A Quest for the Bigger Picture

July 8, 2019
By Whitney Stewart

Brian Kearns serves as Senior Vice President of Business Development and Investor Relations at Globus Medical, a leading medical device company.

Brian Kearns wasn’t even considering returning to school when he discovered the Master of Health Care Innovation (MHCI) program at Penn. 

In fact, he was originally researching top graduate programs for his daughter when the MHCI came across his screen! 

With an MBA under his belt and over 25 years of diversified experience in health care business development, Brian’s goal with the MHCI wasn’t necessarily to pivot or advance his career.

No, he applied to Penn in search of enrichment, and ultimately, the bigger picture of how health care innovation might play out in the future.

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Brian at his daughter Caitlin's college graduation

“I had pretty set opinions about the way things work in health care.”

To be fair, Brian’s career has exposed him to a variety of subsectors within health care, from medical devices and pharmaceuticals, to hospital systems. Over the last five years, he has spent much of his time discussing potential innovations in musculoskeletal care with neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons. And, if you were to run into him today, you would likely find him acquiring and scaling ideas for innovative technologies in order to advance care as part of his role as SVP of Business Development at Globus Medical. He has helped that company advance health care innovation by, among other things, acquiring a medical device company in Japan and a surgical robotic company in Switzerland. 

So, to say Brian commands an understanding of the health care system would be an understatement.

“I got a chance to do exactly what I was intending. I have been able to challenge my knowledge of health care innovation, and ultimately increase it.”

Somewhere along the way, though, Brian began to question the security he found in the opinions he had formed throughout the years. He was, of course, highly knowledgeable about the aspects of care that pertained to his role, but could he be missing something important about how health care innovation might develop in the future and how it might impact the larger picture? 

“I wanted to get a more broad experience to challenge the way I viewed my knowledge base, and to either confirm or adapt it according to what I’ve learned,” Kearns explained. Participating in the MHCI program offered Brian the critical opportunity to drive further impact on his company, and potentially the overall health care system.

Halfway through the Master of Health Care Innovation program, Brian is beginning to see the ROI he was looking for. “I got a chance to do exactly what I was intending. I have been able to challenge my knowledge of health care innovation, and ultimately increase it,” he shares. 

Below, Brian highlights a few key takeaways from his experience so far:

QHow have your peers and professors in the MHCI program challenged your perspective?

A: My Penn class peers are physicians, nurses, and researchers. Others are like me and bring a business perspective. Through discussions with them, I have gained research-backed explanations for why many of the simple solutions in health care have been proven not to work. It makes me think a lot more about what needs to be done to improve the system. 

I have also found that some of my opinions on what needs to be done to improve health care have changed. For example, I went into the program thinking the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was flawed in many respects, and delivered little value. I had a limited, and arguably incorrect, view of a really important part of our health care system. I now have a much more fact based approach to my research and appreciate the ACA’s coverage for pre-existing conditions, continued coverage for children on parents’ plans and the attempt to curb growth in health costs. I took a class with Zeke Emanuel, a key architect of the ACA. We had different views, but I listened to him. I still disagree with him on many things, but he offered a lot of valuable points that have allowed me to see a different perspective. 

“Every single professor in the program ranks among the best I have been exposed to in both undergrad and grad school.”

Q: Do you have any advice for future learners?

A: Ask yourself: How well do you really understand the overall health care system in the United States and in the world? How do you figure out how that high level perspective meets and intersects with what you do on a daily basis? This is an important concept for us to grasp. A lot of us go through our daily lives with blinders on, knowledgeable about what we do on a daily basis without seeing how that is affected by the larger picture. It’s pretty common that you have folks that are experts in certain areas or you have people that know the big picture and focus on that. It’s more rare that you have people who bridge the gap between the big picture and how that interacts with the finer details of their responsibilities on a daily basis. For me personally, having the ability to bridge the gap allows me to have a larger impact on my company and potentially on the overall healthcare system.