2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Asif Ilyas, IE Business School

Asif Ilyas, MD

IE Brown Executive MBA

“Surgeon, Professor, Researcher, Foundation Director, Surgical Society President, Author, Husband, and Father.”

Age: 44

Hometown:  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA)

Family Members:
Married to Dr. Erum Ilyas, a Dermatologist & President of Montgomery Dermatology; as well as, Founder & CEO of Ambernoon (a fashion-forward sun protective clothing line). Father of Dean (17), Amber (14), and Sammy (13).

Fun fact about yourself:
(1) Was accepted to Medical School directly from High School prior to even starting College. I subsequently authored a book on the experience.

(2) Have operated on professional sports players in every major American sports league: Football (NFL), Basketball (NBA), Baseball (MLB), and Hockey (NHL)

(3) Delivered a baby in a field tent while doing relief work in Haiti after their devastating earthquake in 2010.

Undergraduate School and Degree: 
Wilkes University – Bachelor of Science (BS), with summa cum laude distinctions (1997)
Drexel University College of Medicine – Doctor of Medicine (MD), with alpha omega alpha distinctions (2001)
Temple University – Orthopaedic Surgical residency (2006)
Harvard Medical School – Hand, Upper Extremity, and Microsurgery Fellowship (2007)

Where are you currently working? 
I have 3 active engagements/employments:

  • I am a Partner, Board Member, and Surgeon at the Rothman Institute, one of the largest musculoskeletal medicine practices in the country headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA). The Rothman Institute employs 1200 staff members, 300 physicians, and has a half-billion-dollar annual market cap.
  • I am a full-time Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA). In this capacity, I lecture to medical school juniors, hold teaching rounds with medical school seniors, and also train surgical residents and fellows in the operating room.
  • I direct the Rothman Institute Foundation for Opioid Research & Education, a non-profit focused on promoting medical and surgical opioid-sparing pain management strategies.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles:
 Leadership Roles:
– President of the Pennsylvania Orthopaedic Society
– Director of the Rothman Institute Foundation for Opioid Research and Education
– Board of Directors of the Rothman Institute
– Fellowship Director at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
– Medical Director at the Orthopaedic Surgical Center at Bryn Mawr Hospital

Academic Roles:
– Professor at the Thomas Jefferson University

Special Roles:
– Head Hand Surgery Consultant to the Philadelphia Eagles (NFL)
– Head Hand Surgery Consultant to the Philadelphia 76ers (NBA)

Which extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? 
During business school as an IE Brown Executive MBA student, I successfully balanced finishing my term as President of the Pennsylvania Orthopaedic Society while also coaching my son’s Flag Football team to the league championship.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? 
Despite my humble beginnings, through hard work and with the support and love of my immigrant parents, I was able to achieve medical school admission directly from high school. My medical and surgical education ultimately came full circle when I graduated as a Surgical Fellow from Harvard Medical School. After my education, I was able to achieve the status of full professor within 10 years after publishing over 150 peer-reviewed scientific articles, and ultimately became the youngest partner and then the youngest Board member at the preeminent musculoskeletal practice nationally, the Rothman Institute.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Gayle Allard, Ph.D. – Professor Allard has a diverse and deep experience in teaching and practicing Economics. Moreover, she is engaging, charismatic, and approachable. She excelled in different educational settings including the classroom, online, and during case simulations. Moreover, she knew how to adjust her subject matter and teaching style to her student audience type.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I considered several Executive MBAs – including Duke, Cornell, and Penn. I ultimately chose and only applied to the IE Brown Executive MBA. I was drawn to the IE Brown program for its hybrid nature of both in-residence and online teaching, the drawing of two great educational traditions of both IE and Brown, the international perspective of the program, and its emphasis on social and corporate responsibility.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Far and away, what I enjoyed the most about my IE Brown Executive MBA program was the quality and caliber of my classmates, and the subsequent camaraderie and friendships developed within our cohort.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? From a business perspective, the biggest lesson I learned during my MBA is to deconstruct all business transactions to its component parts and critically determine its strengths, weaknesses, and leverage points. From a professional perspective, the biggest lesson I learned during my MBA is to build teams of diverse experiences and perspectives to better approach business challenges.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? In the middle of our first 2 week in-residence period in Spain, I made an unplanned flight back to Philadelphia on Saturday morning for a 26 hour stay-at-home returning on a red-eye Sunday evening, still arriving on time for our 9 a.m. class Monday morning. I made the 8-hour flight each way over the weekend for only barely a day at home for three reasons: First, it was to perform an unplanned urgent surgery on a patient of mine who was admitted to the hospital the week before. Second, I wanted to coach my son’s Flag Football team’s first playoff game. Third, I wanted to spend some time with my daughter who I am particularly close to who was very much missing me. Despite only sleeping a few hours in total over this weekend, it was a pleasure to do and represented in a weekend the juggle an Executive MBA student has to do balancing family, work, and education.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Be prepared for a challenging and enriching experience that will advance you professionally, intellectually, and personally. The key is time management and a desire to learn.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? Online education is difficult for those having gone to school decades before in a traditional classroom setting and before modern online education. The transition is very doable with schools like IE Brown who have a strong online educational experience.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Missing our last in-residence time together and graduation in May in Providence.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Considering the amazing caliber of my classmates, it is truly hard to pick just one. However, if I had to, I would have to choose Cherise O’Kennedy. She is from Vancouver, a mother of three teenage boys, and a rising business leader. However, I admired her most because of the caliber of her comments in class and the quality and depth of her contributions online in our forums. Cherise never made a forum entry that was not well thought out, thorough, well referenced, and always value added. We all learned regularly by Cherise’s amazing contributions.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I was finding myself in more and more administrative and leadership roles, and I knew that my current medical and science training was inadequate to meet the challenge of these roles relative to finances, operations, and people management.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal?
To help the Rothman Institute as its Board members and the Rothman Foundation for Opioid Research & Education as its Director achieve maximal financial and philanthropic success, respectively.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Travel to all 7 continents and sail all 5 oceans …I am half way there.

What made Asif such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020? 

“I am thrilled to write this recommendation for Asif Illyas, who was my student in the IE-Brown Executive IMBA. He is a truly unique student, the kind you hope you will encounter in class:  a thoroughly self-made professional, highly-respected in his field, eager to learn about those disciplines he has not worked in, with the intelligence and humility that professors dream of finding in students!  He was on top of all of the issues, passionate in the debates, aware of current events, and successful in applying abstract principles to them.  If there is a profile that programs like ours seek to find, it is Asif´s.  His success there makes him the ideal candidate for the Best and Brightest Executive MBA series.”

Professor Gayle Allard
IE Business School



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