We are coming up on our fourth annual Wharton Health Care Management Alumni Association (WHCMAA) conference on Oct. 31. This year’s conference chairs—John Harris, WG’88, and Bryan Bushick, WG’89—have assembled several great sessions around the conference title theme, “Health Care Transformation: The Dance of Disruptors, Incumbents and Rule-Makers.”

One thing I always find amazing is the achievements of those who have graduated from the Wharton Health Care Management (WHCM) program over the years. Without naming names, we have as presenters the CEO of a large private equity fund, the ex-CEO of one of the largest private insurers in the U.S. and the ex-CEO of one of the largest health care philanthropies in the U.S. The WHCM program continues to graduate the best and brightest, who end up in positions that make a tremendous difference in how health care is provided in the U.S.

Wharton teaches its students to identify inefficiencies in the market—either for their own advantage or to work at fixing them for the good of society. The WHCM program is more of a mix of this, safely erring more on the good of society. We do need both motivations to make our capitalist system work—even capitalism in health care.

Speaking of health care and capitalism, the relationship was made clear to me several weeks ago when I sat down with two very wealthy WHCM grads at a Leonard Davis Institute event in Washington, D.C., co-sponsored by the Penn-Wharton Public Policy Institute. One of these grads is exploiting how inefficiently the exchanges are working by developing an overlay for people to better understand the exchange, which has resulted in growing a $5 million into a $100 million company. The other individual has found problems to solve in how out-of-network payments to providers work.

Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, WG’86

Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, WG’86. Photo credit: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

And speaking of the do-good urge, we will be honoring one of our own with the WHCMAA Alumni Achievement Award at the annual alumni dinner to be held just before the Oct. 31 conference. This person, Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, WG’86, serves as the president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a health care philanthropy with over $10 billion in assets. During Lavizzo-Mourey’s decade-long tenure, the RWJF has focused on the following public health issues (and done a great job with it):

  • Childhood Obesity
  • Achieving the triple aim of medicine, which is to provide access to quality care at a reasonable cost
  • Expanding the role of caregivers to help make up for their anticipated shortage
  • Addressing social factors which impact health

This brings me back to my point: The WHCM program is an ideal mix of capitalism with a social conscience. It leads to some very interesting discussions in the classroom and among its alumni. I do not think there are other MBA programs in the country that can say that.