2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Kristen L. Veraldi, University of Pittsburgh (Katz)

Kristen L. Veraldi, MD, Ph.D., FCCP

Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh

“Determined to leave the world better than I found it.”

Age: 50

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Family Members: My husband, also a physician, and our two rescued Great Danes

Fun fact about yourself: I learned how to fly a Cessna 152 before I knew how to drive a car. The latter skill has proven to be much more practical.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

University of Virginia (BA in chemistry and biology)

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (MD, Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics)

Where are you currently working?

VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System (Deputy Chief, Medicine)

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC (Faculty, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine)

Simmons Center for Interstitial Lung Disease at UPMC

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I am fortunate that I interact on a regular basis with intelligent, driven, and creative trainees and colleagues who challenge me to learn something new every day while supporting our tripartite academic mission of patient care, teaching, and research. I have served as a faculty interviewer for the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, UPMC Internal Medicine Residency Program, and UPMC Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Fellowship program and as a career mentor to many of our trainees and junior faculty.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Throughout the program, I have made a concerted effort to apply new knowledge to improve as an administrative leader, committee member, mentor, physician and person. I am most proud of the “small” successes that have resulted, particularly when I am able to support the career development of my colleagues and trainees – my success is measured as a function of theirs.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Being there for my patients and their families when they need me will always be the most important and rewarding part of what I do. A close second is seeing my trainees enjoy personal and career success and hoping that I played at least a small role in supporting their achievements.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I’ve been impressed by all of the faculty in the Katz EMBA Healthcare program. Each brings a unique teaching style and enthusiasm to the classroom and all have clearly invested significant time and effort into adapting their course material for an audience of adult learners with nontraditional and unpredictable schedules.

The most immediately applicable to my day job has been Professor Dave Lebel’s Organizational Behavior course and Professor Prakash Mirchandani’s Health Care Operations and Global Supply Chain Management course. When the latter was interrupted by a global pandemic, Professor Mirchandani swiftly adapted the curriculum to take full advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime (I hope) learning opportunity.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I selected the Katz Executive MBA in Healthcare first and foremost because of its outstanding reputation. A secondary but significant consideration was the convenience of having a world-class program at my home institution, resulting in less time spent away from home and work.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The intellectual challenge of having to dust off my “student” brain and the opportunity to interact with a diverse group of talented, interesting people.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? I gained a better understanding of and an even greater appreciation for the work done by all of our non-clinical experts to keep us operational. I have become a more reasonable and realistic member of multidisciplinary work groups and a more effective leader in the face of a global pandemic than I would have been prior to participating in the Katz EMBA-Healthcare. Simply put, becoming a better team member has made me a better leader.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? I’m certain many balls were dropped! I was fortunate that my home and work families fully supported my return to school and were exceedingly patient with me when I was stressed about having too few hours in the day to accomplish everything on my “to do” list.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? As with any endeavor, you need to do this for yourself and not for others, for the experience and not the title. Commit to being an active participant and stay the course even when your energy runs low, the return on investment will be realized.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? That an executive program would lack the depth and breadth of a traditional full-time degree program. The overall curriculum and each individual course in the Katz EMBA-Healthcare was carefully crafted for the intended audience, with an emphasis on teaching core concepts and building skills to apply this knowledge to real-world challenges.

What was your biggest regret in business school? It felt as though I never had enough time to immerse myself as fully in any topic as I would have liked; however, this program provided a solid foundation upon which I will continue to build my professional armamentarium.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire?

I genuinely admire and enjoyed getting to know everyone in our MBA cohort. We had an amazing class. I most admire Lindsay Smith (a licensed professional care manager with UPMC Community Care Behavioral Health). She is a remarkable woman who embodies humility, class, grit, determination, and perseverance. She is a true leader.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…About a year after starting as the Deputy Chief of Medicine at our VA, I participated in an intensive two-week leadership development course for academic physicians at Harvard. The closing lecture of the course included a discussion of the pros and cons of completing a formal MBA as a mid-career physician executive. I wasn’t certain at the conclusion of the course that another advanced degree was in my future. However, after several more years of experience and a brief period as acting Chief of Staff of one of our sister facilities, I knew that participation in a formal healthcare-focused executive MBA would be an important next step in my career.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My ultimate goal has been the same since the day I started medical school – to contribute to improving health and access to health care. To help the patient in front of me, I have to be committed to improving the system around me.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As a teammate who was genuinely invested in everyone’s learning and committed to making a difference.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to do most of the things in life that are important to me, so I don’t really have a bucket list.

What made Kristen such an invaluable addition to the class of 2020?

“It is with great pleasure that I write to nominate Kristen Veraldi for the Poets&Quants 100 Best & Brightest Executive MBAs: Class of 2020. Kristen matriculated into the University of Pittsburgh Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business Executive MBA in Healthcare program in May 2019 and will graduate in December 2020. She has been an outstanding contributor to the program and is considered by the faculty to be one of the most talented students we have had in this program or any other MBA program we offer.

Dr. Veraldi is a highly accomplished professional. She holds an M.D. and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Pittsburgh. She is board certified in Pulmonary Disease, Critical Care Medicine, and Internal Medicine, and is a Fellow in the American College of Chest Physicians.  She currently holds appointments in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and at the Veterans Administration, where she serves as Assistant Vice President of Medical Services for the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, one of only 39 level 1a high complexity healthcare systems in the Veterans Health Administration nationwide. In that capacity she oversees the work of over 120 physicians while continuing to be clinically active, seeing patients at the University of Pittsburgh’s Simmons Center for Interstitial Lung Disease. She has been particularly busy over the past two months, coordinating ICU clinical care for the VA system’s readiness response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite her extensive professional responsibilities and the huge additional demands placed on her because of COVID, Kristen has earned a GPA of 3.93 in the Executive MBA program. And she not only performs highly at an individual level, but she also creates a positive learning environment for her fellow classmates. She is articulate, thoughtful, and has a strong but unassuming leadership style that welcomes others’ contributions. She has earned a reputation as a team player who has the ability and motivation to consider opportunities and challenges from multiple points of view. In short, Kristen is everything we hope for in an EMBA student and a leader in healthcare, particularly in the demanding circumstances we now face. Dr. Kristen Veraldi is richly deserving of this recognition.”

Carrie R. Leana
George H. Love Professor of Organizations and Management
Director, Center for Healthcare Management

DON’T MISS: THE FULL LIST OF THE TOP 100 BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBAS OF 2020

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