Profile: J. Christopher Daniel, M.D.
The Yale MBA for Executives Program: Leadership in Healthcare is designed for mid-career professionals in leadership positions in organizations spanning the entire healthcare sector. Students travel from around the country to attend classes on Fridays and Saturdays every other week for 22 months to learn the analytical and leadership skills of the Yale MBA combined with an in-depth exploration of healthcare's unique human, economic, political, and technological issues.
J. Christopher Daniel, MD, a member of the charter class, and the commanding officer of the Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, talks about what led him to enter the program.
I didnít think I needed an MBA. In fact, if someone asked me a few years ago if I were going to get another degree, I would have said an MPH [Master of Public Health]. But one day I happened to be driving and listening to the radio and this all changed. I heard an advertisement on NPR for the Yale MBA for Executives program in healthcare and thought, ďIs God trying to tell me something?Ē Since I'm nearing the end of my naval career and moving more and more away from delivering one-on-one patient care and more towards managing groups of people, I wondered if an MBA was supposed to be my next step.
When I was young, I was very interested in science. I was always comfortable talking to people and people were always comfortable talking to me. I also had good personal family physicians who were role models of mine. As I went on to high school and eventually college, I sought out volunteer experiences in nursing homes and hospitals. During the summers of my college years, I had the opportunity to work as a nursing assistant at Jefferson Medical College, where I ended up getting my degree in medicine. It was these talents and experiences of mine that reinforced my desire to become a doctor and eventually a military physician.
I have served as a military physician for the past 23 years, almost half of which has been overseas ó Philippines, Italy, and Indonesia. Just this past fall, I took a position as commanding officer of the Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, Maryland and as the Director of Research and Development for Navy Medicine. I now lead and manage more than 1,200 research personnel, oversee nine other research laboratories around the world, and direct $200 million in research expenditures for the Navy, Marine Corps, and other U.S. warfighters. This was a major shift in terms of my role as a manager compared with my previous position as the commanding officer of the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory in Groton, Connecticut, where I managed fewer than 50 people.
I feel more confident as a result of being in the MBA-E program. I was wary of balancing three major functions in my life ó student, father, and commanding officer. But my family has been very supportive and understanding. And self-discipline and time management have helped me balance all of these responsibilities. Itís compartmentalizing ó whatever Iím working on I try to be focused and put everything else aside.
I also find myself thinking sharper. I think and talk in a different way than I used to. When Iím evaluating proposals or having discussions with the people who work at the Navy Medicine Support Command those discussions tend to be fiscal-related and financial. I feel much more confident when communicating with them now. I never took an economics class until I got to Yale SOM. The accounting courses I took in the past were not at the same level as the ones offered in this program.
I realize now that getting an MBA will significantly increase the pool of potential things that I can do when I retire from the Navy. I would like to find a position that impacts global health in a positive way and allows me to use both my physician experience and my emerging business skills.