Making A Difference

The Business of Improving Health Care Delivery

Josue Zapata (MD/MBA 2012)

Josue Zapata (MD/MBA 2012) is chief resident in internal medicine at the University of California in San Francisco. In this interview he discusses how he is utilizing his business training to make a difference in patient treatment and health care delivery.

“My parents immigrated to the United States from Colombia, and in Colombian families there’s this great emphasis on family unit and extended family. When I was a kid, I was really close with my uncle. And when I was about seven years old, he was involved in a pretty serious accident, and ended up in the hospital for a long time. I remember seeing these doctors talk to us and him gradually getting better. That was what really planted the seed in me that I might want to go to medical school. This would be a great thing I could do for people, something that they did for my uncle.

“I actually ended up going to Harvard Medical School. I didn’t know much about HBS at that point. But when I heard about the option to actually do a combined degree, I started thinking that might be a really interesting thing to do.

“I’m interested in revamping how we deliver health care. I want to bring some of the best ideas from management and business practices to bear on how we run hospitals. In America, we spend 17 percent of the GDP on health care, for some of the worst outcomes in the developed world. We’re in dramatic need of novel, creative ideas to improve the care that we provide and do so in a fiscally responsible way.

“One of the pivotal concepts I learned at HBS was how so many other industries deeply think about the customer’s needs, and how they can achieve those needs in the fewest and most-simple, well-designed steps. I’m thinking if I could harness the things I’m learning here, that could make a really big difference for patients and how we deliver health care.

“One thing that I feel passionately about is training our physicians to become leaders. I teach medical students about how to actually have a way in your mind for if you see something that you think can be improved upon, a change that you want to make, how you could think about making that change come to fruition. I am teaching concepts I learned at HBS four or five years ago to our medical students and residents today.”

(Published August 2016)

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