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Seeking greater impact, physician becomes a business leader

Adam Brown online UNC Kenan-Flagler class

The modern American healthcare system is complex and requires leaders who can deftly balance patient’s needs of patients with business demands. They must manage teams of doctors, nurses and administrators while recognizing financial restraints.

“There must be a physician at the boardroom table who also understands both the medicine and the business,” says Adam Brown (MBA ’13), a physician and business leader.

A doctor specializing in emergency medicine, Brown realized his limitations when it came to understanding public policies and their financial implications.

>> Learn more about the MBA Healthcare concentration

Adam Brown with kidsArmed with a desire to improve more patient’s lives, he set out to find a rigorous, prestigious MBA program that would allow him to continue his career while developing a new skillset in business.

“Physicians are strong leaders,” says Brown. “They can be leaders of the business of healthcare by strengthening their role and visibility while also protecting patients, providers and nurses.”

Seeking a program that could help him lead with heart, he found UNC Kenan-Flagler’s online MBA@UNC program. Since he grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, Brown was well aware of the School’s culture and leadership in teaching and scholarship.

“Physicians seeking an MBA need a challenging program with demonstrable success that allows them to catapult their careers by having a bigger impact on patient care,” he says.

MBA@UNC more than fit the bill for him. “The personality of our program and of our school starts at the top and with the culture of UNC Kenan-Flagler,” Brown says. “It starts with someone realizing that people are more important than profits. In the end, what we determine to do with this knowledge is of the greatest importance.”

“Not all MBAs are created equal. Going to a school where I was pushed, supported and had a number of colleagues with similar desires was important to my success post-MBA.”

Before signing up for business school, Brown was an associate medical director of an emergency department in Illinois for Envision Healthcare. During the program he was promoted twice and moved from Chicago to Washington, D.C.

There he started served as medical director of a distressed hospital in southeast Washington the same year he started MBA@UNC, “one of the best decisions of my life.” He immediately began applying what he was learning about operations and leadership at the medical center.

Next he was promoted to regional medical director for Washington and Virginia and faced challenges managing multiple hospitals’ emergency systems.

In 2017 he was promoted to senior vice president at for the Mid-Atlantic region. He regularly used what he had learned about financial statements, negotiating contracts and accounting at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

“The MBA catapulted me to a senior vice president position quickly,” says Brown. “I was one of the youngest senior vice presidents in the organization. The MBA set me apart.”

At the end of 2019, he was named president of emergency medicine at Envision Medicine. He oversees operational efficiency, quality outcomes and strategic direction of its largest service line with over 675 emergency departments in 46 states, more than 10,000 clinicians and 15 million annual patient visits. Since the beginning of 2020, the world has changed dramatically with the coronavirus pandemic. In Feburary, Dr. Brown was appointed as lead for the COVID-19 task force for Envision, coordinating the organization’s response to the virus and continues to lead the response during this “third wave” of the pandemic. In June, he was appointed to lead the organization’s clinical communication strategies and was named an executive sponsor to Envision’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative.

Ultimately, what drove Brown to business school was his desire to impact positively the most people possible with the desire help more people.

“In a single shift in the ER, I would see 25 to 35 patients and had an impact on their lives,” he says.

“But because of the education I received at UNC Kenan-Flagler, I quickly saw opportunities to help even more people by making broad improvements in multiple emergency departments and hospitals. Now, I’m responsible for more than 15 million patients’ lives every year and lead over 10,000 clinicians in more than 46 states. Once I tasted the sweetness of improving the health of one or two,” says Brown. “I didn’t want to stop until I was improving the lives of thousands and even millions.”

Paying it forward

Adam Brown receiving award at UNC Kenan-Flagler business schoolBrown gives back in many ways to UNC Kenan-Flagler, too. His service was recognized with the 2019 Dwight W. Anderson Young Alumni Award.

He was the class speaker at his graduation in 2014, where he announced his class created the Major Steven Brothers MBA@UNC Fund to honor their classmate who died while they were students.

Today he serves as co-chair for the Center for the Business of Health leadership board and on the Business School’s Board of Advisors. He also serves on the board’s DEI Committee, where he is sharing his expertise as Envision’s co-lead for DEI. He also is a board member of Nourish Every Child, which supports children’s nutritional and education needs in Haiti.

Brown frequently speaks at the Business School about trends and the future of the business of healthcare. When the global pandemic made it unsafe for MBA@UNC students to travel in March 2020, UNC Kenan-Flagler tapped Brown to help deliver a new online course on how business people can effectively lead, manage and navigate during the COVID-19 crisis.

Adam Brown and husbandHealthcare policy and public health are of great interest to Brown. In 2019 he was identified as a company spokesperson for Envision and frequents the halls of Congress. Brown has encouraged strong opioid policies, including reducing prescriptions and promoting initiatives to lower the wait times for getting help. This year, Brown his continued his efforts, focusing on advocating for patients’ access to care and clinician wellbeing. Brown’s husband, Dr. Steven Farmer, is a cardiologist, health policy professor and is Chief Strategy Officer at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid. Together they have published an article about value-based care and a pay-for-performance model. In 2020, Brown was named one of LinkedIn’s Top 10 Voices in Healthcare.

Brown’s hobbies include daily exercise, long distance road cycling, photography and playing the piano. Recently, he completed a “Century Ride” – a 100-mile road cycling ride in a day – for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. A foodie, he also enjoys cooking for friends. He’s most known for his paella and gazpacho recipes.

How does someone with such a demanding career could ever find the time to be so well-rounded? “Perfection is the greatest enemy of good,” he says.

His advice does not end there. He wants other physicians and those thinking of pursuing an MBA to carefully consider their options.

“Not all MBAs are created equal,” says Brown. “Going to a school where I was pushed, supported and had a number of colleagues with similar desires was important to my success post-MBA.”

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