2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Kathryn Tinckam, University of Toronto (Rotman)

Kathryn Tinckam

University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management

“Optimistic, energetic, and empathy-driven healthcare leader who doesn’t hear the word “impossible.”

Age: 47

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario (Previously Sydney Australia, Winnipeg MB, Vancouver BC and Boston MA)

Family Members: Husband Takashi Yamashita, Children Norah and Henry (Age 9).

Fun fact about yourself: I can turn my Australian accent on and off at a moment’s notice (I lived there till age 15).

Undergraduate School and Degree:

University of Manitoba: BSc, BSc(Med), MD, FRPCP (Internal Medicine)

University of British Columbia: FRCPC (Nephrology)

Harvard University: MMSc

Where are you currently working? University Health Network (Toronto)

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles:

Avid runner and baker. No awards for the latter except my kids tell me I am the best baker in the world. You cannot argue with that.

Plus social coordinator and personal chauffeur to two 9 year-olds

My community service tends to be extensions of my medical skillset where needed. Timely example here.

Leadership roles:

Program Medical Director (2019 to present) – UHN Laboratory Medicine Program (Includes Pathology, Genetics, Laboratory Hematology, Microbiology, Biochemistry and Histocompatibility)

Director of Quality and Innovation UHN Transplant Program 2017-2019

Medical Director – Canadian Transplant Registry 2013-2017 inclusive

Recent Awards: Rotman MBA Entrance Scholarship, American Society of Transplantation Clinical Science Career Development Award

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Taking on a new senior leadership role within my hospital system halfway through my MBA program. In addition to the workload of the MBA, my ongoing responsibilities to my family and my day job as a kidney transplant specialist and laboratory medicine physician, this was a massive additional responsibility now for several hundred people requiring vision and strategy and massive culture change. There were moments I certainly felt I had crossed into unsustainable territory, but so far I am thriving and moving the program forward.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Consistently taking local solutions and scaling them across disciplines and sectors with success and sustainability.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Glen Whyte (Negotiations). His humility and candor belied his extraordinary experience in a way that made him approachable and trustworthy. He set high standards for the class without threat. He corrected with humor and demonstrated and taught with principle and consistency.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Rotman is a world-class institution with world-class faculty. The Healthcare and Life Sciences focus of our program aligned perfectly with my professional goals.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? My classmates. They are beyond skilled, well-rounded, admirable, principled, fun, and creative. Easily the best part of the whole MBA process is this network for the rest of my personal and professional life.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The skills in developing teams, and implementing change structures have been instrumental in making real and sustainable change in a hospital environment where individual practices and historic tradition dominate cultures and practices.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? Spring Break, 2019. On the surface, it a family trip to Mexico with our kids. From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., it looked like mom. From 4 a.m. to 8 a.m., it was remote clinic review and lab work. From 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., it was MBA homework. Plus lots of caffeine. Lots. There is no such thing as work-life balance – only work-life management. Whatever works…

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? If you are at the point of thinking about it that seriously, you really have already decided to do it. “Leap and the net will appear”- John Burroughs

What was your biggest regret in business school? I felt like I was apologizing all the time to my husband and children for time spent away from them or not putting them front-and-center the way that I had wanted. They were unbelievably understanding, but I will always feel that they (and I!) missed out on special moments. I consoled myself by believing that this was a good example for my kids of the importance of hard work and setting goals. Hope my kids feel the same way when they look back.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when… I was fortunate enough to complete a Rotman leadership training program and realized why I was always a bit of a fish out of water in Medicine – I had finally “found my people.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To lever the experience of the practice of frontline medicine with administrative skills and commitments to achieve widespread system improvement in healthcare.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A friend, and colleague who can laugh at herself, prioritizes kindness above all else, and defines her own success by the success of those around her.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

Run a marathon.

Learn to sail. A real sailboat. A big one. Or failing that learn to ride a horse.

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

Kathryn Tinckam, MD is a transplant kidney specialist at Canada’s premier transplant program, which is one of the top programs in the world. Seemingly this didn’t exhaust Kathryn’s energy or willingness to give to her institution, so she also becomes the program medical director of University Health Network’s Laboratory Medicine Program – the largest academic laboratory medicine program in Canada – in the middle of her Global Executive MBA in Healthcare and Lifesciences program at the Rotman School. As program medical director, she oversees Pathology, Laboratory Hematology, Microbiology, Molecular Genetics, Histocompabiltiy, and Core Biochemistry across four hospital sites. This laboratory leadership is a huge role – more than 95% of medical decisions made by clinicians involve laboratory testing.

Then there are the recent community needs created by COVID-19. Kathryn is one of 100 doctors, nurses, and psychiatrists from UHN who agreed to pick up front-line shifts at the Rekai Centre’s two nursing homes after UHN CEO Dr. Kevin Smith asked staff to help. On a recent Saturday, Kathryn worked a 12-hour shift as a personal support worker to feed, bath, and toilet residents in Sherbourne Place, a downtown Toronto nursing home on lockdown with a COVID-19 outbreak that has left it struggling to find staff.

Part of Kathryn’s passion has been to take what she has learned in class and put it into practice immediately. She chairs Canada’s National Kidney Transplant Advisory Committee for Canadian Blood Services so it was natural that during her program, working in a team of other physicians and researchers, she would draw on her new MBA toolkit to substantially enhance the organ matching process in Canada’s largest province. Kathryn and her team developed a new system to manage transplant referral and wait-listing to ensure greater equity in waitlist management and 50% reduction in waitlist testing costs for kidney transplantation. As part of this initiative, she developed digital tools to predict time to transplant with +/- 3 month accuracy to guide when transplant waitlist workups should be commenced in the community. This has now been implemented in 13 referral regions across Ontario. Post-COVID, they plan to go live in all 26 regions.

Kathryn’s passion stands out to her fellow students. During a mid-program retreat of her MBA program, one of her classmates, in their anonymous feedback, described her as a “powerhouse of empathy and goodness”. Another simply said “brilliant intellect paired with immense EQ [emotional quotient].” Just some of the feedback for the class valedictorian!

Kathryn found time during her absurdly busy professional and family life family (she is a personal chauffeur and social coordinator to nine-year-old twins) to devote herself to the Rotman MBA program because she recognizes that for health systems to perform at their best they need to marry the science of healthcare, with compassion and business acumen. Few health system leaders are able to contribute in so many ways.

She has worked in Winnipeg, Vancouver, Boston, and Toronto – each time impressing her colleagues. Poets and Quants certainly won’t the first to recognize Kathryn’s distinctiveness, but doing so will acknowledge her successes to date and most importantly, the contributions to healthcare in Canada and globally that are yet to come from this amazing MD-MBA!”

Brian Golden
Vice-Dean, MBA Programs
Sandra Rotman Chair in Health Sector Strategy
Rotman School of Management 
University of Toronto



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