Career Center

Featured Alumni Interview:
Mark Weisburst, MD, MBA, FACC, FACP

Michel Alvarez:  At the time of your training here at Stanford, what hopes and ideas did you have for your future career as a medical professionaal? 

Mark Weisburst:  I hoped to make a difference in the lives of my patients.  My initial interest in cardiology came from a combination of cardiac-related illness and death in my family and a fascination with the pathophysiology of heart diseases.

MA:     At what point within your career as a cardiologist did you begin to entertain the possibility of formal training in business, and at what ultimately propelled you in that direction?

MW:  After many years of practicing medicine on the front lines, I wanted to look at the bigger picture of how to deliver healthcare within communities while allocating resources fairly.

MA:     You recently made some career choices/changes with significant implications, and navigated your way through a major transition;

a) What were the primary factors that led to these changes?

MW:  I needed to expand my horizons beyond the Greater Hartford area of Connecticut.  I had a burning desire to see the world and develop a global perspective on healthcare needs and its delivery.

b) What were some of the initial challenges you faced in taking necessary steps?

MW:  The first was leaving a practice that had evolved and grown over close to a quarter of a century.  Another challenge was developing alternative strategies for supporting my family while attending business school.  Then after graduating, I had to figure out how to develop credibility as an international healthcare consultant.

c) What has happened since you received your MBA and what additional challenges did you face?

MW:  The first challenge was finding a job.  I put out dozens of inquiries with a variety of international healthcare organizations – initially to no avail.  I also clearly described  my interest in international healthcare delivery to any family member, friend, or acquaintance who asked me about my career plans and goals.  With a good deal of spare time, I tried to educate myself on the successes and failures of organizations working in this field and acquaint myself with the critical issues involved.  Finally, I tried to develop a philosophical construct on which to approach ethical dilemmas in distributing scarce resources that included studying the book A Theory of Justice by John Rawls.  

After much searching, I was fortunate in finding a consulting position analyzing the organizational structure and medical needs within a large public hospital in  Kenya; this project has involved evaluating human and medical equipment needs in a setting of constrained resources and has implications for the effective distribution of healthcare within Kenya. 

MA:     Looking back now, how does it feel to have successfully made your way to Africa in the capacity that you have, and what new perspective do these reflections provide you with respect to your own life and career?

MW:  I feel like a new chapter has opened in my life and have boundless energy for my work.  I have made new friends in places that I would have previously had difficulty finding on a map. 

MA:     As far as global health issues, in what ways has your recent experience impacted your outlook?

a) What are the most pressing needs and/or gravest challenges as you see it?

   Kenyatta National Hospital - children & staff in the pediatric cancer ward











MW:  There is so much that needs to be done to combat the unnecessary suffering and death in a developing country such as Kenya.  The needs extend far beyond diseases such as AIDS and include widespread poverty, malnutrition, alcoholism, and violence against women. Healthcare problems are particularly severe in those who are most vulnerable.  For example, many young children are dying of malaria even though preventive and treatment measures could reverse this tragedy.  There is nothing about these children that is physiologically different than children elsewhere.  The problem lies in being able to deliver necessary care in a timely manner within an impoverished population.  This involves developing an infrastructure that includes roads, telecommunications, and educational resources in order to be able to reach and help those with critical medical needs; it also involves assisting with a multitude of social and economic problems within the communities in which these malarial-stricken children live. 

b) What are the two most surprising things that you have learned?

MW:  It has been surprising to me that diseases that cause so much suffering and loss of life in a developing country could be easily treated medically if the proper resources were available (e.g., the use of intravenous electrolytes to treat dehydrated children with diarrhea).  Yet, the delivery of such care remains a dilemma because of  the lack of necessary infractructure (i.e., distribution channels that are taken for granted in the developed world do not exist in many developing countries).

c) Personally and professionally, how has the experience affected you most?

   Kenyatta National Hospital - children in the pediatric cancer ward


MW:  It has rejuvenated me.  I had become exhausted by too many nights and weekends on call, too much time spent justifying necessary care to insurance companies, and too much energy documenting every decision I made as a cardiologist in case of a possible malpractice suit (which fortunately never happened). 

MA:     In terms of next steps, with these projects and within your own career more broadly, what plans do you have for future?

MW:  I would like to work with organizations that are designing models for the effective distribution of healthcare resources within developing countries in Africa.  This would involve strategic initiatives to create the necessary infrastucture to accomplish this goal.  I believe that many international healthcare groups now understand that progress will only be made after systems are put in place to equitably distribute healthcare services.

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