2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Nancy-Shira Elizabeth Brown, IE Business School

Nancy-Shira Elizabeth Brown

IE Brown Executive MBA (IE Business School and Brown University)

Age: 46

An emergency medicine physician that celebrates human experience through music, patient engagement, and family.”

Hometown: Buffalo, New York

Family Members: Husband Marc and children David, Deborah, and Joshua

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve been told (a few times) that I have an extremely loud but vibrant laugh. I love laughter that erupts from the heart.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  • University of Manitoba, MD 2001
  • University of Windsor, BMT 1997

Where are you currently working?  Site Chief of Emergency Medicine, 4 South Niagara sites – Niagara Health, Canada

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles

  • Assistant Instructor – Master Gorino’s Tae Kwon Do

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?

I have had the opportunity to work with incredible people during this MBA. It is difficult to pick one exceptional moment.  However, my key reflection project with Folasade Ajayi and Kendalle Zimmerman on crisis leadership during COVID-19 was a highlight. We did a qualitative research study and interviewed 19 dynamic leaders, including hospital CEOs, US representatives, and even a former Prime Minister.  We were honored and humbled to have the generosity of their time.  Having an opportunity to examine the wisdom of seasoned individuals as they shoulder the mantle of leadership during this historic moment was an unforgettable experience.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my tenure as chief, I have had an opportunity to build a team of talented and compassionate emergency medicine physicians. The group has done incredible work including quality improvement initiatives, program development, and research.  However, what I’m most proud of is the cohesive family we have become.  Together, we have celebrated each other’s successes and mourned our losses. We have journeyed together through marriages, divorces, and births – as well as shepherding two colleagues through their final journey with cancer. It’s rare to find such a special work family. Rarer still is the opportunity to lead one.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Full disclosure – this is the hardest question!  There were so many passionate and visionary professors in the IE/Brown MBA program. So, keeping in mind that we are working with extremely tight margins, I would have to say Jill Paine. Jill taught our course on leadership and was also our key reflection project advisor. She has an inspiring amount of emotional intelligence and sagacity. She approaches difficult topics with both a depth of wisdom and a rich sense of joy for the opportunity to engage in conversations that matter.  When I grow up, I want to be just like Jill.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? The IE/Brown MBA compels students to engage with the multitude of human dynamics that inform business and the economy. I was drawn to this highly differentiated curriculum. Of course, there are exceptional core subjects such as finance and operations. However, I wanted more from an MBA than an ability to scrutinize income statements. The IE/Brown curriculum engaged us to understand the legacy of economic atrocities, such as slavery. How do we reconcile the tensions between profits and people? Where in the margins might we risk commodifying human beings? How do we engage with a changing climate? How do health disparities inform business practices? How might we concern ourselves with economic drivers to create a more equitable world? I have left the MBA with more questions than answers. However, I am grateful for the program. It has provided a philosophical and ethical framework to bring thought leadership to my daily work.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Our cohort wrote dozens of academic papers in this program – individually and as a team.  It was intense!  Additionally, we were blessed with gifted authors as classmates, such as James Lamont.  Listening, reading, and writing in an environment of exceptional people have transformed my ability to communicate. At work, I have become far more efficient, precise, and nuanced with language.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? I’m not entirely sure I would recommend trying to lead an emergency medicine portfolio through a pandemic while raising a family and completing an executive MBA. However, once I made the commitment to myself and the world, there was no turning back. I owe all a lot of juggling respects to my teammates and husband. Everyone in our cohort experienced extraordinary challenges this year. It was often messy and exhausting. Yet, it galvanized our collective resolve and our relationships. This is what pulled us (or at least me!) through. As an example, during our final in-person residency, I was still working remotely and feeling tapped out from a year of this darned pandemic. However, my teammates Chris Presley and Genaro Morones hauled me through (possibly kicking and screaming) to the finish line.  Finally, I would be completely remiss to not acknowledge all the support my husband Marc provided on the home front.  The big take away – you can’t juggle anything worthwhile in life without a team.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? If you are going to commit to a highly-rated program, you need to be serious about it. The IE/Brown program was unrelenting.  If you have a family, ensure you have a clear understanding that you are in this together. You will miss a lot of special moments with your partner and children while driving through an intense executive MBA.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? As a physician, what I’m about to say might be unpopular. Perhaps the biggest myth amongst my colleagues is that an executive MBA is easy work after the intense academics of medical school and residency. However, the program challenges you in unique ways from medical training. Specifically, an MBA is centered around team-based competencies. In medical school, we have so much science to learn that leadership training is sidelined.  If you are a physician, be prepared to flex some atrophied muscles.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I have no regrets beyond what COVID took away from every single one of us. With restrictions, we were only able to have 3 of our 5 planned residencies. I would have loved to spend more time with my classmates because the time together was magical.  However, we do have ongoing plans in our future. So, we’re not over yet!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I know I have full class support when I say Patricia Grant. Patricia was our class speaker and representative. Wow – what a woman!  Patricia has an ability to engage with anyone and meet them where they’re at. She made everyone feel included and negotiated challenges in our highly engaged cohort with wisdom and care. I have the deepest respect for her leadership.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I was seeking a transformative experience through this MBA. Much of the value in an executive program lies with your fellow classmates. IE/Brown did an exceptional job putting our group together. To capitalize on that experience and build meaningful personal and professional rapport, you need to put in long hours together. I did not feel this could be achieved through part-time program or exclusively online alternatives. While I can’t relive the counterfactual, I feel certain it was the right choice.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My long-term professional goal is to become the CEO of a hospital or an international health organization that does meaningful work.  Healthcare is at a cross-roads and experienced clinical leaders need to be at the table for the sake of all patients.  Unfortunately, COVID-19 has demonstrated the impact of struggling or collapsing health systems on people, countries, and economies. We need to lead with an aspirational vision – global human health.

What made Nancy-Shira such an invaluable addition to the class of 2021?

“I am deeply honored and thrilled to support Nancy-Shira Brown’s candidacy as an outstanding Executive MBA of 2021. Like other similar programs, the IE Brown Executive MBA encourages the immediate practice of relevant learnings based on rigorous understanding. Shira exemplifies this aim in her approach to knowledge acquisition, adoption and practice. As a Chief of Emergency Medicine during the global pandemic of COVID-19, Shira was serving patients and leading her team of physicians on the “front-lines” while learning new concepts in the MBA curriculum. She not only implemented her learnings directly into her work, but she also embraced the opportunity to contribute to our broader understanding of crisis leadership through her “Key Reflection Project.” Together with two fellow cohort members, Shira conducted a qualitative study with senior leaders in healthcare and government to assess effective leadership responses to the pandemic. The team’s findings are timely, relevant and directly applicable to all leaders facing this unprecedented crisis. Despite her expertise, experience and intellect, Shira approached this project and all of her studies with humility and curiosity. She leads others with the same approach. I witnessed her servant leadership in the classroom and am certain this is a key factor of her success as a senior leader of physicians fighting the devastating effects of COVID-19.”

Professor Jill W. Paine, Ph.D.
IE Business School



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