Dr. Will Caldwell (MBA ‘19) Says of the MBA, ‘Just go do it.’

11.29.2022 Alumni News, Article, MBA

As a physician with more than 20 years in healthcare, one might wonder why Will Caldwell, MD (MBA ‘19) would consider going back to school to earn his MBA. But for Caldwell, the answer was simple – he was ready to make a greater impact on the world and knew that an advanced business degree would help him to do just that.

Since 1998, Caldwell has built a successful career as a surgeon, chairman, medical director and senior health advisor. He’s helped countless patients and advanced operations at medical facilities across the country. In 2013, Caldwell became a board member and medical director of Give Hope Global, a not-for-profit entity dedicated to building health systems in developing countries. He knew he wanted to join their efforts, and while he had the medical expertise to support the work abroad, he was lacking the entrepreneurial advantage.

“As I began work in places like Haiti and Rwanda, I realized that the solutions to problems required nothing short of an entrepreneur to fix,” says Caldwell. “And I kept running into the fact that I didn’t understand the basics of business – what’s on the balance sheet versus the income statement, or how to build a marketing plan, for example. I knew that those were the skills that I needed to learn if I wanted to go out and realize a vision around a new health system abroad.”

 

It was then that he decided to enroll in the Wake Forest MBA program in Uptown Charlotte, NC – allowing him the flexibility to work during the day and toward his degree in the evening. Over the next two years, Caldwell took courses in entrepreneurship, leadership and organizational behavior, among many others. But beyond the program curriculum, it was the in-person learning and connections with classmates and faculty that, he says, made his MBA experience so impactful.

“The professors, mentors and my fellow students came from all different areas. It was a great opportunity for me to go out and learn from all these folks from different walks of life, many of whom were younger – some older – and we all just gelled and learned from one another,” says Caldwell. “It was a really important experience, and it exemplified for me the importance of being physically together – especially in an age where we’re doing so much online.”

Today, as chairman and CEO of SaVia heath, a SaaS-based healthcare software technology company, Caldwell is constantly amazed at how the skills and knowledge from his MBA program have allowed him to increase the complexity of what he brings to the table. And whether it’s in the boardroom or in the field, one of the greatest values of the program, he says, is the credibility that an MBA brings to his work as a physician.

“What I’ve found is that I’m constantly remembering things from just about every class that I took. They pop up in conversation or as opportunity arises and I say, ‘Oh, I remember this,’ and that’s been incredibly valuable to me. The breadth of knowledge from the Wake Forest MBA program has allowed me to interact with people in the business world in a way that I couldn’t otherwise.”

He continues, “The thing that I’ve probably seen the biggest return on is, as a surgeon, you’re trained to be fairly authoritative in your leadership style. And…a lot of the basic stuff around finance and around accounting, and even marketing…that was great information. And there’s been a huge return in that this enabled me to be CEO of a tech company today that I probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to do.”

And Caldwell’s advice for someone who’s considering enrolling in Wake Forest’s MBA program? Just go do it.

“If you want to plan for your future – no matter what you see your role being – you have to make an investment in yourself,” he says. “Getting my MBA at Wake Forest, and the students and faculty I was exposed to, coupled with the flexibility of the program and the ability to go at night and work a full-time job, it was all worth it. I mean, gosh, just go do it.”

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