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Medical doctor credits his MBA skills with helping his practice withstand effects of COVID-19

MBA alumnus Marcelo Guimaraes (’19 MBA) chose to complete the Professional MBA program alongside his full-time job as a medical doctor at the Medical University of South Carolina to further develop his leadership skills. The COVID-19 pandemic tested Guimaraes’ leadership abilities as he has had to steer his staff through the difficulty of practicing medicine during a global pandemic.

As the director of MUSC’s Division of Vascular & Interventional Radiology and a professor of surgery and radiology, Guimaraes has been a practicing physician for the past 20 years.

Unlike many hospitals, which closed for weeks at the beginning of the pandemic, Guimaraes and his staff closed operations for elective surgical cases during one week in March and then decided to change their strategy against COVID-19.

“The goals with the new strategy were to continue taking care of elective and emergency inpatients and outpatients safely, to protect the staff from COVID-19 and maintain revenues to prevent staff furloughs,” Guimaraes said. “We actually increased our capacity when other areas of the hospital were only open for emergencies.”

 Guimaraes said his new practice strategy included rotating staff to a week-on, week-off schedule, working weekends and minimizing patients’ stays since they could be discharged on weekends after in-patient surgeries. They also did telemedicine virtual appointments whenever possible.

These adjustments to their delivery of care prevented any of Guimaraes’ staff from being furloughed or laid off and actually generated revenues for the MUSC system unlike most other elective health care practices.

Guimaraes said his time in the Professional MBA program better prepared him to make such decisions during a pandemic.

“The MBA taught me to see opportunities in times of crisis,” he said. “The soft skills learned during the Professional MBA program have helped me to unite people behind a vision, empower people to succeed, negotiate in time of constrained resources, have a strategic, compelling, evidence-based, data-driven vision that we could be successful despite all the odds.” 

Creating a strategic vision and knowing how to execute it is one of the skills he enhanced during his two years in the Professional MBA program, he said. Originally from Porto Alegre, Brazil, Guimaraes decided to pursue his MBA after he became director of his MUSC division in 2015 so he could better understand the business side of his position.

“As a director and leader, I serve a group of 38 staff members which offers 52 different procedures for 7,000 patients a year,” Guimaraes said. “My work is focused on building and keeping an effective and cohesive team” in addition to overseeing the medical procedures being performed.

Guimaraes said the Professional MBA program fit his needs as he was obtaining his degree while balancing a demanding schedule at MUSC, located in Charleston, South Carolina.

“Initially, I thought of applying to an executive MBA program that would require weekly travel,” he said. “After assessing the benefits and risks, I realized that the Darla Moore School of Business was a hidden gem in our state of South Carolina and was close to my home and work.”

Guimaraes said the hybrid program gave him the flexibility to attend classes at the Moore School’s regional site within minutes from his office while also participating in courses online.

He said it was a “very humbling” experience to return to the classroom after 15 years of practicing medicine. He credits his wife and children for being supportive while he tried to balance family life with classes and his demanding work at the hospital.

Guimaraes said the soft skills he learned like managing personnel, handling conflict, marketing, budgeting and negotiating were invaluable to him.

“It was an intense and extraordinary journey,” he said. “During the 24 months I spent in the Professional MBA program, I learned a lot and met outstanding people. I have no regrets and highly recommend this program to anyone who wants to expand their professional opportunities and improve themselves as a leader.”


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