2023 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Rohan C. Wijewickrama, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Rohan C. Wijewickrama

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

Age: 43

“Ear, nose and throat surgeon, educator, traveler, team player, father, husband, son, brother and friend.”

Hometown: Waynesville, North Carolina

Family Members:

Mrs. Anjalee Wijewickrama (Wife)

David, Uma and Heinz Wijewickrama (Children)

Mr. Chandra and Mrs. Ramanee Wijewickrama (Parents)

Mr. David Wijewickrama and Mr. Roy Wijewickrama (Brothers)

Fun fact about yourself: Senior superlative “Most Unforgettable”

Undergraduate School and Degree:

University of Miami (Florida), Bachelor of Arts

Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Doctor of Medicine

Where are you currently working?

Steward Medical Group, Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon

St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center of Boston, Director of Rhinology Fellowship

Tufts University School of Medicine, Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center Graduate Medical Education

Committee Member                                                                    July 2015-Present

American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy

Associate Member                                                                       June 2013-Present

American Rhinologic Society (ARS)                                        October 2009-Present

American Academy of Otolaryngology— Head and Neck Surgery

Fellow Member                                                                            July 2007-Present

American Medical Association                                                 August 2001-Present

Wake Forest University School of Medicine

Medical Alumni Association

Board Member                                                                             July 2016-June 2022

Class Agent (Class of 2005)                                                       May 2005-Present

University at Buffalo Department of Otolaryngology

Residency Selection Committee                                               July 2009-June 2011

University at Buffalo Department of Otolaryngology

Academic Committee     Representative                                 July 2007-June 2011

Wake Forest University School of Medicine

Class Officer, Student Government Treasurer                      June 2005-May 2006

Wake Forest University School of Medicine

Class Officer, Medical Alumni Association Representative

Class of 2005                                                                                 August 2001-June 2005

Centro Clinico Volunteer Translator                                        November 2001-June 2004

Spanish Translation at Free Health Clinic                              Winston-Salem, NC

AMIGOS Volunteer Tutor                                                           January-May 2002

Calvin Middle School ESL                                                           Winston-Salem, NC

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The Weekend Executive MBA at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School is designed around a cohort model of approximately 50 students. The tight bonds among our classmates are clearly apparent and our teams comprised of approximately five students. These teams help to generate professional relationships, enduring friendship and collegiality to aid in pushing each other through challenging periods in the collective path traveled to obtain a comprehensive business education. I remain most proud that despite hardships faced. We have all supported and looked out for each other with the aim of reaching the finish line not as individuals, but as an efficient, cohesive, and collectively robust teams ready to face any challenge.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of having the opportunity to train more than 20 fellows in the past decade who are now out in practice throughout the world. The minimally invasive techniques, which have been disseminated to many nations through our training program, provide me with immense pride given the impact on the training of future generations of ENT Surgeons and the health of their patients. Procedures which were once associated with significant morbidity and prolonged hospitalization have now advanced to largely outpatient procedures or ones requiring only a short stay in the hospital.

As a native of rural Western North Carolina, I am the product of public K-12 education. While few from this background attend professional graduate school once let alone twice at top tier institutions, I am extremely proud to represent this region and work to help give back to such rural communities. Getting patients back to their baseline – or even surpassing their baseline and seeing them return to their activities of daily living in short order – provides a return which no metric can quantify.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I selected Kenan Flagler Business School due to their strong track record and course offerings to healthcare personnel interested in providing solutions for long-standing inefficiencies of healthcare delivery. In this regard, the program offers numerous areas of study in healthcare including operations, economics, leadership strategy, current challenges, and study of international health systems. As a result, the program brings together experienced healthcare providers, industry members, political agents, and management-level executives from both for-profit and nonprofit backgrounds.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? By understanding capacity and throughput rate (and throughput time) – along with identification and elimination of bottlenecks – has helped us decrease the wait time incurred by patients seeking new patient appointments in the office and outpatient surgery while preventing changes to physician work hours. Patients have been able to enter our surgical practice sooner, while maximizing utilization of provider hours and allowing for increased incorporation of telehealth into the practice.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? While completing an MBA, I was able to travel with my family (including my wife and children, parents and an aunt) to Argentina, where I completed an elective course at Universidad Torcuato Di Tella. My interest in improving healthcare services in Latin America motivated me to pursue studies in this advanced nation of South America. The journey with three young children (ages 6, 6 and 4) to celebrate my father’s 85th birthday, which occurred while in Argentina, provided the perfect setting for this study abroad opportunity.

Being that all of us were visiting Argentina for the first time, it was a true adventure. I was able to navigate Buenos Aires to get to school each day while the rest of the family explored the city and Uruguay. I joined them in the evenings, and my wife and I were able to enjoy Tango while the kids and the grandparents enjoyed each other’s company. Some late nights and early mornings were utilized for preparing for the academic rigors of the course. I obtained a solid foundation of knowledge regarding business in the region and managed to even lead an exploration of the Patagonia wilderness with our family ranging from ages 4 to 85. All returned safely to the U.S. with a fondness and knowledge of Argentine culture, along with memories of adventures to the ends of the earth which will undoubtedly last a lifetime.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Don’t overstress regarding the balance of family, work and education as the three will coexist if you allow yourself to excel in all arenas. Positive thinking with gentle reminders that you have the ability to excel in all aspects of life will help position your mind and your actions to be successful in all endeavors. Keep in mind that challenges will arise, but the education you receive will help you better manage these challenges which may well arise regardless.  Having the management of knowledge of an MBA will further assist in achieving success.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The changes in technology and partial asynchronous learning will make it difficult to keep up with the curriculum. I did not find this to be true, as all our professors were willing to provide extra office hours to help any student in need. Further, other students in class served as resources to help troubleshoot challenges.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Simply put, not having started sooner as I wish I had implemented many of the lessons learned at UNC Kenan-Flagler into my surgical practice and fellowship training program sooner.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Megan Capra and Kaitlin Marvin recently delivered babies while members of the WEMBA Class of 2023. They have been integral members of our cohort who have been committed despite the challenges of working, raising children, and pursuing an MBA while managing the physical and emotional stresses of pregnancy. Seeing their determination and no excuses approach help motivate all of us to bring our best to class despite the busy schedules outside of school.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? Learning from a committed cohort with a diverse background of work experience helped to solidify my reasoning for pursuing an Executive MBA. I found the discussions of our experiences, breakout sessions, and countless meals together allowed us to delve deeper into the material and retain greater understanding. The warm nature of in-person contact was also a much-needed change from the pandemic which was ongoing at the start of our program.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Improving the health and lives of my patients, my community, and the world by advancing minimally invasive technology, education and leadership.

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

“It was a pleasure to have Rohan Wijewickrama in two of my classes: the core operations class and the healthcare operations class. I was impressed with Rohan’s participation in class where he was able to share his work experience and connect it with the content we covered in class. His extensive experience in improving the quality of healthcare delivery enabled rich classroom discussions on healthcare operations. I believe that Rohan’s classmates were able to learn from his experience. Rohan also has a very warm and helping personality and he was a great team player in group projects. Overall, I believe that having Rohan in my classes provided a positive learning experience to all students in my classes.”

Vinayak Deshpande
Mann Family Distinguished Professor of Operations
UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


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