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EMBA alumna uses capstone project to make a difference

Wednesday, September 22, 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.

Dr. 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.

She outlined both the problem and a plan for addressing it in her EMBA Integrative Action Project (IAP), and since graduation has put her plan into motion by pushing for a state law that would allow unused medications to go to those in need. 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,” Dr. Austin said. “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.”

Dr. Austin came to Oakland as an experienced internist with a private practice in Rochester Hills. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biomedical science in 1993 and after shifting focus to medicine, earned her medical degree 1999.

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

It was then Dr. 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.”

As Dr. 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, Dr. 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. Dr. 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,” Dr. Austin said.

Dr. 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.

For more information about Oakland's EMBA program, view the website.