2019 Best EMBAs: Harry Stafford, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Harry Stafford

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

“Selfless, community-focused, generous, driven.”

Age: 46

Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

Family Members:

Wife: B. Aspacia Stafford

Parents: Harry and Patricia Stafford Sr.

Mother-in-law: Leontyne Madison

Sister/Brother-in-Law/Nephew: Jay and Demetrius Hall, Jaxson Hall

Fun fact about yourself: I am a certified strength and conditioning specialist.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  • UNC-Chapel Hill, B.S., Biology 1995
  • UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine, MD, 2002
  • UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, MBA, expected October 2019

Where are you currently working?

  • UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine: Director, Sports Medicine Fellowship Program, Physician Departments of Orthopedics, Family Medicine, and Sports Medicine
  • North Carolina Central University: Director, Sports Performance and Head Team Physician
  • Augustine’s University: Team Physician
  • Shaw University: Team Physician

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • Durham Rescue Mission Volunteer Serving Meals Yearly since 2012
  • Habitat for Humanity helping build homes since 2014
  • White Rock Baptist Church Health Ministry
  • Special Olympics of North Carolina: Providing medical care since 2008;
  • current member of the Board of Directors
  • North Carolina Central University Foundation Board of Directors
  • Founder, Southeastern Sports Medicine Society
  • Medical Director, ACC Soccer, Tennis and women Lacrosse Championships
  • Medical Director, CIAA Basketball Tournament
  • Team Physician, East Chapel Hill High School
  • Christ Saves Hearts Humanitarian Award 2019 (Community Service Award)
  • UNC Black Caucus Pioneer Award 2019
  • Department of Athletics WBB Extra Effort Award 2018

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud that I continue to serve the community while taking on the extra load of a full curriculum. Giving back to the community means a lot to me. I have been blessed with a successful career. Over the years, a number of people in my life reached back to help me accomplish my goals. Now, I feel an immense responsibility to help others accomplish their goals. I remain involved and dedicated to the North Carolina Special Olympics, Durham Rescue Mission, Habitat for Humanity, church activities at White Rock Baptist Church, and my Sports Medicine Community Outreach Programs. As a result of my involvement with these community programs, I have been selected as the 2019 recipient of the Christ Saves Hearts Humanitarian award.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of developing an elite sports medicine program that not only teaches and trains sports medicine fellows but also provides a way for our entire team to reach thousands of people every year. As part of the educational component of the program, our team provides sports physicals, game and training room coverage for four high schools, and four colleges, and many community programs. Many of the people we serve may otherwise have no access to medical care. We mostly see people for causes related to illness and injury. These clinics also allow us to provide counseling about nutrition, avoidance of drugs and alcohol, and information about safe sex. This program is a makes a positive impact on the RDU and Chapel Hill communities.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Without a doubt, Hugh O’Neil was (is) my favorite professor. He engaged us every night! He made us think on our feet and made certain we were prepared to learn every week. His course spanned several weeks, but it was by far the most enjoyable. Because of Professor O’Neil’s instruction in management and business strategy, I have been able to apply his teachings in every aspect of my sports performance and sports medicine clinics.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite course was Operations. This course played a significant role in reframing my thinking. From this course, I learned the importance of evaluation in every process. Why? Because there could be a better way to accomplish your goals. If you fail to evaluate, how will you know what areas can be improved upon? I used the knowledge that I gained from the course to transform the clinical processes in my sports medicine clinic. For example, we identified several processes that lead to increased wait times for patients in our clinic. As a result, our evaluation process, we mitigated time barriers and improved the care that our patients received.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I chose this program primarily because of the leadership training components. I also engaged with other physicians who completed the program. They were very enthusiastic about their experiences at UNC Kenan-Flagler. I did not receive any business leadership skills during my medical school training. The leadership skills that I learned were gleaned from my time as a Division I athlete. However, those skills centered around a team-based approach where everyone had one goal: win the game. I realized later in my profession that corporate teams do not function in this way. Furthermore, trying to lead with a head coach mentality was not effective. I needed to learn new skills in order to become an effective leader in the corporate environment.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I enjoy the teamwork and the curriculum. Our cohort included students from diverse backgrounds and interests. I learned something from my cohort each week. Our weeknight classes provided a very enjoyable experience.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? The most difficult time each year is football season. I work across four universities and lead an educational program for medical students, residents, and sports medicine fellows. I also have a large role in providing community service to several organizations in the area. This required me to start working before everyone else arrives to work and usually arriving home after 10 p.m. at night, which left little family time. Moreover, the required traveling that comes along with covering a Division I athletic team further complicated the juggling aspect of work, family, and education. I studied on team buses and on planes and often laughed with some of my athletes about being back in school. Many of them were in business school and it strengthened the bond that I had with my athletes. I specifically remember working Friday night football, then having class group meetings the next day, covering a collegiate football game that Saturday evening, flying to Colorado that Sunday morning, working a collegiate game, then flying back to RDU, working all day in clinic, and finishing it off with class on Monday night! Wow this was a challenging time of year! My family has been very understanding, and supportive. I could not have made it to this point without them.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? I would encourage them to do it! Come in with an open mind and a willingness to learn from your classmates. This program will improve your overall performance no matter your current profession. You will not leave this program the same way you started. This program will force you to look circumspectly at yourself and make the necessary changes to your business approach as well as your leadership skills and processes.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret is that I did not have adequate time to take more classes. There were several elective courses that I hoped to take which I know would have further improved my skills as a leader, businessman, and physician. Although I wish I had more time to take these electives, I nevertheless feel that each course I completed helped me to become a stronger leader.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Jared Chappell. Jared is one of my teammates. He is always ahead of everyone else. As soon as the professor gives an assignment, Jared has already planned how to get it done over the next two days. He is always prepared for every meeting and has been a wonderful classmate.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when… I realized that my staff had not yet begun working up to their full potential and I needed new strategies to help the team flourish.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to be the Director of Sports Performance at a power five university.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I want my peers to remember me as someone that they could go to for help if they needed anything.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Play the saxophone during church service!
  2. Attend culinary school to become a Master Chef!

What made Dr. Stafford such an invaluable member of the Class of 2019?

“I have known Dr. Stafford for more than a decade as a faculty colleague here at Carolina and as my primary care physician. He is a true Renaissance man, wearing many hats here at UNC and in the broader Triangle community. A passionate and caring medical professional, Dr. Stafford is deeply committed to making a difference in the lives of the people he encounters on a daily basis: those he works with as team physician for multiple sports at UNC, NC Central, and East Chapel Hill High School; sees in his orthopedics and primary care practices; encounters in the sport medicine classes he teaches as a tenured professor in the UNC School of Medicine; and collaborates within the cutting-edge research he does on sickle cell traits in athletics and other important topics; and those he engages with in his volunteer community service activities with the Durham Rescue Mission, Habitat for Humanity and Special Olympics of North Carolina.

He is a master of time management. He squeezes the most out of every minute of every day, moving in laser-like fashion from mentoring medical students to serving patients to giving back to the community. Even with a proverbial cup that is constantly overflowing with personal and professional commitments, Dr. Stafford has an insatiable appetite for new knowledge and learning.

He is doggedly committed to lifelong learning, which drove him to pursue his MBA in the Executive MBA Program at UNC Kenan-Flagler. He believed correctly that the degree would hone his leadership skills and equip him with the requisite tools to engage in continuous improvement in his medical practices and other ventures he is contemplating launching. Building on his distinguished record of achievements, earning his MBA has allowed Dr. Stafford to once again strategically reinvent and reposition himself for maximum impact in an economy and society where the new normal is “certain uncertainty.” Recognizing him sends a strong message to young people of color who aspire to careers in medicine and business.”

James H. Johnson, Jr.

Kenan Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and Director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center

UNC Kenan-Flagler


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