2018 Best EMBAs: Wyman W. Lai, U.C.-Irvine (Merage)

Wyman W. Lai

University of California-Irvine, The Paul Merage School of Business

I am a non-invasive pediatric cardiologist, and my passion is helping children lead healthy lives.”.

Age: 56

Hometown: San Francisco, CA

Family Members: My wife, Lydia, who is a judge, and 2 children: one is a school teacher and the other is in college.

Fun fact about yourself: I love chocolate.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  • ScB Biology, Brown University
  • MD, Brown University School of Medicine, Program in Liberal Medical Education
  • MPH, Harvard School of Public Health

Where are you currently working? CHOC Children’s, Co-Medical Director of Heart Institute, Assistant Division Chief of Cardiology

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I am currently on the Executive Committee, American Society of Echocardiography; Board of Directors, National Board of Echocardiography; Board of Directors, CHAMPS Childrens Foundation (non-profit involved in pediatric research in China); Board of Directors, and MD1WORLD (nonprofit involved in a humanitarian project in Vietnam). I am also a member of a fledgling MD/MBA Association (formation in process).

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am proud that no one from our cohort dropped out, and all my classmates are on schedule to graduate in a few months. Although we came from a wide range of backgrounds, there is a great deal of cohesiveness in our class.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I have taken care of many children with heart disease and have helped them and their families manage their illness. Many of the children now lead normal lives.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My most inspirational professor was Professor Imran Currim, who taught Marketing. He taught me a different way of thinking—to focus on the customer. He also met with students individually about their future and made it a point to show up at mixers. He inspired me to think of the value of my MBA education outside of the classroom. The friendships that I have made with my classmates will last forever, and my classmates will be great professional resources as well.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? The most helpful course for me was Organizational Behavior. The course made me reassess my working relationships with my colleagues. I didn’t realize this at first, but I needed to learn how to positively affect change in the workplace through a well thought-out and rigorous set of actions.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I chose UCI because it was the only business school that offered a Health Care Executive MBA (HCEMBA) in the area. The program was conveniently organized, and the monthly sessions made sense with my work schedule. It was one of the first Health Care Executive Program in the country, and the program included all aspects of healthcare in the curriculum. The HCEMBA program allowed access to other MBA electives and certificate programs at UCl.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I enjoyed having the chance to learn a new way of thinking. I am trained and I teach medicine. This approach is more deductive. Business allows for creativity as you get to work with people and develop creative ideas and solutions to problems.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I don’t have a successful juggling story. I have had to learn, however, how to prioritize. I am lucky to have supportive colleagues and a very understanding family. I waited until my children were more independent before returning to school.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? An MBA will further your career and provide you with a great professional network. Do it for yourself, but be sure it is something that will fit in with your work and family obligations.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? It’s not that painful to take tests again. There’s not a lot of pressure on you when you’re in mid-career.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wish I could have done more electives, especially in area of entrepreneurship; however, because of UCI’s general audit policy, I plan to audit a number of classes in the future.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? One of classmates is mid-career, and he pulled himself up from difficult circumstances. He had a child early and had to support his family. He has risen within his organization and now is in a position to positively impact the health of many people. He had to juggle his work and family responsibilities, yet he seemed to gain more from his MBA experience than anyone else in our class. He’s going to do a lot of his education.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…the Affordable Care Act passed, and I could not keep up with the changes in the economics of medicine.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…at the beach more.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I don’t have specific goal. I want to help as many children as possible. I think the network that I have developed at the business school will help me do so.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? He was a good guy who always tried to do the right thing.

Favorite book: Born to Run

Favorite movie or television show: Game of Thrones

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  • Traveling to Barcelona with my wife.
  • Doing a safari with my family.

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

“Dr. Wyman L. Lai is a leading, nationally recognized pediatric cardiologist who treats the full spectrum of heart conditions at CHOC Children’s in Orange County, CA. Dr. Lai is an accomplished and well-known expert in pediatric cardiology, although you would not know upon first meeting. He is a humble and caring man. He has developed close relationships with his classmates and peers. He ensures that everyone is involved and everyone is informed. He is one of the cohesive forces in his cohort. He is also very driven; wanting to explore to new areas and pushing himself to think beyond local health. He was one of the only Health Care Executive students who joined other MBA students to a trip in Cuba, where he developed a great relationship with the professor and local leaders to assist in developing a healthcare program or services to the local community. Prior to his trip to Cuba, Dr. Lai also visited Vietnam where he is involved in a nonprofit, MD1WORLD, which is a humanitarian project utilizing a telemedicine platform created by doctors to provide services to local communities internationally. We are very proud of Dr. Lai and his accomplishments. He is truly using his MBA knowledge to change healthcare.”

Tony Hansford

Senior Assistant Dean, FEMBA, EMBA & Health Care EMBA Programs

Nola Wanta

Director, Program Services, Executive MBA Programs


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