2019 Best EMBAs: J. Peter Rubin, University of Pittsburgh (Katz)

J. Peter Rubin, MD

Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh

“Physician, scientist, and student of ideas committed to improving lives through innovative healthcare delivery.”

Age: 52

Hometown: Locust Valley, New York

Family Members: My wife, Julie, and four wonderful kids: Eliana (14), Liviya (13), Zachary (11), and Talya (9).

Fun fact about yourself: I am a Plastic Surgeon for the Pittsburgh Penguins NHL Hockey Team.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Grinnell College (BA), Tufts University (MD), Boston University (general surgery residency), Harvard University (plastic surgery residency)

Where are you currently working? The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and the University of Pittsburgh—I am the UPMC Endowed Professor and Chair of the Department of Plastic Surgery at the university and the medical center. In addition to performing surgery, my job involves oversight of clinical services at a major academic medical center for cancer reconstruction (including breast cancer), trauma reconstruction, pediatric disorders, care of complex wounds, and many other diverse medical problems. I also oversee federally funded scientific research laboratories and clinical trials teams, a top-ranked residency training program, and manage the academic mission of a medical school department.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I serve as Co-founder and Board Chair of the International Federation for Adipose Therapeutics (scientific non-profit society), Vice President of Finance and Treasurer for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (over 8000 members and representing 94% of board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States), and Director of the American Board of Plastic Surgery, the body that administers official board certification in plastic surgery. I was also recently honored as a 2018 “Healthcare Hero” by the Pittsburgh Business Times.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? While the practice of medicine involves life-long learning, studying a new discipline is quite challenging. I am very proud to be working in a small EMBA project group, consisting mostly of physicians, that has learned to support and help each other through the difficult process of synthesizing cases and presentations in another “language.” We’re all making it through the process together.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Developing new regenerative therapies that have helped our wounded warriors and can also help civilian trauma patients. This has been facilitated by years of federally funded laboratory work, as well as a lot of teamwork and multidisciplinary collaboration.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Sara Moeller, MBA, Ph.D.— who could take complex topics in finance and masterfully instill understanding through clear explanations and an incredibly lively teaching style.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My course on business strategy, taught by Professor John Camillus, was my favorite course. I gained tremendous insights into how to approach strategy and the important links between values, vision, and capabilities.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? The executive MBA program in healthcare at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business is very unique in its focus. As a physician, I knew this specific program would significantly enable my mission of improving lives through innovative healthcare delivery by teaching me business skills framed in the context of the medical landscape. The fact that it is at my home institution made it all that much more appealing because I don’t have to travel far for classes and that makes it easier to balance work and family commitments.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? It has been an incredible experience to learn a new thought process from my professors and my classmates while participating in very insightful class discussions. It has been especially rewarding to work on small group projects in which no one has expertise on the topic and we all have to work through the details of the project together.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Learning critical thinking from a process and business perspective has helped me to better manage clinical and scientific operations. While I came to the EMBA program with a strong clinical and research background, learning a business thought process is making it possible for me to accelerate the progress of programs I am responsible for and to make better strategic decisions on a day-to-day basis. This is the skillset I have been looking to add and I am hopeful that it will help me to have a broader impact on healthcare delivery over the coming years.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? This is a significant challenge for a busy professional with four kids! I try to integrate studying for the MBA in interesting ways. For example, I have many times gathered my kids together for a “study hall” around a big table at home with me joining in and doing my own classwork. Other times, I would bring my computer to my kids’ ice hockey practice (three of them play) and sit in the official’s booth where I could plug in my computer and work on an assignment as they skated drills. While very difficult to find time at work, I try to use small blocks of time between meetings, patient visits, or operating room cases to study.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? It is hard but it is worth it! It is very exciting to open your mind to a new discipline and new ideas, and it will enhance whatever career you are pursuing.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not doing it 10 years ago….but then again, the information has never been more relevant to my current job.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I can honestly say that I have great respect and admiration for all of my classmates. If I had the daunting task of singling out one person, it would be Dr. Ronaldo Sevilla Berrios, a critical care physician who has to drive over two hours for the classes. Despite working numerous shifts with rotating hours between day and night, he always has a steady demeanor, a stalwart determination, and a gentle and helpful approach to working with others. He leads by example and inspires others to keep plugging.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized that I needed a deeper knowledge of business to really make a difference in healthcare.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My ultimate goal is to drive positive change in healthcare delivery. I am passionate about bringing innovation into the clinic and improving how we deliver medical care. To effectively shape the future of medicine, we must focus on a value-based approach that involves the reduction of healthcare costs with simultaneous improvement of quality. This requires developing new technology based on unmet needs, refining our clinical algorithms to meet the most important quality goals in a data-driven fashion, evolving our management processes to accommodate a dynamic change in a positive way, and shaping the culture of the healthcare environment to embrace this process. The specific job role I assume in executing this mission will likely change over time, but I aspire to use the skills I am learning in the EMBA program to direct multi-disciplinary teams that integrate research, clinical care, and business processes in a major healthcare system.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As someone who contributed to the learning environment through lively discussion, contributing ideas, hard work, and learning from those around me.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  • Visit the South Pole
  • Follow the path of Charles Darwin in the Galapagos Islands

What made J. Peter Rubin such an invaluable addition to the class of 2019?

“Although I have taught many talented and accomplished individuals over the years, I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this honor than J. Peter Rubin, MD. As the UPMC Endowed Professor and Chair of the Department of Plastic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), Peter oversees plastic surgery reconstructive and trauma services at one of the largest academic medical centers in the nation. As an academic chairperson in the School of Medicine, he is not only personally engaged in clinical care but leads a department of 130 people, including 28 full-time faculty, 30 residents in training and clinical fellows, and a large complement of support staff. His mission is to provide outstanding clinical services across the UPMC Health System, innovate and develop future medical therapies, train the next generation of plastic surgeons in the #3 ranked residency program in the nation, and facilitate a culture of aspirational leadership.

Peter has served as editor for four textbooks, published over 200 peer-reviewed articles in the scientific literature, and presented over 500 invited lectures on five continents. He was recently named as one of Pittsburgh Business Times 2018 Heath Care Heroes for his work on tissue regeneration for combat veterans in collaboration with the Department of Defense. He has forged strong relationships with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to treat wounded warriors with devastating facial and limb injuries. Peter has developed a collaboration with San Diego Naval Hospital to work collaboratively with military physicians on new treatments for veterans and enable surgeons from both facilities to operate together in either Pittsburgh or San Diego. As clearly demonstrated through his work, Peter is passionate about improving lives through innovative healthcare delivery and has been heavily involved in medical technology development. He believes that he will have a greater impact on the healthcare landscape locally and nationally after completing the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business Executive MBA in Healthcare program, and I have no doubt that will be the case.”

Carrie R. Leana, Ph.D.

George H. Love Professor of Organizations and Management

Professor of Business Administration, of Medicine, and of Public & International Affairs


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