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Best of both worlds

Casey Hribar (BA ’16, BS ’16, MD/MBA ’23)

When there’s a fork in the road, Casey Hribar (BA ’16, BS ’16, MD/MBA ’23) will most likely want to take both routes.

Hribar, who grew up in Hilliard, Ohio, came to Carolina as an undergraduate on a traditional pre-med track. She embraced everything Carolina had to offer. She majored in biology and added a second major in interpersonal and organizational communications and mixed in a few business classes.

She added a chemistry minor, somehow found time to write an honor thesis and a was member of the a cappella group Tar Heel Voices.

Close to graduation, she still was not sure whether she wanted to go to medical or business school.

“I met with an adviser at one point, and they said, ‘Well, you have to pick one or the other,’” says Hribar. “And I said, ‘I don’t think so.’”

Taking charge

Hribar went her own way. She worked for two years at UNC Health Care after graduation, at first handling hospital administrative duties and then assisting clinicians. She also learned more about the business side of healthcare and knew she didn’t want to give up that career path.

When it came time to apply to medical school, Hribar looked for programs that provided the flexibility to pursue a career in medicine complemented by an advanced business skillset.

Triple Tar Heel Hribar will spent the next three years in Baltimore as a pediatric medicine resident.

Triple Tar Heel Hribar will spend the next three years in Baltimore as a pediatric medicine resident.

She didn’t have to look far. In 2018, she enrolled in UNC’s MD/MBA dual-degree program offered by UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and the School of Medicine.

“As soon as I got into the teamwork-building classes I could see that it would help me become a better leader and team player.”

Hribar spent the first three years of the five-year program in medical school, with the fourth year focused on business studies and a summer internship with McKinsey & Company. She was a Forté Fellow and a member of the Carolina Women in Business club.

Her final year was a mix of business and medical school classes.

It’s a challenging program. It also was exactly what Hribar was looking for.

“The support was so phenomenal from both schools that while it’s a lot of hard work and requires a lot of dedication, it was just a seamless experience,” she says. “The program is structured in a way that I could truly take what I was learning at the Medical School and apply it to the Business School and vice versa.”

In the summer of 2023, Hribar began a three-year pediatrics residency at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, one of the best hospitals in the world, holding a degree from two of the top medical schools and business schools in the U.S.

“I still remember telling my parents that I was going to go to business school, and they freaked out a bit,” says Hribar. “They said, ‘You were going to be a doctor! You’re not going to medical school? What’s happening?’”

“I said, ‘I’m doing both.’”

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Everything everywhere all at once

Since her residency began in June 2023, Hribar has spent most of her time in the hospital’s outpatient urgent care. She’s tired, but more than anything, she’s happy.

“There is no one more resilient on the planet than a 6-year-old,” she says, smiling. “Don’t get me wrong. There are screaming kids and screaming babies all day long. That’s part of the job. But when you get a 6-year-old who wants to play rock, paper, scissors and skip in the halls with you, that’s joyful.”

On the surface, Hribar seems far removed from her MBA degree, but her time at the Business School is already making a significant difference in her day-to-day work at the hospital.

Because of her MBA studies, she can step back, review the frenetic workflow of the clinical areas she’s in, and think of ways to make it run more efficiently.

She credits her business communication courses with helping her collaborate effectively with medical staff and hold productive conversations with patients and their families. She sees value in thinking differently and questioning the way she thinks.

That’s strategy. That’s consulting. That’s operations management. That’s an MBA from UNC Kenan-Flagler.

“A good amount of how we approach teamwork in medicine comes from the business world,” says Hribar. “As soon as I got into the teamwork-building classes I could see that it would help me become a better leader and team player.”

Hribar also has an impressive portfolio of insightful — and sometimes offbeat — medical research, with topics ranging from the role Vitamin D might play both in slowing Parkinson’s disease progression and COVID-19 resistance in the elderly, to several studies on how patients feel about their hospital experiences.

Her most recent published research in JAMA Surgery looks at how patients perceive surgeons based on the color of their scrubs, the first study of its kind.

Casey Hribar

“A good amount of how we approach teamwork in medicine comes from the business world,” says Hribar.

While hospital administration, healthcare consulting and pharmaceutical sales are common paths for those who earn an MD/MBA degree, they’re far from the only options. Some go into clinical trial design, medical technology or web-based healthcare technology. Like Hribar, some are interested in clinical work and where many of these spheres overlap.

Others are interested in mission work or rural healthcare. Many see the value of a strong combination of medical and business skills to open a private practice one day. Hribar will stick with pediatric medicine throughout her residency but is continuing to look for opportunities to integrate other business interests she has throughout her time in Baltimore.

“For students today, career boundaries that were once well-defined are far less rigid,” says Hribar. “I think we’ll continue to see more business in healthcare and healthcare in business. Having more minds that think this way will ultimately solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.”