2018 Best EMBAs: Phuong Dinh, Rice University (Jones)

Phuong Dinh

Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University

“An absolute professional, committed to excellent results every time, wrapped in the friendliest of dispositions.”

Age: 40

Hometown: Houston, TX

Family Members: My husband, Thuan, and I have 2 children: Madison (11) and Ethan (9).

Fun fact about yourself: I don’t like cold weather, but I love skiing.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Baylor University, Pre-pharmacy, 1996

The University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy, PharmD, 2002

Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University, MBA, graduation in May 2018

Where are you currently working? I am the Clinical Pharmacy Manager for the Population Health Service Organization at Memorial Hermann Health System.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • Faculty Preceptor with the University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy: Teach and mentor pharmacy students.
  • 2016 Board of Pharmacy Specialties Ambulatory Care Pharmacist Exam Writing Project Writer
  • American College of Clinical Pharmacy Self-Assessment Program 2016 Book 2 (Infection Primary Care II-Hepatitis C) chapter reviewer
  • Lover of my family, food, skiing, running, and Pilates

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud that I stayed true to who I am and completed this challenging program while fulfilling my commitments to my family and work.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am a fan of life-long learning. I am most proud that I have inspired others to seek more education. After seeing me pursue this degree, two colleagues at work have gone back to get their master’s degrees in business and communication/marketing.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Jing Zhou. Professor Zhou has the unique gift of not only being a great negotiator but she can also teach it to others with such simplicity. Her passion for teaching is infectious, and her class was entertaining.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite class was Negotiation. I learned that not every negotiation is a one-shot game and to always look for opportunities to make the pie bigger for a win-win.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? Many pharmacists’ first taste of management is when they are asked to line manage junior colleagues. Managing a small group of motivated professionals is not the most difficult management job in the world. However, if one aspires to run a hospital or a medical department, it is difficult in pharmacy to gain the necessary strategic, financial and ethical decision-making skills that are needed to be effective. Rice University is widely respected among the senior leadership at Memorial Hermann and is known for its business school in the Houston area.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The ability to interact with an amazing array of talented people in different industries.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The biggest lesson I gained at Rice was not to impose my value system on others and try to understand other’s view of the world. It’s far better to listen to people’s wants and desires and help them achieve those than to impose my own. This has helped me gain an objective view on most aspects of work. Instead of forging ahead with my opinion, I remain open to the opinions and thoughts of others, which has allowed some amazing, innovative work.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? Our family ritual every year is to go skiing during spring break, which typically lands in mid-March. Mid-March also happens to be the time of year for mid-terms. The first year, I had two team papers and a finance mid-term all due at the end of spring break, and we had made plans to go to Breckenridge that week.  Because it’s such a peak time of year, travel arrangements are booked 6-7 months in advance and are non-refundable. With an understanding family and team, I managed to ski all day with my family, hold conference calls with my team in the evening, and study for my mid-term late at night.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? The only person you should be in competition with is yourself so help others that need it and do the best that you can.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth is that after a certain age you should not go back to school. I believe there is no perfect timeline and life presents different circumstances for everyone.  For myself, my husband and I try to stagger our careers and I focused on the family while he pursued his MBA. Now it’s my turn to focus on my career!

What was your biggest regret in business school? Because I was trying to juggle family, work and school, I was unable to attend a majority of the networking and speaker events. Quite a few of the events looked very interesting and promising.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Daniel Steward. Dan has a MS in geology with extensive knowledge and experience in oil and gas. He is smart, kind, deeply spiritual, and a big picture guy. I’ve watched him gracefully balance the death of both his parents, school, work and family these past two years with happy optimism.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized during a conversation with leadership that CAPEX meant something other than a shampoo containing Fluocinolone Acetate.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…teaching at a pharmacy school. I love inspiring others not only academically but personally. Nothing makes me happier than seeing someone achieve their potential and knowing I was part of their development.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I would like to leave a positive legacy in health care. I have the unique ability to make a difference in other’s lives and also shape the future of medicine.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? She was a quirky, hard-working, thoughtful colleague who would help anyone in need.

Favorite book: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. I love how Ayn Rand explores the struggle between society and the individual.

Favorite movie or television show: Shawshank Redemption. I love its message to have hope even in the worse of circumstances.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Learn to swim and go to Maldives

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

Phuong, though not the official Class Rep, is one of most highly regarded class leaders in EMBA 2018.

  • From the first week of class, Phuong gathered and distributed every piece of course work due the next class weekend for the core courses. This detailed compilation included the weekend class schedule as well as readings, questions and deliverables for each core course, which was sent out to the entire class for every class weekend across the two years.
  • Another example of her leadership within her class is in providing detailed information to her classmates regarding yellow fever vaccination availability (locations and cost where classmates could access the vaccine) in advance of the Global Forum to Brazil amidst heightened concerns regarding this disease and vaccine shortage.
  • Through the “Optimizing the Future of the Workplace” course with Professor Mikki Hebl, Phuong’s group worked on how to improve the working environment at Memorial Hermann. Her team proposed to the leadership the importance of diversity and inclusion at Memorial Hermann and suggested action steps to improve the organization…and they agreed!
  • Phuong was also awarded the first IREP award (IREP – Integrity, Respect, Excellence, Professionalism). This is an award given to a student that has been nominated by a classmate, and chosen by the IREP committee, that has shown behaviors consistent with IREP.
  • Phuong has been nominated by faculty and staff for the Jones Citizen Award.

George James Andrews III

Associate Dean of Degree Programs

Jones Graduate School of Business

Rice University



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