2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Naudia L. Jonassaint, University of Pittsburgh (Katz)

Naudia L. Jonassaint

University of Pittsburgh, Katz School of Business

Age: 43

“Caring, thoughtful servant leader, mother of two, wife of one looking to change the world.”

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

Family Members: Charles Jonassaint (Husband), Micah Jonassaint (son, age 9), Noelle Jonassaint (daughter, age 5) 

Fun fact about yourself: I love to play charades with my children

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Johns Hopkins University, Bachelors of Arts (BA), Biology and Hispanic and Italian Studies

Yale School of School of Medicine, Doctorate of Medicine (MD)

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Master of Health Sciences (MHS)

Where are you currently working?

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Medical Director, Hepatology, UPMC

Vice Chair, Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Department of Medicine, UPMC

Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

American Association for the Study of Liver Disease, Finance Committee

Deans Rapid Response Taskforce, Chair

UPMC Vaccine Collaborative, Steering Committee

UPMC Wolff Center, Health Outcomes, Steering Committee

Gastroenterology Fellowship Teaching Award, 2017

American Society of Transplantation, Poster of Distinction, 2019

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my role in the Pittsburgh Community Vaccine Collaborative (CVC). There has been a remarkable push within the collaborative to make sure that our medical institution accounts for the most vulnerable persons in our community. The goal of the collaborative is to partner with community stakeholders and meet the needs of the community with vaccine availability, community education, and staffing of community vaccination clinics. To live in a community and to be able to give back to the community in this way has been extremely gratifying during this time of social isolation and national fear.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My greatest achievement to this point in my career has been ability to lead my subdivision through the COVID-19 crisis. I reentered the country from vacation 5 days before the nation was shut down. I came back from vacation early to game plan with one of my colleagues and dearest friends about how to quickly pivot to telemedicine and create a plan that would keep both our clinical staff and patients safe. Simultaneously, we had to figure out how we would continue to provide clinical support for one of the largest liver transplant programs in the country. The decision was made not to stop transplantation, which had been halted in many cities throughout the world. I was able to transition our subdivision to 95 percent telemedicine with remaining 5 percent reserved for in-person care and transplantation services. To see everyone band together to learn, iterate, and lead was wonderful. This past year has certainly been the most stressful time in my career but it has taught me so much about leading in crisis and in the midst of uncertainty.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Prakash Mirchandani was my favorite professor. He was our first term professor for healthcare statistics and is currently teaching supply chain management. Dr. Mirchandani has a gift. His ability to break down complex concepts, create understanding and transfer knowledge is unparalleled. Dr. Mirchandani is one of the best professors I have had in my life. While getting the right answer is important his focus as a professor never strays from helping you to understand the big picture and its importance.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? The amount that the United States spends on healthcare as a percentage of GDP is not sustainable. While as a country a nationalized healthcare system seems largely undesirable, I believe that the market is going to drive us as close to a single payer system as possible. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is the largest academic medical center in the country. As an integrated delivery financial system, it has positioned itself to be a major player in a market, I believe will shrink precipitously over the next two decades. As a result, I thought coming to Katz would be a great opportunity to learn from those that work side-by-side with those running this large medical center. We often find ourselves receiving lectures from the executives within the system who are able to provide real life examples and practical applications for what we have learned.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? One of my favorite classes in the MBA program has been “Leading People in a Healthcare Organization”. The truth is that when I started the class, I was not sure about the “science” of leadership. This class taught me so much about myself and my leadership strengths and weaknesses. However, it has also given me a powerful tool by which to measure any job opportunity that I am presented with in the future. I am blessed to still get up every day and love what I do. This class helped me to break down how to continue to evaluate each job and how it might further my personal joy, which of the utmost importance to me.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I have lived in my current home for the last 5 years. I have spent more time in our office/spare bedroom than ever before. For the first seven months of the pandemic, my children were home. I vividly remember a day where nothing seemed to be going right. I had a full clinic and my husband had a full day of meetings. Daycare was still shutdown and my son was in school remotely. I was on telemedicine visit in the morning and I remember my then 3 year old sitting outside the door crying about a snack and a lack of attention. It was clear that my patient could hear her and no one was going to save me. I kindly excused myself and picked her up and brought her in and included her in the visit. I assured the patient that she was HIPAA compliant and we finished up the visit with my daughter on my lap. Much of the pandemic has required me the alter the way that I practice. I am no longer extending grace but also asking for it.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? The first is, you can do it. I think for so many of us we think, How can I possibly put one more thing on my plate? You can do it. The second thing is that if you have a family, get the complete buy in from your partner. There is absolutely no way that I could do this without my husband’s support. He has been my biggest support and always pushed me to verbalize the “why” I am getting an MBA. This has helped me to shape my future goals. Lastly, I think it is important to do something like this when you have significant experience to which you can actively apply the knowledge. The MBA has been applicable to my everyday work experience and has been extremely helpful.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? I think an MBA is what you make of it. It is not a Bachelor’s degree. it is a professional degree and we are all adult learners. While I most certainly take pride in doing well, I also am constantly reminding myself that I am an adult learning and here for the tools that are going to make me successful now and into the future. Medical school rarely allowed me to learn something and apply it to a situation the very next day. The MBA is so pertinent to what I do on a daily basis it makes me excited about learning because I can apply much of what I am learning with immediacy.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret is not doing the executive MBA a bit sooner. My intention was to join the cohort a year ago, but we were navigating a health issue for one of my children. In one of my current roles, the tools that I am learning have been extremely helpful and therefore I wish I would pursue the work earlier.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Robin Ferrari is my classmate that I admire the most. During our second term, Robin and her daughter survived a house fire that destroyed their home. Robin did not miss a beat. Witnessing her resilience has been an inspiration to me during this time.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I chose an executive MBA because I wanted to learn with people that were leaders in their fields accounting, human resources, finance, research and innovation, and healthcare delivery. My leadership style is highly iterative and as a result I enjoy learning from others and their experiences. Much of the learning in this space comes from shared experiences and this is why I decided to pursue an executive MBA over other MBA options.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal?I would love to be the chief medical officer (CMO) or chief executive officer (CEO) of a major healthcare organization in the future.

What made Naudia such an invaluable member of the Class of 2021?

“Naudia has been an outstanding contributor to our Executive MBA in Healthcare program, and is considered by faculty to be one of the most talented students we have had in this program, or any other MBA program we offer.

Dr. Jonassaint is a highly accomplished professional. She holds an M.D. from Yale School of Medicine and a Masters in Health Sciences from Johns Hopkins. She is board certified in Hepatology and Internal Medicine and currently holds appointments in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where she serves as the Medical Director of Hepatology and the Associate Dean of Clinical Affair. She also serves on the UPMC Vaccine Collaborative Steering Committee, an initiative to bring vaccines to the community, a particularly important endeavor through the Covid pandemic. The pandemic has clearly disrupted clinical care and Dr. Jonassaint led the effort within her division, quickly pivoting to telemedicine to serve patients, as well continuing the life-saving liver transplant program at the University of Pittsburgh. At the same time, she has served as Vice Chair of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at UPMC, a major initiative to recruit and retain diverse clinical staff.

Despite her extensive professional responsibilities, and the huge additional demands placed on her because of the pandemic, Dr. Jonassaint has earned a 4.0 GPA 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 constructive, with a leadership style that welcomes others’ contributions. Dr. Jonassaint has earned a reputation in the class as a team player who is curious, caring, and has the ability to juggle many different roles without compromising quality. She is also someone who gives back to the community, whether through her extensive extracurricular activities, her mentoring of others, or her servant leadership style, which has won the admiration of the faculty and her classmates alike.

In short, Dr. Jonassaint is everything we hope for in an EMBA student and a leader in healthcare. Dr. Naudia Jonassaint is richly deserving of this Poets and Quants recognition.”

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

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.