On any given day, Boston-based physician Dr. Quoc Dien Trinh, EMBA ’22, has every minute of time already spoken for.
“This morning, it’s research. Then, I’m talking to you. Then straight afterward I’m interviewing someone to fill a position.”
An Associate Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, he is a health services researcher with a focus on health equity in cancer care. He’s also a full-time surgeon and hospital administrator, a urologist specializing in robotic surgery for prostate cancer and Director of Clinical Operations in Urology at the largest healthcare system in New England. Topping it all off, he’s an active advocate for equity in prostate cancer care, creating an outreach center for prostate cancer from the ground up. In recognition of his work, he is the 2022 recipient of Brigham and Women’s Hospital Outstanding Citizenship Award and is the 2022 American Urological Association Young Urologist of the Year.
The Boston physician EMBA Capstone project at HEC Paris was also named the best in his graduating class by the HEC Foundation.
He became a surgeon to help one patient at a time; his current trifecta of roles sees him impacting thousands.
Quoc’s healthcare journey began in his native Canada, where he attended medical school and residency before moving to the U.S. at 28 for fellowship training in robotic surgery. As his career as a professor, surgeon, and researcher grew, he began thinking about getting an MBA.
“I really wanted to learn more about leadership and management as I assume more administrative functions in my career,” he explains.
“Healthcare is structured like a business in America, and executives in healthcare organizations tend to be physicians. In many cases, you get to those positions not because of your management merit, but on the basis of your research funding and clinical prowess. I know that I’m going to be doing more administrative work, but I want to be able to do it well.”
From the outset, he knew that part of doing it well meant getting exposure to a truly diverse set of perspectives.
“For physicians here in the US who want to learn more about management, there are several pathways. Many pursue master’s programs in Health Care Management. Others go for an EMBA. I chose the EMBA route because I wanted to be with people from completely different fields and experience,” he says.
“I’m the clinical director of my division, handling the day-to-day clinical activities of 75 staff, including 20 physicians. I handle contracts, reorganize workflows, and more. I sought formal education in management because I feel like I can do this better if I get the right training to do it.”
Searching with Surgical Precision
Boston, with its garland of world-class executive management training and public health administration programs and the pinnacle of the American medical research community in his own back yard, might seem tailor-made for a busy physician’s pursuit of focused executive management training.
And yet the Canadian transplant’s stringent set of objectives were, he felt, better fulfilled elsewhere.
After some careful digging, he found the comparable EMBA programs closer to home replete with other physicians and healthcare professionals, hailing from similar health systems.
“One of Boston’s top EMBA programs was full of physicians. If I had joined the cohort I was looking at, I’d have been one of many prostate cancer specialists,” he explains. Being surrounded by professionals who’d run in the same circles as him since medical school didn’t hold the same appeal as being part of a professionally diverse group.
“I wanted an EMBA in the first place because I felt like I could benefit more from spending time with non-healthcare people. I am already versed in the healthcare system— I wanted to learn how healthcare can benefit from other industries.”
Looking further afield
HEC Paris piqued his interest because of its top marks in EMBA rankings.
Then, it differentiated itself through the diversity of its cohorts. Finally—and crucially— it became his top choice through its unparalleled schedule flexibility.
“The modular format, which is less disruptive on my work-life balance than the end-of-the-week model used by most other schools I was interested in, was a big deal,” he explains. Three of the HEC Paris EMBA’s four separate intakes follow a modular format.
“My days a never-ending mishmash of an administrative duties, research, and clinical tasks. It’s really hard to switch off and switch on in my daily life. There’s no way I could’ve done classes otherwise.”
The rigid application cycle process was another crucial element that, to him, hamstrung the feasibility of local programs.
“The application cycles seem like they never fall at the right time. I’d been looking to get into an EMBA for a year beforehand, I could never make it work due to my schedule.”
Choosing the HEC Paris EMBA’s November Intake
His choice of the HEC Paris EMBA’s bilingual November intake—the only intake featuring French in addition to the program’s standard English—was another deliberate choice for the Montreal native.
“I made lifelong friends, people that I will keep in touch with after the EMBA. I learned so much from everyone.”
“I was educated in French my whole life, including medical school. Yes, I’ve been working, teaching, and doing surgeries in English for more than a decade, but it’s almost like my learning processes are more associated to French.”
“Also,” he adds, “I knew the bilingual track meant that I was going to do electives with people around the world.”
When his 16-month EMBA journey got underway in 2020, the havoc wreaked by COVID included a gauntlet of health and travel restrictions. Undeterred, he surged ahead, quickly reaping the benefits of his decision.
“I made lifelong friends, people that I will keep in touch with after the EMBA. I learned so much from everyone, and have been able to transpose other things from other people. Sometimes you have this idea that the grass is greener elsewhere. You get so wrapped up in thinking that your life is so busy, but then you get the example of a classmate who had to leave in the middle of class to deal with a union crisis. That’s their equivalent of getting a STAT page about a patient.”
Putting the EMBA to Work Immediately
Some areas of professional improvement were predictable to him. For example, as a physician, he never received formal training in negotiation, which is a skill he uses every day.
“I learned so much about negotiating. Negotiating with other parties, with other colleagues. I’ve been able to translate a lot of that to my work, for example in negotiating treatment plans with difficult patients. And then I’m always thinking in terms of ‘How do I maximize value for this colleague? What about for Cystoscopes?’ I definitely have a better understanding of the big picture when making business decisions for my division. “
Having graduated in June 2022, he’s already applying newly acquired knowledge to his professional projects.
“I have been to some degree progressing in my career as a clinician and researcher. If you want to make a difference in research, you have to make operational efforts. I wanted to translate my advocacy in research in prostate cancer equity. I’m creating an outreach clinic for prostate cancer, and I’m using every single thing I’ve learned from HEC to put it together, especially in marketing: value proposition curves, segmentation, making a pitch at leadership and philanthropists, and so forth.”
In October after graduating from the EMBA, he was promoted to an even more impactful and wide-ranging executive position at his hospital.
His post-MBA life has seen him go from physician to powerhouse by putting his HEC Paris EMBA to work, tackling health disparity through research and a prostate cancer outreach clinic.
“It’s been such a transformational journey, personally and professionally.”
His advice to other doctors and medical leaders considering executive management training programs like an EMBA?
“Just do it! It’s been such a transformational journey, personally and professionally. If you overthink it, you always get the impression that this isn’t the right time. The more you wait, the more the ship will sail and it’ll become a self-fulfilling prophecy and never work.
At some point in time, I said to myself ‘this is the time and I have to do it.’ It worked out— you have to work your schedule about it, but if you made it this far in the medical field, adaptation and resilience is part of the skills that you have for someone that wants to be a leader. You make your own luck.”
More CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies have graduated from HEC Paris than any other university in Europe. Nearly 4,000 graduates are currently CEOs, CFOs, or have founded their own companies. According to the Financial Times, the HEC Paris offers the best EMBA program in the world; click here to learn more.
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