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From poverty to commander: the power of a Kelley Physician MBA

September 27, 2016

If you would have handed Dr. Bijender Kumar a pencil and pad of paper 20 years ago and asked him to write down where he’d be today, his mind wouldn’t have been able to comprehend what has achieved so far.

Dr. Bijender Kumar, MBA'16, and fellow Kelley Business of Medicine alum Dr. Mike Fletcher, MBA'15, discussing business at Hancock Regional Hospital.

Dr. Bijender Kumar, MBA'16, and fellow Kelley Business of Medicine alum Dr. Mike Fletcher, MBA'15, discussing business at Hancock Regional Hospital.

He is a physician, an educator and a Kelley MBA.

In August 2016, Kumar, who immigrated to the United States from India when he was 29 years old, was one of 32 physicians who received a Business of Medicine MBA from Kelley Indianapolis.

Kumar’s path to that ceremonious day is nothing short of remarkable. His humbling story begins thousands of miles away on a small farm in Haryana, India.

“I was one of five sons, and we grew up dirt poor,” Bijender recalled of his childhood in an impoverished village in northern India.

His schooling was rather informal. Students would huddle on the floor around their teacher, who was the only person to have a chair. The building was deteriorating, missing its roof, and school would occasionally be canceled when a rainstorm blew through.

Despite the obstacles he was born into, Kumar dreamed bigger.

He received his M.D. from the University of Health Sciences in Rohtak, India, and completed his residency in Toledo, Ohio. He practiced medicine for more than a decade. His passion is to heal patients, but he says healing them isn't enough; he also needs to advocate for them. After working in health care for 13 years, he came to the cold realization that critical decisions were being made on behalf of patients by people without medical backgrounds.

"A hospital isn't a Burger King; it’s not Starbucks. A hospital is a hospital. We are not really counting dollars at the end of the day; we're counting lives," Kumar explained.

That's when it clicked: He needed to further his education -- not for himself, but for the patients. The doctor soon enrolled in the Kelley Business of Medicine MBA Program.

It was at Kelley Indy where the curious, passionate physician gained business acumen. Skilled in the language of business, from finance and marketing, to leadership and team dynamics, a once penniless young boy from India grew into a well-rounded business leader.

Subsequently, Kumar's phone rang in the spring of 2016. It was Hancock Regional Hospital (located in Greenfield, Indiana) requesting an interview for a medical director position. It was his first interview for a leadership position, and he was offered the job on the spot.

"The Kelley School of Business gave me this honor," Kumar said.

Dr. Bijender Kumar, MD, MBA'16

"I started the Physician MBA program as someone who didn't know anything about business but was curious about the business of medicine. And today, I'm a physician leader who can make positive change in health care," Kumar said with a gleaming smile.

In a matter of 21 months, an inquisitive physician who two years ago had no business knowledge is positioned to pilot change. If you would have told the young Bijender Kumar 20 years ago that he would be the medical director of his hospital, he wouldn't have believed you.

But that's the power of a passion and a Kelley MBA. 

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