2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Kathleen C. Kobashi, University of Michigan (Ross)

Kathleen C. Kobashi, MD, MBA

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

Age: 55

“I am a grateful, curious, and spirited life-long-learner, who aspires to enable and inspire others.”

Hometown: Villa Park, CA

Family Members: Christopher Porter, MD (husband); Daughters: Emily and Sophia Porter

Fun fact about yourself: My high school job was Mickey Mouse at Disneyland

Undergraduate School and Degree: BA, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA

Where are you currently working? Houston Methodist Hospital

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • Chair, Department of Urology, Houston Methodist Hospital, Houston, TX (2021-current)
  • Trustee, American Board of Urology (2022-2028)
  • Clinical Professor of Urology, University of Washington (2013 – present)
  • Distinguished Service Award, Society for Urodynamics, Female Pelvic Medicine, and Urogenital Reconstruction (2022)
  • President, American Urological Association Western Section (2020-21)
  • President, Society for Urodynamics, Female Pelvic Medicine, and Urogenital Reconstruction (2018-2020)
  • Section Head, Urology and Renal Transplantation, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA (2007-2021)
  • Section Editor, Urology Practice Journal (2015-2020)
  • Associate Editor, Urology Practice Journal (2020-current)
  • Associate Editor, Societe’ Internationale d’Urologie Journal (2020-current)
  • Mentor Leadership Program, American Urological Association (2018-current)
  • Rudy Ansbacher Scholar for Women in Academic Medicine, University of Michigan (2017-2018)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am proud to stand on the shoulders of true giants in the field of Urology as the new Chair of the Department of Urology at Houston Methodist Hospital, an organization that is on a tremendous growth trajectory. This opportunity came about in the middle of my MBA studies. Not only do I use the tools I learned in business school every single day, but I am almost certain that the opportunity was given to me in large part because of my MBA pursuit. It is a humbling privilege to have been given the baton and the responsibility of taking this amazing department to the next level.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of establishing two new educational programs during my professional career and during my tenure at my prior organization – a Urology Residency in 2013 and a comprehensive (clinical and research) Fellowship in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery (2001). I am thrilled to have left a legacy of education behind and to have been able to foster new leaders to take on both programs after my departure. Most importantly, however, is the delight that teaching future urologists brings to all of us who have that privilege, and personally, to have established new avenues to facilitate this learning has been immensely gratifying for me.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? The outstanding reputation of the University of Michigan and the Ross School of Business notwithstanding, the exceptional alumni network (about which I heard continuously from my Michigan alum husband), and the unparalleled pride of Michigan alumni in their alma mater made Ross a hands down decision for me. Go Blue!

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? I learned the value of what each of us brings to the table and the importance of listening, absorbing, and learning from every individual around us every day. I learned that it was not only acceptable but welcomed to ask the most basic of questions and to lean heartily upon each other. Admittedly, I thought I was reasonably well versed at asking questions even before I started at Ross. However, my colleagues and professors showed me that there was so much more room to learn from unabashedly raising your hand.

I use these concepts at work every day. Not only am I myself better at asking questions, but I have also become much more in tuned to actively encouraging our residents, fellows, medical students, staff, and patients to ask questions. My professors taught me to welcome and foster those questions and to be steadfast in my dedication to ensuring that the answers are effectively conveyed.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I am fortunate to have a wonderful and very supportive husband and two equally supportive teenage daughters, and this was the backbone of how I was able to juggle work, family, and studies. At the time that the Class of 2022 embarked upon our EMBA journey, we were in the throes of the pandemic. Consequently, the first 10 months of studies were virtual, and I had the wonderful opportunity to study alongside our two high schoolers, each of us staking out a different corner of the house to make our own for the many hours of Zoom classes we faced… and we would meet in the kitchen for lunch if we were lucky enough for the timing to work out.

As I started my EMBA studies, my job as the Head of the Section of Urology changed overnight. Suddenly, the job entailed the need to cope with unprecedented adjustments in the delivery of healthcare in an unknown world that my partners, administrative colleagues, and I faced. Our primary goals were to provide optimal care for our patients, while keeping the patients, our staff and residents, and our families safe – but we didn’t yet have a grasp on what we were dealing with in COVID-19, and this uncertainty made it particularly challenging and stressful.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? I would first say, hands down, “Go for it!”. However, based upon my personal experience, I would also advise them to prepare for one of the most challenging, yet one of the most fulfilling and invaluable journeys they will ever undertake. There will be days when you are overwhelmed, but you must lean on your classmates and friends. That also applies to your professors, who, in the Michigan Ross program will be there to hold you up, teach you, and encourage you. Take it all in and cherish the toughest of times because there is nothing more rewarding and gratifying as when you come out successfully on the other side – stronger, better equipped, and ecstatic!

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth is that studying is like riding a bike. Even as one who thrives on contributing to academic medicine, I quickly realized that the study habits required to learn brand new concepts and disciplines took a tremendous amount of effort to rekindle. The intense pressures and anxiety that I experienced during the timed online exams were only balanced by the indescribable relief to have that same exam behind me. It gave me renewed respect and admiration for students of all levels.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My only regret, now that I am done, is that it did not last longer. I so enjoyed my colleagues. Though I know we are all 100% committed to staying in touch, we all know that we will not be in touch with the same intensity as that which we have experienced over the past 21 months, and I will miss that.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? This is a very difficult question to answer as I truly admired so many of my colleagues (every single one of the 25 of my unusually small class, actually). However, as with my professors, if I had to choose one, it would be Rich Aste, PhD, an art historian who was only surpassed in age in this cohort by yours truly. Rich is a kind, genuine, unpretentious man. He was a true scholar who always wanted his colleagues to succeed. Despite his huge accomplishments running a museum in San Antonio, he was humble and modest and always willing to take the time to share and explain what he had learned when others were struggling.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I did not want to let the length of my studies be too open-ended and I wanted to learn at a pace that kept me on track. Additionally, and importantly, I wanted to get to know my colleagues and to learn from and together with them – (which I was categorically able to do.)

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? When I entered the program, I was considering the potential to be a Department Chair at a leading institution. During my EMBA, I was presented with the opportunity to do just that. In large part, I credit the Ross MBA program for giving me the tools and confidence to pursue this role even in the midst of my studies. An executive leadership position could be a consideration in the future, but I have lots of work to do in my current position before I look for any other opportunities.

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

“The Ross Executive MBA team is proud to nominate Kathleen Kobashi (“KK”) for the Poets&Quants “Best and Brightest Executive MBAs” article. We can say without hesitation that KK personifies the ideals of both the Michigan Ross school and our Executive MBA program. In fact, the three words that best describe KK are driven, resilient, and principled.

While a full-time student in the Michigan Ross Executive MBA program, Kathleen left her role as Section Head of Urology at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, WA to become the Department Chair of Urology at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, TX. In addition to her impressive day job, Kathleen was also active on several boards throughout her time in the program. She is one of two new Trustees of the American Board of Urology where there are a total of 12 trustees. She is also the Immediate Past President of the Western Section American Urological Association (WSAUA), where she was the first female president, and she is the Past Past President of the Society for Urodynamics, Female Pelvic Medicine, and Urogenital Reconstruction (SUFU).  Lastly, in April 2022 Kathleen was elected to membership in the American Association of Genitourinary Surgeons (GU Surgeons). This academic group of chairs and professors represent the premiere group of urology leaders in the US.

Others in the cohort are inspired by all that Kathleen has accomplished and continues to accomplish while making time for fellow students, alumni, friends, and family including her teenage daughters. In fact, Kathleen’s level of resilience is something that sets her apart. After taking her new role as Department Chair, she broke her ankle, which required surgery and months of rehabilitation. In spite of this setback, Kathleen never skipped a beat when it came to her commitments. She is a true professional with high integrity and admiration for everyone she meets.

Student comments about KK include, “When you meet someone as accomplished as KK, you assume something had to give on the way to achieving her many successes: family, friends, humility, or a sense of humor. But KK is extraordinary, leading effortlessly with brilliance, joy, and admiration for everyone she meets. If we could just clone KK, the world would be a brighter, happier place.” Another classmate said, “KK is one of the most hardworking and dedicated individuals I have had the pleasure of working with. She is always eager to support and motivate others with deep insights and infectious enthusiasm. Her continual desire to learn new skills despite all the successes she has achieved in her career has been a great source of inspiration for our (EMBA) cohort.”

Humility and integrity are core to the way Kathleen lives her life. She is deliberate in making a positive impact on everyone she encounters. She meets each person where they are, with acceptance, always looking to inspire and find the best in others. Needless to say, the respect and care she disseminates has earned her profound respect from Ross staff, professors, and students. We cannot recommend KK more highly for this honor. Thank you for providing us with the opportunity.”

Sue Ann Gonis, M.A. and MCC
Executive Coach & Career Management Coach for Executive MBA students and alumni



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