Q&A with Jennifer Perkins, MBA ’15, UCSF Health

Jennifer Perkins, MD, MBA ’15
HSM ’16
Medical Director of Access Services
Associate Professor of Medicine and Third-Year Mentor – MBA
Duke University Health System

What does the future of health care services look like to physicians and providers, from your perspective?

health care delivery models have tremendous opportunity presently. Many systems are shifting away from fee-for-service and into value-based care to optimize cost and quality. Margins for reimbursement have been shrinking over the last few decades, which means we need to increase volumes to maintain a profit and keep the doors open all in the time where physician burnout is at an all-time high.

To me, this just represents a wide chasm of opportunity to come up with health care delivery and access innovations so we can provide high quality, cost effective care in the most efficient way. Many health care systems are looking to access innovations, care management, telemedicine and reductions of health care waste in the system to help with efficiencies and improve access to high quality, high value health care. I am excited to be a part of a team working on these solutions as this is where my passion lies.

We’re seeing a growing number of collaborations in health care to address cost, quality, and access, such as Accountable Care Organizations.  What sort of emerging partnerships in the health sector do you perceive to be most compelling?

As value-based care moves into our region, providers and health care centers will be “at risk” for their populations. This means if we reduce the cost of care per member and provide high quality care, we can be paid part of the shared savings. If we don’t improve costs per member, we may have to pay a penalty. This requires a lot of evaluation and education across a health care system. I think we will see more partnerships with payers as well as companies who can help with data science and recommend strategies to reduce waste.

What do you wish you knew at the start of your career that took years to understand?

I wish I realized how many possibilities there were for my career. I originally thought I wanted to be a physician scientist and do clinical research, but quickly learned that I loved the business of health care and taking care of patients. I completed a research fellowship in Endocrinology, and then, when I started my faculty position at Duke, realized I was highly drawn to operations and strategy in health care.  It may have taken me to my fifth year of faculty to decide to get my MBA, but I have no regrets and really enjoy using my new skillset in my everyday life and career. Currently, I serve as the Medical Director for Access Services and get to work with all departments at Duke University.

You were already a successful physician when you came to Fuqua.  What made you choose to pursue your MBA when you did, and what impact has obtaining a business education had on your career?

Success is how you define it. I already enjoyed taking care of patients with Endocrine tumors, particularly thyroid cancer patients, but I wanted more. I was the Vice Chief of Clinical Affairs of my division at the time I chose to apply for business school. I had started getting involved in access work and several other committees at my institution. I was in charge of the day-to-day operations of our outpatient clinics in Endocrinology, and I realized I didn’t have the language nor the understanding of the business side to health care to really accomplish what I wanted to. I realized my true passion was health care leadership, particularly around operations and strategy. Thus, I chose to seek out getting my MBA with a Health Sector Management certificate. This has allowed me to interact with hospital leadership in a much different way and be a liaison, from the on the ground provider seeing patients to the hospital leadership. I have a whole different perspective on problem solving and on leadership. I am now currently serving as the Medical Director for Access Services and am passionate about working on ways to enhance patient’s access into our institution to get the right patient, to the right provider and right location when they need to be seen.

What advice would you give a young businessperson going into health care today?

There are a myriad of pathways to be taken and so much work to be done. Your skill set will be welcomed as we try to transform health care into a more lean industry but still remain innovative at delivering high quality, cost effective care.

About Dr. Perkins:

Dr. Perkins is an Endocrinologist in the Duke University Health System who specializes in Endocrine Tumors.  She serves as Medical Director of Access Services and was previously the Vice Chief of Clinical Affairs for the Division of Endocrinology. She is also an Associate Professor of Medicine and the third year MD/MBA study director for the Duke University School of Medicine.

She received her doctorate from Dartmouth Medical School, then went on to complete her residency in Internal Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, and her fellowship in Endocrinology at Vanderbilt University.  Dr. Perkins earned her MBA from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University along with a Certificate in Health Sector Management.