Lahey Health's Dr. Andrew Popelka on influencing corporate strategy

Dr. Andrew Popelka
Dr. Andrew Popelka

Dr. Andrew Popelka is the Director of Population Health Management, Hospital Medicine at Lahey Health, Burlington.

“I think more physicians should get MBAs. It would help the whole industry: If you can create a better hospital, you can affect thousands of patients instead of just helping one person at a time.”

What I Do: I try to get patients to be happier and healthier at home for less frequent ICU or ER visits and subsequent hospital stays. I combine administrative with clinical work as an internist because I still love seeing patients. I’m trying to help patients have fewer complications and need fewer tests and treatments.

Credentials: I went to UMASS Medical School and trained in internal medicine, which was very hands-on. I was also the division chair of hospital medicine at Foundation Medical Partners in Nashua, New Hampshire, before coming to Lahey. At Lahey, I get to be part of a large organization actively trying to improve the health of our community.

Why I Got My MBA: Over time, I developed an interest in management. How do I help more patients and change the system to work better and more efficiently and more safely? I’d had no training in a business perspective. How do you work within an organization and influence the corporation and strategy?

Why Isenberg: They offer a partnership through the American Association for Physician Leadership, and they allowed me to take an online class without formally enrolling first to see if it was the right fit. My adviser, MaryBeth Kimball, was great. She works only with physicians for this MBA program. You have her phone, her e-mail, she gets back to you in minutes. It felt like a family. After going through medical school, a residency, and working, you forget what it’s like to have a class schedule. I’d never done online learning — I felt old! It was so nice to have that resource.

How It Changed My Career: An MBA helped me solidify skills in health care management. As a doctor, you don’t learn marketing or corporate finance. I never thought about what a colonoscopy would cost. Getting an MBA gave me a different appreciation. I live in the same world, but I look at it from a completely new angle. Now I can explain why, say, a new emergency room facility is also better for patients. Lahey just built a fantastic new facility, and I can better explain to our community why it’s a win for us all.

On Work-Life Balance: I got my MBA part-time in two years, and I was able to make the schedule my own. Because the lectures were also available as recorded videos, I could watch half and return later. Meanwhile, I’d be still be collaborating using Google documents with colleagues online in Washington, DC, or in California.