2019 Best EMBAs: Chung-Ih John Chou, The Wharton School    

Chung-Ih John Chou      

The University of Pennsylvania’s The Wharton School (San Francisco)

“Driven by curiosity, challenge, and big ideas, I’m always looking to make a positive impact.”

Age:  47

Hometown:  Menlo Park, California

Family Members:  Wife – Melody; Kids – Kiana (20), Coen (9), Asa (8), Calista (8)

Fun fact about yourself:  I played pickup basketball with players from the LA Clippers and French national team and didn’t realize it until the game was over.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Johns Hopkins University, BA – Biology

Johns Hopkins Medical School, MD

Where are you currently working?  Service Line Medical Director and Anesthesiologist, Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

Advisor/Business Development for RedCrow and TaskUnite

Angel Investor in multiple startups

Alumni Interviewer for Johns Hopkins

Webster/Forest HOA President

California Society of Anesthesiologists District Delegate

Sylvan Shane Award in Anesthesia

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Being able to get up in front of large crowds to speak. I’ve always been anxious about speaking publicly, particularly when the topic is non-technical. Through the encouragement of my classmates, coaching from a professor, and Wharton’s Toastmasters Club, I was able to successfully give a toast to a class of 44 at their incoming reception.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Three years after residency, after a failed negotiation, the anesthesia group I joined was barred from practicing at the hospital where we were based. That was a trying time because it occurred overnight and our reputation was publicly assailed by the hospital. Although I don’t remember those days fondly, the lessons I learned from that experience has served me well in subsequent negotiations and public relations.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Kent Smetters. Even though the content was challenging, his humor and teaching style made microeconomics extremely enjoyable. I continue to use the concepts he taught.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite course was the DMC, “Venture Capital in Silicon Valley.” The candid stories from successful founders and venture capitals were both instructive and inspiring. One of the founders was so vivid in describing his product-market fit experience that I feel like I’ve personally experienced it.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? Wharton has all the dimensions I was looking for in a program: strong network, a stellar reputation, and proximity. Also, Wharton’s EMBA program is as rigorous as the full-time program.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The camaraderie and teamwork. During my medical training in the 1990s, I was taught to be an independent thinker and to defend against doctors who didn’t practice good medicine. Business school focused more on collaboration. Not only did I find working in teams to be more fun, but also more productive and to have yielded higher quality work.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? All aspects of life, including business, is about people. Every day, I try to focus on people and promote positive relationships.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? Juggling school, in addition to work and family, required the support and understanding of many. At different times, my spouse, boss, co-workers, and study team helped defuse demands on my time. During a family vacation that coincided with the week before finals, my wife and kids gave me some time each day to study.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Make sure you have the support of your family, friends, and boss before you embark on the program. Despite becoming super-efficient, you will still need to lean on these people to help you get through it.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? There were definitely naysayers about going back to school at my age. The typical thoughts were, it doesn’t make sense and it would be harder to learn. My experience is, if you love to learn, you’ll relish the challenge. Also, I believe I have gained a broader perspective of the world, which helps both in my work and the guidance I provide to my children.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not having enough time to give everyone the attention they deserve, particularly my family.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire many classmates, but if I had to pick one, she would be Flora Chang. Flora always finds time for classmates, asking insightful questions that add clarity to class topics and life conundrums. She did this juggling school, work, pregnancy, and a newborn.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…it was clear to me that healthcare can learn from other industries.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? There isn’t a specific role that I’m interested in achieving. What I want out of my professional life is to continually learn, challenge the status quo, and make an impact.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope that I will be remembered as being honest, hard-working, and dependable.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Raise my children to be happy and healthy adults.
  2. Learn to fly a plane.

What made John Chou such an invaluable addition to the class of 2019?

“John has been a wonderful addition to the Wharton EMBA program and a good friend to his classmates.  His plate has been incredibly full with his Medical Director role, as an anesthesiologist, as an incredible Dad to his four children and as a valued student in the MBA for Executives program. John has grown immensely through his hunger for knowledge and his desire to learn from skilled classmates across all industries.  John made the most of his time in the Program through his involvement with Toastmasters, clubs, engagement with healthcare alumni and classmates and his coursework and exposure to the venture community. John’s warm nature drew classmates to him and he was a supportive leader in every way.”

Bernadette Birt

Executive Director, MBA Program for Executives, SF

“John is a quiet, well-respected leader in his class.  He is kind, compassionate and selfless. I see him continually go out of his way to be gracious, welcoming and inclusive. John is a pillar of integrity, honesty, and class.  He is a highly accomplished physician who always makes time for others.”

Barbara Craft

Director of Admissions, Wharton San Francisco


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