promotion and has recently been entered in a management training program that Merck requires prior to moving to the next level. I am betting that they have plans for Elizabeth – BIG plans! I just love all the doctors who enroll in Rutgers EMBA – the Powerhouse.  They are all critical thinkers and they all act as if they are from Missouri, the “Show Me” State! That is, they need to be fully convinced of every aspect of business and economics before they really buy-in, and I am grateful for the robust class discussions that they generate – certainly Elizabeth did. I will never forget the image of Elizabeth at breakfast in the hotel in Shanghai, pouring over the local papers to sift medical fact from fiction from propaganda. “This is one doctor whose brain is churning 24/7.”

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF THE BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBAs OF 2019 or RANKING THE BEST EMBA PROGRAMS IN THE U.S.