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Ophthalmologist Finds Vision for Leadership

Suh is the Chief of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus at the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute and professor at the University of California at Irvine. Even though he achieved his childhood dream, he hasn’t stopped setting goals.

Donny Suh, MD, made a promise to his mother.

When he was boy growing up in South Korea, Suh’s mother suffered from an eye condition that the family couldn’t afford to treat. Suh told her that, one day, he would become a doctor and help heal other patients with similar conditions.

Following what Dr. Suh considers to be several “miracles” and meeting “angels”, he fulfilled his promise.  Today, Suh is the Chief of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus at the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute and professor at the University of California at Irvine. Even though he achieved his childhood dream, he hasn’t stopped setting goals. In May of 2019, Suh graduated with an Executive Healthcare MBA from Creighton University’s Heider College of Business.

“I’ve been practicing medicine for over 20 years, and I’ve truly enjoyed taking care of patients and teaching medical students and residents, but as I was moving up in the ranks, I realized I needed to sharpen my leadership and business skills,” says Suh, who is currently serving as Chief of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus at UCI Gavin Herbert Eye Institute. “I needed to learn how to interact with patients, other colleagues and leadership in the hospital, and I also needed to understand finance and how to resolve conflict.”

Creighton University’s Executive Healthcare MBA program is designed for doctors like Suh looking to learn organizational leadership skills and advanced business concepts. The program caters to adult learners who seek the quality, rigor and reputation of a Jesuit, values-centered liberal arts education. The robust curriculum is designed around two of the most well-respected professional associations in the healthcare industry: the American College of Healthcare Executives and the American Association for Physician Leadership. Suh, who also teaches as a professor at UCI Health, says he chose Creighton because of the caliber of faculty teaching the program, the unique work ethic of the students, and the University’s reputation.

A rigorous, accelerated program, Creighton’s Executive MBA in Healthcare Management is offered in a flexible, cohort-based, hybrid format, which enables students to learn from highly skilled professors and each other.  During the program, Suh and his classmates heard from professors, as well as speakers from across the country, who presented on not just the core business competencies like accounting, strategy and policy, but also what it means to be a “servant leader,” and how to embrace their own vulnerabilities, strengths and weaknesses to effectively manage a team. The students and the professors worked together throughout the program to encourage growth in each other.

“They focused on their core values of heart, mind and soul,” Suh says. “They wanted to make sure that I learned to be a good person and that I could truly turn around and help other people. They wanted to make sure I could reach a person’s soul and mind and provide hope. That was something very unique and for which I have tremendous respect.”

Creighton’s cohort model of learning enables relationship building, network development and peer to peer learning – something Suh found incredibly valuable.  He says, “the program does not just focus on finance or any individual process, but it helps you to look at the big picture and net product – the people.”

Suh says the business and interpersonal skills he cultivated in the MBA program have impacted his day-to-day work. He has enhanced his ability to interact with leadership, he has learned critical business skills and he has learned he doesn’t have to be perfect to be an effective leader. He’s learned how to recognize his own weaknesses and blind spots and surround himself with people who complement them. The experience, he says, has helped him become a better communicator and a better doctor.

“When I interact with patients, colleagues and leadership, I don’t think of them as a stepping stone to achieve my goals. I respect them for who they are, I learn their values, I talk to them and get to know them. I learn who they are first before I start any discussion.”  Dr. Suh says, “there is a big difference between listening and hearing. Now I feel I truly listen to my patients and, because I know myself better, I can help people better,” he says. “The one key ingredient that all leaders should have is to truly love the people you are working for. Without love, you don’t have a chance. That’s what I learned. Love is the key ingredient.”