M.D. to MBA: Why an Active-Duty Anesthesiologist Chose Baylor’s Online MBA

November 16, 2021
Crystal Manohar Blog Photo

For physician and Air Force veteran Crystal Manohar, Baylor’s online MBA was a way to step into the business side of health care—and help shape the future of the industry.

M.D. to MBA: Why an Active-Duty Anesthesiologist Chose Baylor’s Online MBA

When Crystal Manohar began her online MBA at Baylor, she was serving in the U.S. Air Force. A board-certified anesthesiologist, mother and self-described go-getter, she planned to finish her second graduate degree in two years while balancing her work and family responsibilities.

Before long, with a busy schedule and no formal business education, she realized she needed the flexibility that the OMBA prides itself on. With help from staff, Manohar adjusted her schedule to focus on one course at a time. And flexibility became relevant again during a three-month deployment to Afghanistan to account for internet connectivity issues and a time difference.

“A colleague in the military had been researching MBA programs. He told me about the Baylor program,” Manohar said. “One of the things that was appealing to me about Baylor is that it is so friendly to active-duty military members and veterans. Everybody was very responsive.”

An MBA That Welcomes Veterans

Manohar is an associate clinical professor of anesthesiology and the associate program director of the anesthesiology residency for the Department of Anesthesiology at UT Health San Antonio. While earning her MBA, she was an active-duty critical care anesthesiologist in the Air Force, stationed at the San Antonio Military Medical Center, a Tier 1 trauma center and the largest hospital in the Department of Defense.

At Baylor, many of her classmates and some faculty members were former military. “They had a lot of background and interesting experiences to share, so the camaraderie was very welcoming,” she said.

Manohar has always aimed high in her career in both medicine and the military. She was initially attracted to Baylor’s name and brand, and as she went through the program, she was impressed by the quality of instruction.

“It is a very prestigious institution,” Manohar said. “It is a big name across the country. As far as online MBA programs go, it is nationally ranked, well-known. The faculty that taught the courses also taught the in-person courses. So, I felt like the value was equivalent to the in-person MBA program.”

Faculty and staff were especially attuned to her needs as a member of the military. For example, the professor of an economics course she was taking while in Afghanistan, aware of the time difference, checked in regularly over email to make sure she had what she needed to keep going with the class. That kind of effort extended to support staff as well, who patiently guided her through the process of completing paperwork required for assistance from the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Manohar also was eligible for a military scholarship at Baylor, “the icing on the cake,” she said. “It made it all very friendly, a positive experience.”

“Any veterans that apply, I encourage them to do it. I have told them it is an easy, and supportive process. I would highly recommend this to any of my colleagues—military or otherwise. It was a great value.”

“I Am Moving More Towards the Bird’s-Eye View”

Manohar knew she had to prepare for changes in the rapidly evolving health care industry—changes her clinical training alone could not prepare her for.

“As physicians, we are compassionate; we are here to care for our patients. But there are business aspects of health care—the finances, running a business,” she said. “You have to think about cost when you think about patient care, and equipment and personnel, how many operating rooms you can run, how many ICU beds you can staff. I came to realize that I did not know much about the business side of medicine.”

“I am moving more towards the bird’s-eye view,” she added. “I have been at the bedside, I have seen the problems, and now I want to change them from an organizational perspective. I want to move more toward the administrative role to make bigger differences at a higher level in a health care system. That was the impetus to get my MBA degree.”

Coursework and class discussions with students and professors from different backgrounds opened windows to a new view of the health care industry.

“It was refreshing to study something outside of medicine. It was nice to talk with other people in other specialties about economics, accounting and financing and how that comes into play in the health care industry,” she said.

Preparing the Next Generation of Leaders Ready to Serve

With all the years and effort she has poured into her medical career—school, residency, fellowship, board certifications—Manohar’s goal has always been to be a great clinician who delivers excellent patient care. Now at a turning point in her career, she is sharing what she learned in the OMBA with the next generation of physicians—giving residents a glimpse of the value of an MBA and encouraging those wishing to pursue one.

“It is one thing to be a clinician at the bedside, making decisions, and another thing to take those problems from the bedside and integrate them at the administrative level to make the whole system better,” she said. “I am trying to educate our next generation of physicians to help do that. I want to encourage future physicians to pursue similar routes so they can help make changes in health care as well. Having an MBA allows me to do that, and it helps me give them resources and tell them about programs like Baylor.”

While the role her MBA will play in her career is still unfolding, Manohar says having the degree has given her a seat at the leadership table and preparation for what lies ahead.

“I do not know what the future holds, but I definitely think this degree gives me opportunities that I would not otherwise have had. It gives me better insight into grappling with some of the issues that I may encounter,” she said. “I would recommend it to anyone, but particularly the military population because Baylor has been so phenomenal in terms of working with our schedule, the deployments and the funding, scholarships and resources.”

That support did not end at graduation, she added.

“I am almost two years out, and I still get so many emails about networking and contacting or mentoring somebody. I think that speaks to Baylor and how much they care, not just as a student but as an alumnus. They want to see you succeed, and they want to hear about it.”

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