A Seat at the Table: Female Leadership in Healthcare and Entrepreneurship

March 28, 2022
News - Riser

Keisha Riser

By Faith Oakes Palmer

While almost 80 percent of the healthcare workforce is composed of women, leadership roles are still primarily held by men. In fact, less than 20 percent of key executive roles are held by women, per a comprehensive Korn Ferry study.

Keisha Riser, two-time Baylor graduate (BS ’03, MBA ’21 and Texas Business Hall of Fame (TBHF) scholar, is well on her way to breaking that glass ceiling—in more ways than one. Riser’s time in the Baylor Executive MBA program has led to the progression of both her healthcare administration career and her entrepreneurial work in the healthcare industry.

Executive MBA Outcomes

Riser summarizes the most important outcome from her Executive MBA experience in one key phrase: Earning a seat at the table.

“In healthcare, a master’s degree is a requirement for executive leadership. Achieving my MBA has been an outstanding investment that has more than paid for itself,” Riser said. “My degree helped spark my creativity, sharpen my communication style and strengthen my overall entrepreneurial skills.”

Prior to earning her degree from Baylor’s Executive MBA program in Dallas, Riser served as manager of research operations for the Mary Crowley Cancer Center. Within months of graduation, she received a promotion to director of oncology research, and is now working for a larger healthcare system with increased responsibility and opportunity to impact the advancement of cancer treatments for all patients. Riser said that her degree “has opened up unimaginable doors and created opportunities for me to sit at the table and collaborate with executives all over the country.”

Working in healthcare and fighting the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for everyone in the industry, Riser noted.

“I am grateful that the content studied within the program has helped me keep my employees motivated, implement WFH flexibility, and grow business,” she said.

Riser is currently the director of oncology research at Baylor Scott & White Health, located in the Charles Sammons Cancer Center.

Why Entrepreneurship?

With such a thriving healthcare career, why is Riser also pursuing entrepreneurship with the support of the Texas Business Hall of Fame? The answer is simple—to continue to serve her community.

Riser shared that a personal experience is the motivation for starting her company, CPR Guru.

“When I was a young adult, a family member died from cardiac arrest. He was young, vibrant, and full of life,” she said. “The doctors informed us that he suffered from a lack of oxygen to the brain for too long. Basic CPR would have saved his life, but no one present was trained to administer it.”

CPR Guru was born that day.

The mission of the company is to provide education and training in CPR, First-Aid, and AED to everyone, with a particular focus on minority communities to address the disparities in underserved populations suffering out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

“African American and Hispanic people are two to three times more likely to experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital,” Riser said. “Furthermore, African Americans and Hispanics are 30 to 50 percent less likely to have a bystander perform CPR.”

Riser also noted that her time in the Baylor MBA has heavily influenced her entrepreneurial aspirations. “The program places a huge emphasis on driving innovation both within a corporate organization and when establishing your own business. Countless hours were spent creating the vision for CPR Guru and I am one step closer to the grand opening which I am confident is going to have a huge impact throughout the community.”

Now that Riser has—as she puts it—earned a seat at the table, she has “a strong desire to be a part of empowering others to make an impact in the healthcare industry.”

The TBHF Experience

The Texas Business Hall of Fame Foundation has a specific mission to “celebrate and champion the business leaders of Texas, both present and future.” For almost 40 years, TBHF has honored the most transformative business leaders in Texas through its annual induction dinner and ceremony. Each year, the Hall of Fame awards a select number of emerging business leaders to join and to receive prestigious awards for professional and entrepreneurial excellence.

Winners, like Riser, are interviewed and selected by TBHF Legends and members of the board of directors. In addition to a financial award, recipients are invited to become a permanent and active member of the Hall of Fame network.

Riser shared that she enjoyed the scholarship process from start to finish.

“I was very impressed by the amount of time the committee took to learn about my personal background and the CPR Guru business plan,” she said. “It was evident that the committee was searching for the perfect applicant who displays quality leadership, enthusiasm and a heart for the community.”

The Baylor EMBA community supported Riser throughout her TBHF application process.

“Various classmates and professors reviewed my business plan for content, delivery, and potential deficiencies,” Riser said. “One of my classmates, Cesar Ortiz, even went the extra mile to submit a glowing letter of recommendation on my behalf.”

Dr. Gary Carini, who teaches strategy for the Executive MBA, also assisted Riser in reviewing her final plan and pitch for TBHF consideration – as he has done for many other students in his course who have entrepreneurial ambitions.

“Beyond the award, the most valuable TBHF experience has been the expansion of my network. I enjoyed meeting and listening to the life stories of various guest speakers and connecting with other award recipients,” Riser said. “I met countless individuals who I still keep in touch with and will collaborate with both professionally and personally again in the future. I can’t wait to see everyone again at this year’s award ceremony.”

Looking Forward

Baylor’s Executive MBA program can help other professionals who are similarly devoted to excellence and to serving others advance their careers.

“I truly enjoyed my time in the Baylor EMBA program—learning in-person with my classmates truly enriched my educational experience,” Riser said. “My professors were invested in both my professional and personal growth and pushed for us to maintain a positive work life balance. Most importantly, the program challenged me to to be bold, think big and adapt to any environment.”

When asked about her biggest takeaways from her EMBA and TBHF experience, Riser was quick to answer.

“Relationships are essential,” she said. “Take time to network with people you encounter every day. Be agile, remain a lifetime learner. Pick a subject matter outside of your expertise and attempt to learn something new daily. The business world is constantly changing. Executives and businesses with agile practices create blue oceans, attract talented top employees and make a greater impact in the world.”

Riser is the first person in her family to receive a master’s degree

“Earning an MBA is a huge accomplishment that makes me extremely proud,” she said. “It is important to me that the world know that I did not achieve this accomplishment alone. I attribute my success to God, my family, my village of friends and my extended work family. My village kept me encouraged during challenging times and I could never put a price tag on their impact on my life.”

Riser’s passion for serving others in her community shines through both her healthcare career and her entrepreneurial aspirations. Her “seat at the table” now allows her to advocate for others and lead the way forward into a new future of healthcare excellence.

“I pray I am able to return these same blessings to others in the years to come.”

What's Next

Are you an experienced healthcare professional or business owner looking for a way to expand your skillset and serve others more effectively? Consider an Executive MBA with Baylor University in Dallas. Still have questions? Complete the form below and our admissions advisers will contact you directly.

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