2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: DJ Lakkireddy, Indiana University (Kelley)

DJ Lakkireddy

Indiana University, Kelley School of Business

Age: 49

“I’m inquisitive, enthusiastic, driven, outgoing, fun, and loving.”

Hometown: I have lived in Kansas City, Mo., for almost 19 years. It’s really a fantastic city, a hidden jewel that many people don’t know about.

I grew up in Proddatur, India, a town of about 120,000 people in south central India. My dad was a professor of English at a local college, and my mom was a homemaker. I’m the youngest of three boys. My hometown family doctor inspired me to consider the medical profession as a career. One day in school, I got very sick. My fever rose rapidly to 104 degrees, approaching 105, and I was in a state of delirium. My mother tells me that the doctor ordered a bunch of ice and dunked me into a tank, keeping me there for two hours to bring down my temperature while he sat next to me. He recognized malaria right away and administered the anti-malaria medications. Within a few days, I was out of the hospital. I very much appreciated his compassion, focus on saving lives, and how he applied his knowledge for the greater societal good. It was incredible. That gave me a very strong sense of purpose, which drove me toward a medical career.

Family Members: I met my wife, Madhuri, during residency in the U.S. She’s an OB/GYN and vice chair for the department of OB/GYN, so we have a very busy household. We have two daughters: Meghana is a freshman at Wellesley College, and Avani is sophomore in high school. My mom, Subhadra, lives with us. My In-laws and brother lives in Kansas City as well. Plus, we have two little dogs, Elvis and Snowy.

Fun fact about yourself: I make one of the best Old Fashioned cocktails in the world. My friends tell me—hands down—that mine is the best Old Fashioned they’ve ever had. Many people have tried to recreate my cocktail without any luck; it’s because I mix them with cardamom bitters I make myself.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  • Biological Sciences at Andhra Pradesh Residential Junior College (APRJC)
  • MD at Osmania Medical College, Hyderabad, India
  • Residency at the University of Missouri—Kansas City School of Medicine
  • Cardiology Fellowship at Creighton University, Omaha, NE
  • Cardiac Electrophysiology at Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH
  • MBA at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business (Physician MBA)

Where are you currently working?

Executive Medical Director at the Kansas City Heart Rhythm Institute

Professor of Medicine at the University of Missouri—Columbia and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • Board of Trustees member for the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS)
  • Chair of the section steering committee for the American College of Cardiology (ACC)
  • 2019-2022 – Chairman, Electrophysiology Leadership Council, ACC
  • 2013-2017 – Governor, Kansas ACC state chapter
  • 2020-2021 – Chairman, HRS Global Ambassadors Council
  • 2020 – Distinguished Service Award from ACC
  • 2020 – Legacy Award from the Kansas ACC
  • 2012 – Recognized as Person of the Year by Prevention health magazine for my research on yoga’s impact on atrial fibrillation
  • 2006 – Young Scientist award from the Earl Bakken Foundation
  • 2019 – Professional of the Year award from the Kansas City Asian Chamber of Commerce
  • 2008-2022 – Kansas City Magazine’s Best Doctors Annual roll of honor

Hindu Temple Cultural Heritage Foundation – I have been very active in this foundation’s work to engage people across religious denominations in our community to collectively address the healthcare of minorities. We created this “community for all” project in which we collaborated with different religious groups to get to know one another. We invited the rabbis, priests, imams, and other religious leaders to speak at our temple. By connecting people who give lectures on spirituality, we created an intellectual conversation opportunity for all religions to work together moving forward.

Global AF Foundation: Founding member of this voluntary organization that works towards improving patient awareness through educational activities.

Sudden Cardiac Death Foundation – This is a global effort to educate people on CPR use. We offer CPR classes for high school students at temples, mosques, and other community locations. We have an ongoing collaboration with the Indian Heart Rhythm Society and Cardiovascular Society of India in which we’re collaborating on sudden cardiac death prevention across the globe.

Cricket – I’m a huge fan of cricket, and I like to catch as many cricket games as possible. It’s on my bucket list to play at one of my favorite grounds—either Lord’s in England or Melbourne Cricket Club in Australia.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m proud of them all, but my most proud accomplishment is an ongoing project I’m working on with Susannah Gillan Gawor, director of the Physician MBA Program, and Ron Thomas with Kelley Executive Education to create a Business of Electrophysiology certificate program. As a member of the board of trustees for the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS), I’m always looking for ways to enrich the society’s value to its members. How can we help members become more business savvy? How do we teach them the basic knowledge? You really need excellent managerial skills to manage a field like cardiology, and not many physicians have training in the business of healthcare.

As a direct beneficiary of the Physician MBA Program, I wanted to create something special and unique. I brought together the leadership of HRS and Kelley School of Business, and we’ve been working for the past six months on the creation of the Certificate of Business of Electrophysiology and other relevant business and leadership courses directed towards electrophysiologists. This one-year certificate would be the first of its kind to teach business skills to cardiologists and create a unique collaboration between a major business school and major professional society. I hope to give something back to my specialty and provide this opportunity where electrophysiologists could have a better understanding of business.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m proud of what I’ve done at every stage in my life, not one particular thing. I’m proud of the things I was able to achieve in research; I’m proud of the work I have done creating educational symposiums to help other people learn and grow, and I’m proud of the work I’ve done to help millions of patients benefit from new tools and techniques in cardiology. I’m very proud of the type of people I met and remained friends with along the way. I’m proud of what I do on a daily basis and the ability to make a difference in people’s lives, change the status quo, and push the envelope to be better the next day.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I can’t pick one favorite, but I like a lot about each one of them.

Reed Smith, professor of accounting at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, is a very affable, non-intimidating professor who teaches you some of the toughest concepts in an amazing, fatherly way.

Nir Menachemi, department chair and professor of health policy and management at the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Business Health, has these unique euphemisms and takes on life. There are many “Nir-isms” we’ve picked up during his course.

Todd Saxton, associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at Kelley, has an infectious enthusiasm for adventure. He’s constantly giving you new ways to get where you need to go, so long as you don’t give up.

Phil Powell, clinical associate professor of business economics & public policy and associate dean of academic programs, Indianapolis at Kelley, is an amazing professor with an uncanny ability to connect with people with a high level of energy. When you go to his class, you just can’t stop yourself from engaging in a conversation because he brings such positive energy that pulls everybody into the conversation. That’s a trait I absolutely laud.

Julie Manning Magid, professor of business law at Kelley, is very methodical, a typical lawyer. When she teaches you healthcare ethics and healthcare law, she’s precisely to the point and no nonsense.

Ken Carow, professor of finance and executive associate dean of faculty & research, Indianapolis at Kelley, is a brilliant individual who simplifies the difficult concepts.

Jennifer Robin, who teaches conflict resolution, has been of tremendous help personally in decluttering my professional life. She gave me many ideas on how to balance and prioritize.

Susannah Gillan Gawor, the Physician MBA Program director at Kelley, is like the deejay bringing everything together. She’s the brains of the whole program; she’s omnipresent and connects the dots to everyone else. I think we have amazing professors. I would say I love them all; we’re very fortunate to have this amalgamation of uniquely different individuals with incredible talents who make this program very special.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program?

I looked at different programs offered by Harvard, Kellogg, Wharton, Stanford, and Kelley. I selected Kelley as my top choice because it had a fantastic track record of alumni, and a couple of my friends were very happy with their experiences here. It’s located in Indianapolis, not too far from me, and it’s reasonably priced. The Physician MBA Program had all the necessary ingredients I wanted in terms of course selection, professors, and teaching style. I’m very glad I made this decision.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Build a strong team around you. The practice of medicine is a team sport, and we tend to forget that. The MBA program helped me understand this much better, and it’s been reaffirmed by the last two years of my work. Surrounding yourself with the right talent can create an amazing team that can deliver.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I have a saint for a wife! Before I started the MBA program, I’d been thinking about doing it for a while. I always thought it would put so much strain on myself, and then, COVID came around. Everyone was making difficult choices without really knowing what would happen next. It was one of those moments when I said, “I need to do this. I may never be able to do this, and I want to get my MBA before I turn 50.”

I went to my wife, Madhuri, and I mentioned again that I’d been thinking about getting an MBA. I asked her what she thought, because it would be extra stressful on her. We’re both busy physicians and have two children. She laughed and said, “That’s nothing new for us. You should go get it done.” It was as if she already knew what she was getting into when she agreed to marry me!

The first year, specifically, was a lot of intense homework in subjects that were all new to me, so it was challenging. I had to put in some time, reshuffle my schedule, stay up late, and get work done. The advantage is the program is divided into teams, so you learn from one another. I was constantly reprioritizing what I was doing from research, academic, and clinical perspectives to complete MBA work.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? The concepts you’ll learn are not as cut-and-dried as they are in medicine. The business administration aspects of healthcare, conceptually, are broader and have a lot more to do with people than numbers. It’s a lot of human behavior, interpersonal communication, leadership, conflict resolution, understanding workflows and efficiencies, and understanding the numbers. This experience will add a new and amazing dimension to your thought process.

Prior to earning my MBA, for example, I would never think about my per-case costs in the operating room when asking for tools or materials. There was no conscious effort to understand what the items I selected translated to in terms of operational costs, and I would become frustrated when administrators asked me to use something cheaper or questioned whether I truly needed something. I’m very cost conscious now, and I’ve become an advocate for efficiency driven by minimizing waste. Suddenly, I speak the same language as the administrators, and they’re no longer my adversaries. I’ve changed my perspective because I understand exactly where the administrators are coming from. That’s one facet of a change in myself. If you multiply that by the hundreds of different decisions I make each day, you get a sense of the financial implications of having that new dimension of understanding.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? It’s funny; because once they are teenagers, your kids don’t have as much time to talk to you anymore. I made a deal with my kids that we sit down and do our homework together. That’s a win. Now they say, “What was your grade, Dad? Did you make an A or B?” They tease me about my grades, and I tease them about theirs. It was a fun little competition. I would show off my best grades to let them know their old man is still pulling along decently.

The biggest myth is the inability to find the time and juggle all your responsibilities. It’s certainly difficult, and there were times I questioned why I was doing it. However, there is a reward at the end. Certainly, there are stress points during assignment deadlines or when there are simultaneous, conflicting responsibilities, and you can’t get to all of them. But it’s a commitment, and we all must find a way to cut back on certain activities to make room for the most important one. By prioritizing and shuffling, anybody can survive this.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I have no major regrets from this experience. However, half of my program was completed during COVID-19 restrictions, so we held a lot more of our classes online and did not meet in person for almost an entire year. If we could have had more time on campus, I would’ve liked to have interacted with more entrepreneurs and leaders in healthcare innovation.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? This is a difficult question to answer because each of my classmates are unique in their background, why they enrolled in business school, and the individuality that distinguishes them from one another. Some come from private practices, working in rural community settings and operating in very thin margins to make their practices viable. There’s an element of persistence and tenacity about these folks, who change healthcare by taking it into their hands rather than looking to somebody else. That’s an amazing characteristic that I admire.

I’ve also met sub-specialists driven to create business opportunities around an idea, which is also inspiring. So, I really can’t pick one or the other. I love my class, and I think they’re a great group of human beings and amazing doctors. 

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? When I was looking at all the options, I wanted a program that had human contact in which I’d get to meet people, sit down with them, and interact with them. I like that style of learning. I also liked the content and the way the program is delivered. When I interviewed with Susannah Gillan Gawor, the Physician MBA Program director at the Kelley School of Business, I asked her a lot of questions about the structure of this program. In the nine years that Kelley has offered the Physician MBA, they’ve tweaked the program to fit the needs of busy, practicing physicians while still offering a quality MBA without cutting corners. That is the best part, and it’s why the Kelley School of Business Physician MBA is a better program than what I explored in my investigation of other offerings.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to truly make healthcare access better, cheaper, and more efficient. Whether it’s in the sphere of clinical medicine, healthcare industry innovation, medical research, or healthcare education, business improvement principles must fundamentally be applied to all the dimensions in which we work. How do we introduce change to make healthcare cheaper, more effective, and with improved access? This is my long-term professional goal.

What made Dr. Lakkireddy such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?

“Dr. Lakkireddy is a trailblazer among his physician peers in my course on the U.S. economy. His observations impressively linked historical patterns to accurate forecasts for economic variables. He is a gifted communicator who uses practical context to frame advanced interpretation of analytics and data. He exhibits all the traits of a physician executive who can help fix U.S. healthcare through innovative leadership and positive disruption.”

Phillip Powell
Clinical Associate Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy and Associate Dean of Academic Programs – Indianapolis
IU Kelley School of Business


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