2019 Best EMBAs: Leigh-Ann Webb, University of Virginia (Darden)

Leigh-Ann Webb, MD

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

“Problem-Solver. Hard-working team player and lifelong learner who really strives to connect with others.”

Age: 36

Hometown: Appomattox, Virginia

Family Members: B. Cameron Webb (husband and super-dad), Avery Webb (7 year-old daughter and wanna-be influencer), Lennox Webb (3 year-old son, ruler of our home)

Fun fact about yourself: I can sing with my mouth closed. Don’t ask.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Kinesiology, University of Virginia Curry School of Education (2005)

Medical Doctor, University of Virginia School of Medicine (2009)

Where are you currently working?

Assistant Professor, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine

Chief Experience Officer, The Get-Well Company

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Director of the Charlottesville Annual Community Health Fair, Co-director of the Leadership Curriculum for UVA School of Medicine, Darden Student Admissions Committee.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Recently, there was a run-off election between myself and my good friend and fellow physician, Chris Thomson, as peer-voted graduation speaker. Although Chris was chosen, I was asked by our Associate Dean to lead our final class during which we reflected on the amazing journey our class has been on together for the past 21 months. It was a special moment for everyone in the room. It was also in that moment when I realized that many of us could be on the stage giving that speech. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the honor of being part of the amazing Class of ‘19. A proud moment, indeed.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In residency at the University of Chicago, there was a patient who was shot in the chest and was rushed into an affiliated hospital on the West side of Chicago. He was not breathing on his own. We got his heart beating again with chest compressions, but he continued to bleed and we couldn’t figure out what organ was bleeding. We opened his chest using a scalpel and saw blade and exposed his heart and lungs to figure out where the bleeding was coming from then suddenly his heart stopped again. I used the handheld defibrillator (think thin handles with electrode circles on the end) to apply electricity directly to the surface of his heart. We all stared into his open chest as his heart started beating slowly again after I shocked him. I’ve saved quite a few lives with teams but that was the coolest thing I’ve ever done in the ER! I felt an incredible sense of achievement in that moment, and even as I write this! The sense of achievement had nothing to do with technical experience and everything to do walking a tightrope across the canyon of death and ending up on the other side.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? It’s hard to pick just one but now-retired Professor Michael Moore taught the “Economics of Strategy.” The class allowed me to be more critical and thoughtful about value creation and capture as well as long term economic sustainability.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? Having earned two degrees from UVA, I couldn’t resist becoming a triple-Hoo! However, it was both the sense of family and the emphasis on leading with integrity that attracted me to Darden.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Darden provided a truly holistic learning experience. Over the course of the program, I have enjoyed making new memories and lifelong friends both in and out of the classroom.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? The key to my success in business school and in life the past few years has been the support of not only my husband but my entire village, including siblings and my parents and in-laws. I juggled every day, but I was fortunate to never juggle alone. The rubber balls that I dropped bounced back and I still have the glass ones in hand. Juggling looks like this: Trying to exercise, getting kids ready for school, drop-offs, global trips, coordination, day dates with my husband, work in the ER, bedtime, night-classes, dropping the kids off with the grandparents, teaching classes at the medical school, having siblings come to babysit, switching shifts with colleagues, movie nights at home, on-Grounds classes, developing a leadership curriculum, and school work at any point that I could fit it in during the day while being pulled in many directions. Long sentence and even longer days. Juggling was hard but I have a great team and in the end, it was all worth it!

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Take some time to think critically about why you want to enter a specific program and whether it is good timing with your personal life. Be sure to have buy-in from your personal stakeholders before you start!

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? That it’s just like riding a bike. For many of my classmates, this may hold true. For me, I was in a completely different place in life and could no longer disappear into the library for hours on end, which is what worked for me in college and medical school. I needed an updated approach and really learned how to study more efficiently in the first few months of school.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Honestly, I don’t have any big regrets. It has been one of the best decisions of my life. There was one course that I wanted to take and couldn’t make it work. It turned out to be one of the most insightful courses of business school per my classmates. Easily, a first world student problem!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I am going to do a terrible job here describing what an incredible person Steven Neece has proven to be. Throughout business school, he has pushed us as a class. He is easily the kindest, most genuine person to talk to out of the classroom. The insights that I’ve gained in the classroom have been significant. What’s truly remarkable is that he excelled in both our quantitative classes and non-quantitative classes. He shared spreadsheets and insights. He was happy to host numerous study sessions and roundtable talks. There seems to be nothing that he can’t do. He managed to balance work-life better than many of us, including arranging his schedule so that he could attend his daughter’s junior prom. He is a brilliant person and an amazing soul. A true gentleman and a scholar. I speak for many of my classmates when I say that I would work for him in the future should the opportunity present itself. Steve Neece for President (or Professor)!

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized that is exactly what I needed to take my ‘why’ to the next level.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I will continue to practice Emergency Medicine because I love seeing patients and don’t want to lose my technical skill set. However, in the last few weeks of business school, I’ve become more interested in using empathy and innovation to help improve the patient experience. I founded The Get-Well Company to do just that. Ultimately, I would love to grow the company. We want to be the first brand you think of when you need to mobilize a village around a sick loved one.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope to exhibit a great blend of thoughtfulness and seriousness with empathy, happiness, and genuine care for others—an embodiment of the type of business leader we should all aspire to be.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

Learn Spanish. My seven-year-old is fluent—she puts me to shame every day.

Unschool my kids and travel the world for a year with my family!

What made Leigh Ann such an invaluable addition to the class of 2019?

“Leigh-Ann Webb is nothing short of a “phenom.” Not only is she an Emergency Department doctor who specializes in in-flight care, but she also writes stories about her experiences a physician, advocates passionately for diversity and inclusion in healthcare, is branching out as a budding entrepreneur, and is now becoming a Darden GEMBA. Her passions are wide-ranging, yet she excels at everything she touches. Leigh and I share the dream of bringing out the best in healthcare by caring for those professionals who care for others. As the National Academy of Medicine asserts its initiative for improving clinician well-being and patient outcomes, healthcare and business will need to forge a new partnership to develop compassionate healthcare leaders who can effect positive change while navigating the immensely complex challenges of healthcare. Leigh-Ann Webb is sure to be at the forefront of this evolution, if not revolution, in our healthcare system.”

Professor Lili Powell
Associate Professor, University of Virginia Darden School of Business
Kluge Endowed Professor, University of Virginia School of Nursing

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