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Monday, August 16, 2010 - EMBA alumna uses capstone project to make a difference

When it was time for Dr. Molly Austin to distill what she learned through Oakland University’s Executive MBA (EMBA) program into her capstone project, it didn’t take her long to identify the need she wanted to address.

Austin, EMBA ’09, took aim at a dilemma that troubled her since she began her medical career: The vast amount of prescription medicine that goes unused each year while patients who could benefit from the same prescriptions struggle to afford them.

 

Austin outlined the problem and a plan for addressing it in her EMBA Integrative Action Project (IAP). Since graduating, she has put her plan into motion by pushing for a state law that would allow unused medications to go to those who need them. She and her project team members formed a nonprofit organization dedicated toward that goal.

“It breaks my heart to think these pills are going to the incinerator or landfills,” says Austin, who recently traveled to Lansing to make her case before State Sen. Tom George (R-Portage), the Chairman of the Senate Health Policy Committee. “Right now, we’re trying to secure grant money so we can continue meeting folks at the state level. This is the kind of thing I learned from my legal classes in OU's EMBA program.”

 


Embracing challenges

Austin came to Oakland as an experienced internist with a private practice in Rochester Hills. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biomedical science from Western Michigan University in 1993, and after shifting her focus to medicine, earned her medical degree from Michigan State University College of Human Medicine in 1999.

 

Austin was drawn to the challenges associated with her specialty. “You see the sickest patients; many have failure of multiple organ systems,” says Austin, who completed her internship at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak in 2000. “I was intrigued with people who were really sick.”

 

After maintaining her own practice from 2002 to 2009, however, Austin felt called to do more. “I was identifying parts of myself that longed to move to a different level,” she says.

 

As a hospital administrator, she felt she could progress from making a difference to one patient to positively impacting an entire hospital – and possibly the surrounding community.

 


Building a business foundation

It was then Austin decided an EMBA would move her career in the direction she was seeking. After some research, she found the SBA's EMBA program, a program she saw as a perfect fit. “They really picked up on the need in medicine for people who understand technology and the need for building leaders.”

 

Once in the program, it exceeded her expectations. "I really loved being in the Executive MBA program. It gave me incredible access to the faculty. Not only did I get the expertise in the classroom, I got to know them on a personal level.”

 


From the classroom to the real world

As Austin started formulating ideas for her IAP, she determined it required the efforts of a team. While the IAP's are typically comprised of two-person teams, Austin received permission to create a larger group, including Denis Dubcinski, who has an engineering background; Scott Dufour, pharmacy director at Beaumont Hospital, Troy; and Christopher Gortat, pharmacy informics specialist at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital.

 

Even after graduation, each has remained committed to the project through the nonprofit organization. Austin plans to continue pursuing legislation that will bring unused medicines to those who normally wouldn’t be able to afford them.

 

“With health care costs escalating the way they are, it’s absolutely ridiculous to throw away a $400 bottle of medicine,” Austin says.

 

Currently, the organization is in the process of building a Web site at www.rxrecovery.org.

 

Austin also is focusing on launching a new career in hospital administration, and spending time with her family, including husband Dr. John Austin, a dentist, and children Claire and Catie.

 

 

 

 

The Executive MBA (EMBA) at Oakland University's SBA prepares highly motivated professionals to become dynamic global business leaders and offers two different but complementary concentrations in Health Care Management and Information Systems Leadership. For more information attend the EMBA Information Session Saturday, Nov. 20, at 9 a.m., or contact Monica Milczarski at (248) 370-2059, e-mail milczars@oakland.edu or visit the Executive MBA Web site.

The current Executive MBA cohort is comprised of 23 students representing organizations like Beaumont Hospitals, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Detroit Medical Center, General Motors and Legal Aid and Defenders.  The Fall 2010 cohort is now forming and already has students from organizations like Acument Global Technology, Beaumont Hospitals, CareTech Solutions, DMC-Sinai-Grace Hospitals, HP, Sav-Mor Pharmacy, St. John-Providence and Wayne State School of Medicine.


By Flori Meeks