2023 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Daniel Refai, Emory University (Goizueta)

Daniel Refai

Emory University, Goizueta Business School

Age: 47

“Motivated, driven leader in medicine and business.”

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA.

Family Members:

Anna Refai, dentist and small business owner of Magnolia Dentistry

3 Daughters: Panthea, Daria and Roya. Ages 13, 11 and 7 respectively.

Fun fact about yourself: Avid world traveler and Peloton fan!

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Tufts University, B.S. Chemistry and French 1997

University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, 2003

Where are you currently working?

Emory University School of Medicine

Professor of Neurosurgery and Orthopaedics

Director of Spinal Oncology

Vice Chair of Clinical Operations, Department of Neurosurgery

Co-director of the Emory Spine Center

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

Editorships and Editorial Boards

Spine Co-editor, Congress of Neurological Surgeons Self-Assessment in Neurological Surgery (SANS) educational board, 2011 – 2013

Associate Editor, Spine Surgery Today, 2014 – 2017

Associate Spine Editor, Neurosurgery 2014 – Present

Honors and Awards

Vigneau Prize in French Literature, 1997

Phi Beta Kappa at Tufts University Chapter, 1997

Advanced Research Scholar, 2000

Howard Hughes Medical Institute-National Institutes of Health, 2000

Howard Hughes Medical Institute-National Institutes of Health Advanced Research Scholar, 2001

Cumming Foundation Scholarship for Multiple Sclerosis Research, 2002

AΩA Honorary Medical Society, University of Chicago, 2002

Association for Academic Surgery Research Award, 2003

University of Chicago Pritzker Student Teaching Award, 2003

Barnes Jewish Hospital Caring Spirit Award, 2003

Department of Neurosurgery Washington University in Saint Louis Resident Teaching Award, 2007

Washington University Resident of the Year Award for Teaching, 2009

Hugh C. McLeod III MD Award of Excellence, Georgia Arthritis Chapter, 2019

Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society, Emory University, 2023

Dean’s List, Emory University, 2023

Society Memberships           

Congress of Neurological Surgeons, 2003 – Present

American Association of Neurological Surgeons, 2003 – Present

North American Spine Society, 2009 – Present

Georgia Neurosurgical Society, 2010 – Present

European Association of Neurological Societies (EANS), 2015 – Present

AO Spine Society, 2019 – Present

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? In business school, as part of my entrepreneurship course, I started a company with three classmates to disrupt the consumer product goods segment in shaving.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I currently hold over 50 medical patents with the FDA and European Union Approved Medical and Surgical Devices. I have the privilege of implanting spinal implants that I have created into patients to help them every day. Seeing them improve with my innovation is very rewarding. Even more amazing is watching and seeing others use my inventions for patient care. I can help patients 24/7 across the world without even being there.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Too hard to pick one. My favorites include Professors Rob Kazanjian, Shehzad Mian, Kevin Crowley, and Charlie Goetz.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Excellent faculty and reputation. Proximity to my work and family. Smaller class sizes.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? I finally understood where strategy, finance, and operations intersect to create sustainable growth and value. I start as Vice Chair of Clinical Operations in Neurosurgery this summer and I will use my skillset to achieve our fiscal goals, while improving patient access and quality for our department. I now have a clear vision with the tools needed to achieve that mission.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I was determined and organized. I woke up early and did homework in between surgeries. I scheduled team meetings after my kids were in bed.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Ask yourself why you want an MBA. What are your goals? Then be prepared to learn, work hard and have fun!

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? You can still learn after 40! Managing work, family and school is definitely challenging, but doable.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not having time to take more classes.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Julie Friedberg. She is a superstar. Intelligent, focused and always ready to push herself further. She kept me motivated and was an incredible study partner. We will be lifelong friends.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I wanted to focus on leadership and strategy.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To become a CEO of a hospital system and improve healthcare for both patients and employees. I hope to continue to practice medicine. I love operating and seeing patients.

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

“Dr. Daniel Refai is a powerhouse Executive MBA student. Dr. Refai is Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery and the Department of Orthopaedics at Emory University School of Medicine. He has not only managed his demanding work requirements, while earning his Executive MBA, but Dr. Refai has been a strong contributor to his classmates.  He gives countless hours to his teammates and is always willing to serve in the program. Whenever he is asked to participate in a school event, represent the school, or share his personal experiences, Dr. Refai never hesitates to make the sacrifice. He is giving, intelligent, and a remarkable Executive MBA student.”

Jaclyn Conner
Associate Dean of the Executive MBA :Program
Emory University’s Goizueta Business School


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