2023 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Anjali Bhagra, University of Minnesota (Carlson)

Anjali Bhagra, MD

University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management

Age: 48

“Global citizen with passion to have a meaningful impact by creating empowerment belonging for all.”

Hometown: Rochester, Minnesota

Family Members:

Husband: Sumit Bhagra

Sons: Ojas Bhagra and Tej Bhagra

Parents: Sneh Arora and V.K. Arora

Fun fact about yourself: I have a terrible sense of direction, and this has served me well as an opportunity to take some scenic detours and explore new places and people!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi, India – M.B.,B.S.

Where are you currently working?

Company: Mayo Clinic

Role: Physician and Medical Director of Equity, Inclusion and Diversity

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

Personal Extracurricular Activities: Racquet sports (badminton), avid follower of tennis and Formula 1 racing, decorating interior spaces.

Community Work: Co-founded RISE for Youth: Reflect, Inspire, Strengthen, Empower at Mayo Clinic in partnership with the NAACP (The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). This is a program to create new pathways for success by providing students with critical education and leadership skills, training, and long-term mentoring for successful careers in healthcare, science and beyond.

Leadership Roles:

At Mayo Clinic:
Medical Director of Equity, Inclusion and Diversity
Member of the Mayo Clinic Executive Operations Team
Vice Chair of Faculty Development, Division of General Internal Medicine
Co-founder of GRIT (Growth, Resilience, Inspiration, Tenacity) for Women in Medicine annual conference
Founder, RISE for Equity annual medical conference

National Roles:
Board Member, Society for Ultrasound in Medical Education
Member, American College of Physicians POCUS (Point of Care Ultrasound) Advisory group
Executive Board Member, National IGNITE Med program for advancement of women in American Medical Schools
Member, HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) Global Health Equity Network (GHEN) task force

International roles
Founding member (representing Mayo Clinic): Racial Justice in Business initiative by World Economic Forum (WEF)

Board member, World India Diabetes Foundation (WIDF)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? In addition to navigating the steep learning curve of going back to school for my MBA, I am proud to have stepped outside my comfort zone through a very special extracurricular achievement. I was nominated as a celebrity dancer (by our community leadership board for youth arts education) to Dancing for the Arts (DFTA), a competitive fundraiser for youth arts education in Minnesota. I went through three months of dance lessons while working as a physician leader and managing MBA on the weekends. At the end, it was all worth it because my instructor and I brought home the DFTA trophy and raised the highest level of funding for our youth.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am proud of the work I do every day as a physician. However, when I look back, the most meaningful and humbling accomplishment as a physician leader has been to pay it forward to women and marginalized communities. Specifically, it has been launching two large national conferences, GRIT for Women in Medicine and RISE for Equity, has brought together national thought leaders to activate innovations enhancing equity across all sectors and this brings much joy to me.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? The Carlson School faculty is absolutely amazing and it is indeed tough to identify one professor as my favorite. However, Professor Aks Zaheer was particularly inspiring. I loved learning about business strategy and its application to how one lives their life from him. His wisdom, knowledge, intellect, humility, and sense of humor were a joy to experience and learn from.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? The Carlson School MBA program was an easy choice for me. It offered everything I was looking for, including rigorous academics, world-class faculty, opportunities for hands-on learning, overseas experience, and a strong focus on business analytics, digital innovation, and a curriculum that is responsive to today’s evolving business needs. The strong alumni network and career support services open doors for new opportunities.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? One of the most important lessons I learned during my Executive MBA program was that for complex problem solving the quality of our solutions is only as good as the questions we ask and how we engage our team.

At work, I enhanced my skills to strategically solve business problems with divergent and convergent thinking, engaging multiple stakeholders and tapping into the art and science of innovation and organizational culture.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? Integrating work, family, and school was a relay race that I ran with my family. The Carlson School is about an hour-and-a-half drive from where I live. Having returned from a long international business trip and being away from home, I dreaded the early morning commute for MBA class due to jet lag. My husband and son offered to drive me up for class and I felt pampered to have my very own door-to-door limo service. They surprised me by staying overnight and we could have precious family time over dinner after my class.

Looking back, adding fun moments to the busy patches changed how we perceived the busyness. Our perception of events becomes our reality. In the end, I do feel like I could do it all and have it all because of the support from my family and friends.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? There is no perfect time for going back to school, so please don’t wait for all your stars to align before you commit. I found the following three things helpful as I began my back-to-school journey:

First, run a motivation and goals audit: Take the time to reflect on your motivations and goals. What’s your ‘why?’ Having a clear understanding of this can help guide you toward the right time and place to pursue your training. Remember that one size does not fit all.

Second, do your research: I found leaning on alumni and current students for insights and advice the most helpful when I made my decision. I got an honest and accurate account of what I was signing up for!

Third, prioritize time management: Once you commit, focus on integrating your life and work. I used a three-step process for this: prioritize, simplify, and delegate. A systematic approach to balance work, school, and personal responsibilities was key for me. Having a strong support system in place and allowing yourself to lean on your family, friends, and teammates at school and work can help you manage your time and stay on track.

And finally, don’t postpone your joy and make the most of your experience by taking advantage of all the resources available and cherishing the lifelong friends you will make!

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? One of the biggest myths that I faced about going back to school is that it may be too much for me to handle along with my work and life responsibilities! On the contrary, for me, being mid-career and going back to school was absolutely energizing and equipped me with skills and motivation to be bolder and more effective at work and in my personal commitments.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Starting business school during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, my peers and I faced challenges in utilizing the first year of the program for networking due to restrictions on in-person interactions. As a result, I regret not being able to take full advantage of the opportunity to build valuable professional connections during this time. Thankfully, towards the end of the program, we were able to safely travel overseas and engage with business community in Spain as well as colleagues from China and Europe as part of our global residency and projects.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? My peer group at the Carlson School was diverse, dynamic, and just a splendid group of professionals. I experienced a great sense of community and was inspired by many. One person whom I admired a lot is my colleague and now good friend, Ms. Sara Thomas. She exemplified integrity with a fierce growth mindset and constantly pushed herself out of her comfort zone. Sara also made it a point to have fun along the way and celebrate the learning experience and not just the outcome!

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I wanted to continue working as a physician leader at Mayo Clinic while immersing myself in a deep and rigorous learning experience that was focused on personal and professional development, leadership training and skill as well as network building.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My ultimate long-term professional goal is to meld my knowledge of business with medical expertise to drive meaningful change in the healthcare industry. Specifically, I aim to leverage my leadership skills to influence healthcare policy and accelerate innovation in healthcare.

I hope to continue to advance in leadership roles within healthcare organizations and boldly embrace positions of increasing responsibility. Ultimately, I aim to drive a positive impact on the healthcare industry by catalyzing systemic level change, improving access to care, and enhancing the overall patient and workforce experience.

What made Anjali such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“I wish to give my strongest possible recommendation to Anjali Bhagra’s nomination of the Best and Brightest EMBA students for the Class of 2023. Anjali was one of the most outstanding presences ever in my Executive MBA Strategy class. She was always thoroughly prepared, engaged, and deeply involved in the discussions. Not only would she frequently volunteer her well-thought-out views and analyses, but she went above-and-beyond to consult with me after class. She was also an outstanding student leader, and together with her senior leadership background at the Mayo Clinic, she excelled at thinking deeply and strategically about key issues, and sharing her brilliant insights, both in the course and outside it. It was a pleasure and a privilege to interact with Anjali!”

Aks Zaheer
Curtis L. Carlson Chair in Strategic Management
Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota


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