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Darla Moore School of Business

  • Image of Gabrielle Pierce Cranford and Kelley Jordan

Women health care leaders leverage an MBA for career advancement

Professional MBA program alumna Gabrielle Pierce Cranford (’18 USC pharmaceutical sciences, ’20 MBA, ’20 USC Pharm.D.) and candidate Kelley Jordan (’22 MBA expected graduation) take pride in their health care roles. Both decided the Professional MBA program could help them on their path to pursue leadership roles within their respective industry.

Sharing their stories in honor of Women’s History Month, Cranford and Jordan are just two of the Moore School’s powerful and driven women leaders.

Deciding not to limit herself to a more clinical role as a pharmacist, Cranford recently moved to Washington, D.C., for an Executive Fellowship in Association Leadership and Management with the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

From 2020-2021, Cranford completed a post-graduate year one residency at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“During my residency, I was able to participate in administrative-level meetings and activities; my data analytics skills learned from the Professional MBA program were helpful in compiling our quarterly quality metric dashboard as well as assisting with a monthly finance report,” she said. “My strategic marketing skills were helpful because I was able to draft and present a proposal for creation of an official Twitter account for my residency and specialty pharmacy; this helped us recruit for our residency positions as well as increase visibility of health system specialty pharmacy research and practice.”

When she began as a student of the USC College of Pharmacy, Cranford said that the science-centered curriculum only required her to take one course dedicated to management and leadership. However, she knew that pharmacists are quickly placed in a leadership role in the workplace, as they must manage student interns, technicians and other support staff. With this in mind, Cranford enrolled in the Moore School’s Professional MBA program alongside her pharmacy program.

“From the time I entered undergrad at USC, I intended to pursue my Pharm.D. and MBA because I hoped to pursue a non-traditional pharmacist role after graduation,” Cranford said. “The job market in pharmacy is increasingly dynamic and pursuing advanced education or specialized training is almost a requirement to stand out and find a role that makes you happy.”

Cranford said that the business classes she took that covered strategic management were particularly applicable to her career in pharmacy. She added that she also became knowledgeable about small business law, innovation and technology development strategies, small business management and general financial and managerial accounting.

Like Cranford, Jordan is a Professional MBA candidate who is also working on becoming a leader within the life science industry. She currently works as the therapeutic area manager of breast oncology at Genentech. She says her role is to understand the needs of health care practitioners within breast oncology to address their clinical goals, business goals and challenges in support of improved patient outcomes, lower costs and improved quality of care.

Jordan says getting her MBA has always been a personal and professional goal; she chose the Moore School because of the reputation and flexibility of the Professional MBA program.

“My original timeline for finishing the Professional MBA program changed twice with two major life events — getting married and expecting my first child,” Jordan said. “I am so grateful for the flexibility in the program and the guidance I received from Quinn Jacobs, the PMBA program’s student services manager. She was always available to help me find the best way to see the program through that worked with my demands at home and work.”

As she nears the end of the program, Jordan says she has enhanced her business acumen and leveraged it in her role with Genentech and previous role at Roche.

“I have learned little nuggets in all of my classes that have allowed me to connect a lot of dots at the organizational level,” she said. “With a more holistic understanding, it has allowed me to have deeper conversations at a higher level.”

Jordan is on a marketing track for her MBA, and in the future, she would like to use her degree to purse a national payer role or a health care director position.

Both women recommend the Professional MBA program because of the knowledge and perseverance you gain while a part of it.

“The PMBA program challenges you to flex another muscle and gives you the business acumen to have different conversations other than clinical ones,” Jordan said.

 With their momentum-gaining careers paired with an MBA, both of these women look to advance to executive levels at their current organization or with another health care provider.

If you are interested in learning more about the Professional MBA program, please contact Kathy Rollins at or 803-760-9091.

-James Culbertson

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