2019 Best EMBAs: Autumn Orser, Indiana University (Kelley)

Autumn Orser, MD, MBA

Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Business of Medicine Physician MBA Program

“Hard-working, loyal, sincere, adventurous.”

Age: 39

Hometown: Alamosa, CO

Family Members: Husband—Michael, Daughter—Andorra (age 14 months)

Fun fact about yourself: I run in llama races.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Brigham Young University—BS in Biology; University of Colorado School of Medicine—MD

Where are you currently working? Peak Vista Community Health Centers, currently working as Director of Medical Services and will transition to Vice President of Medical Services May 2019.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Hiking, rock-climbing, kayaking, UCHealth Pediatric Multi-Specialty Peer Review Committee, CUSOM Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, AAP-CO Pediatric Advocacy Action Team, State Innovation Model Physician Champion, Children’s Hospital Colorado Physician Relations Advisory Board

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Giving birth to my first child and surviving the woes of being a first-time parent, while maintaining my grades, implementing principles and lessons learned from business school to my everyday work, and transitioning to a new position. Wheh! We survived!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Using Lean Six Sigma principles to revamp our immunization documentation process, which has led to fewer errors, increased team-member satisfaction, and a potential cost-savings of over $100,000. I was able to incorporate principles from multiple MBA courses while working on this PI project, including leadership, conflict resolution, negotiation, operations management, and finance (I even had to do my own ROI since a resource from our finance department wasn’t readily available). It was really amazing to take lessons learned from the entire MBA program and make a difference in the way we deliver care to our patients.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Ken Carow, executive associate dean of faculty & research and professor of finance. Dean Carow has a fantastic way of taking complex materials and making them understandable, without “dumbing down” the content.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? The insights gained in Leadership and Ethics have been transformative in my ability to lead and influence others in the field of healthcare. Successful business hinges on relationships—notably our ability to nurture and leverage those relationships. I now approach every encounter from that vantage point and the results have been astonishing.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? The hybrid learning model. I gained the ability to 1) learn content online and asynchronously in the midst of a very demanding schedule mixed with 2) residency sessions every month. This allowed a fantastic group of students from across the country and outstanding faculty to come together to really solidify the material.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? My classmates. I’ve been blessed to learn alongside incredible leaders in the healthcare industry, who have taught me as much or more than the professors (and the professors are excellent, so that’s saying something).

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? You can’t make a real difference if you’re putting out fires all the time. Enable others to put out fires so that you can focus on the bigger issues like vision, strategic growth and partnerships, team-building, and corporate culture.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? Having a baby while obtaining my MBA was not easy. Multi-tasking was key. I would watch video lectures or read articles while breastfeeding and listen to books while driving around town running errands. The baby might as well be getting a degree with me since she’s been exposed to all the content!

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Do it. I initially thought business school would be about accounting and finance, balance sheets, and ROIs. But it has been so much more! The courses on operations management, organizational change, and healthcare revenue & delivery models have been invaluable and where some of the most rewarding learning has come from.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? It’s harder to learn the older you get. I don’t know if that’s necessarily true, but the older you get the more demands you have on your time, especially with family, a demanding career, and school – and that combination certainly makes learning a little bit trickier. At the same time, it also makes it more rewarding because you can immediately apply lessons learned and start making a difference right away.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not taking full advantage of every networking opportunity. The late-night flight to Indianapolis combined with chronic sleep deprivation didn’t always leave me as ready as I would have liked for networking opportunities. If I had it to do over again, I would have taken earlier flights to the residency sessions, so that I was more refreshed for networking opportunities.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Dr. Matt Sutter. His comments in class are always insightful; when he contributes to the discussion it’s meaningful and well-thought-out. He’s also engaged on a personal level and takes a real interest in whomever he’s talking with. And he’s a pilot. How cool is that?!?

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I was participating in Colorado’s State Innovation Model, which is a CMS initiative to promote practice transformation and payment reform. I quickly realized that if I was going to be a change agent in healthcare and really participate in its transformation, I needed a better understanding of the business of medicine.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To be the CEO of a Federally Qualified Community Health Center (like Dr. Lisa Harris of Eskanzi Health). I want to take my knowledge of medicine and healthcare and combine it with my newly obtained business knowledge and skills, so that I can help people facing access barriers receive exceptional healthcare that is high quality but at an appropriate cost.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? If you need something done, Autumn can make it happen.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? 1. Hike Mt. Kilimanjaro. 2. Cruise the Norwegian Fjords.

What made Dr. Orser such an invaluable addition to the class of 2019?

Autumn is a remarkable individual who has not only succeeded as a physician, business leader, and Business of Medicine Physician MBA student, but ensured her MBA peers, work colleagues, and community has benefited as she has pursued her MBA. During the business process improvement course, she chose to lead a vital initiative to ensure vaccines for children at Peak Vista Community Health Centers. Well beyond the criteria and expectations for a first project, Autumn tackled this imperative initiative that serves 14,000 children annually. She rallied support from her organization’s leadership and peer project team. Diligently, she led both teams simultaneously while balancing all her full-time responsibilities. After identifying the regulatory requirements, patient needs, staff duties, and concerns, she unlocked the issues creating the errors. After overcoming system upgrade timing issues, the team garnered leadership support for a creative multi-part plan to achieve zero errors to make sure this program would continue and prevented a loss of $1.5 million. She continues to pursue the next phase of solutions and system upgrades while monitoring the improved process to ensure sustained success. Autumn has leveraged the leadership skills and business knowledge she gained in the Kelley Physician MBA program into a new role as Vice President of Medical Services. She was an inspiration in the program through her dedication, applicability, and growth. Her influence on the healthcare industry as a change agent will have a lasting impact.

Lana Wietholter

Associate faculty, Business of Medicine Physician MBA Program

Indiana University Kelley School of Business


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