2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Dr. Sira Duson, University of Maryland (Smith)

Sira Duson, M.D.

University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business

Age: 38

“A charismatic and resolute leader dedicated to teaching and mentoring, especially underrepresented minorities.”

Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland

Family Members: Mother Tina Duson Chase, Sister Letam Duson, Esq., and Brother Mene Duson

Fun fact about yourself:   I performed competitively in my high school’s show choir. In my free time, I continue to sing with a choir as well as play the piano and do interior design.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  • The George Washington University – BA, Psychology
  • Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University – MD, Doctorate of Medicine

Where are you currently working? Vascular Surgeon and Co-Director of the Limb Salvage Program at WakeMed Health in Raleigh, North Carolina

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • Angel Investor, Citrine Angels, 2021-Present
  • Treasurer, Society of Black Vascular Surgeons, 2021-Present
  • Research Committee, Eastern Vascular Society, 2021-Present
  • Reviewer, Journal of Vascular Surgery, 2020-Present
  • Government Relations Committee, Society for Vascular Surgery, 2019-Present
  • Mentor, Student National Medical Association, University of Maryland School of Medicine Chapter, 2021-2022
  • Assistant Professor of Surgery, University of Maryland School of Medicine, 2016-2022

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My proudest achievement was learning how to develop and present my venture pitch idea during our Entrepreneurship Action Learning Project class. I was quite proud of YES! Xpress, a Mediterranean diet based quick service restaurant targeting college students and young professionals. I had no prior exposure to or experience in the startup space. In my profession, I rarely am afforded the opportunity to be creative and think outside of the box. Thus, I was completely captivated and intrigued by this course. Our instructors, Jacqueline Manger and Jeffrey Mund – who we affectionately referred to as JCM squared, skillfully balanced providing guidance without stifling our creativity. Although my idea was not chosen as a finalist in our class pitch competition, I still plan on pursuing this venture in the future.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am quite proud to be a founding member of the Society of Black Vascular Surgeons, founded in August 2020. This group has been crucial in providing a sense of community and belonging within a field that only 2% of practitioners are from similar backgrounds. In a short period, we have established a mentoring program for medical students and general surgery residents to generate a pipeline for trainees interested in the field of vascular surgery.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professors Judy Frels and Rellie Derfler-Rozin, as well as my executive coach Cynthia Stevens, undoubtedly shaped my MBA experience. These women exemplify leadership and excellence inside and outside of the classroom. I could count on them for advice and guidance throughout this experience. They have all been in my place as a woman in leadership positions. They were invaluable in helping me navigate this space, especially during the transition between my former and current job position.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I was chatting with a colleague I revere at a work networking event. She mentioned that she was currently obtaining an executive MBA from Robert Smith School of Business. I expressed to her that, for years, I had been researching various MBA programs. Yet I had not applied for any program given our hectic work schedules.  She raved about the Smith School’s executive MBA program. She reassured me that the program was not only conducive to our work schedule, but that the emphasis on leadership development and networking was especially relevant to my future goals of hospital leadership.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The biggest lessons learned during my MBA experience were from the Mastery Sessions, which focused on various aspects of leadership development. The ability to practice and apply new skills in real time have been invaluable.  At work, I used to put my head down and do my job. Now, in addition to performing my job proficiently, I actively engage in activities that result in greater visibility and opportunities for leadership. My relationships with colleagues, not just those who I interact with daily, has intensified and significantly broadened my network.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I avoided taking emergency surgery call at work during the weekends I had EMBA classes. Sometimes this was unavoidable. One Thursday evening, I was operating all night into the Friday morning of class. There was a data models and decision-making project that my group was completing that weekend. I informed my team members about the situation through our WhatsApp group chat. They all were so supportive, told me not to worry and to focus on work. Professor Kislaya Prasad was also very understanding towards my situation. I would not be able to juggle work and school if it were not for the support and understanding of my classmates and instructors.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? I would advise a student looking to enter an executive MBA program to mentally prepare to learn. Most of us in the program are established in our careers and are quite knowledgeable about our various industries. A prospective student should be open to learning new concepts, as well as new approaches to decision-making and problem-solving, to truly benefit from an executive MBA program. My background in medicine was beneficial for keeping an open mind. I realized early on that the material we were learning in this program was unlike anything I was exposed to in the past.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I initially approached business school by solely focusing on the coursework. Additionally, our courses took place remotely during the height of the COVID pandemic. We primarily interacted with classmates who were assigned to the same group. I regret not taking the opportunity to get to know all my amazing classmates earlier on in the process. Our cohort is quite eclectic. I have met the most amazing people from all around the world, who work in vastly different industries. It’s been wonderful to learn not only from my instructors, but from my classmates. I eventually realized that learning in business school occurs inside and outside of the classroom.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire Rhoan Boucher. He exhibits considerable self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and executive presence. He has the uncanny ability to address difficult situations, leaving stakeholders feeling acknowledged and unscathed.  He is quite knowledgeable and easily shares his pearls of wisdom with others.  I routinely seek his advice regarding challenging situations.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I was drawn to the structure and rigorous curriculum provided in the executive MBA program. I enjoy being challenged and tend to perform better under pressure. Thus, the high-yield, content-packed, and fast-paced environment of the executive MBA program was attractive. The executive coaching program was also appealing. My executive coach, Cynthia Stevens, and I were very well matched.  Her casual yet effective approach to coaching provided considerable pertinent guidance.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal?  My ultimate long-term professional goal is to secure a substantial leadership role within a hospital system and enact changes that would benefit patients, employees, and underrepresented trainees.  After participating in the Entrepreneurship Action Learning Project, I am also eager to contribute to society as an innovator and investor in the startup space.

What made Sira such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?

“Sira’s contributions to the class demonstrate quiet, calm, and Fearless Leadership, especially during difficult conversations.  Early in the program, a particular session in ethics featured a wide-ranging conversation about a real-world ethical problem. Sira had been a contributor but not a dominator of the conversation, and as we neared the conclusion of the session, I needed someone to make that statement that helps people synthesize the conversation. Sira stepped in to make the exact point we needed to hear, calmly and definitively. Her approach was so masterful and efficient, I went back to the recording of the session and rewatched it, because I saw how her words resonated with her peers.

Sira is a surgeon and a medical school faculty member, yet she doesn’t wield her credentials as a reason people should listen to her or follow her.  People follow her because she’s done the quiet, relentless, hard work of earning every single person’s respect.  One could almost say she’s surgical in her approach.”

Judy K. Frels
Senior Fellow, Executive Development Programs
Clinical Professor of Marketing 
Robert H. Smith School of Business


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