Rebecca Levin, MBA/MPH '20, on Prioritization and the Importance of Cross-Discipline Thinking

Meet Rebecca Levin '19,  a dual degree student pursuing an MBA at Columbia Business School and her MPH at Mailman School of Public Health.  Rebecca is a VP of the Healthcare Industry Association Strategy Committee (HCIA), is an active member of  Hermes Society, and is passionate about healthcare systems.

Describe yourself in 3 words.

Curious, ambitious, empathetic

Why study healthcare at Columbia Business School?

CBS and the Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Management program offered a front-row seat to innovation in healthcare both in and outside of the classroom. I truly believe that in order to make communities the healthiest they can be, something must be done to connect the dots or fill the void between the current major players in the industry and the communities they service. The relationship between Mailman and Columbia Business School and the fact that they were not siloed, offered a breadth of opportunities. When I was applying and looking at what Professors at both schools were doing, I was like that is what I want to do! Having the opportunity to learn from them and take their classes was icing on the cake.

Is there a Professor or class you feel was most impactful during your time at the Business School?

Being a bit of a policy nerd who enjoys systems level analysis in healthcare, I particularly enjoyed Neil Masia’s class, Public Policy and The Healthcare Industry. Engaging and topical, Professor Masia successfully bridged the gap between government, policy analysis, and business. I happened to take the EMBA version of the course, and it was quite cool to have such unique perspectives in the room. Since EMBA is the part time Executive program, the class was filled with working doctors and high-level hospital administrators. Having their perspectives paired with those without a healthcare background made the classroom that much more enriching. Discussions were lively and informative to say the least; it was a completely invaluable experience.

Tell us about your role as VP of the HCIA Strategy Committee. 

I love this committee because we focus on what the Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Management (HPM) Program is going to look like today and tomorrow and engage in lively discussions to map that out.  I think the work HPM is doing is quite interesting and forward looking; I get to sync those efforts with HCIA initiatives, so we work as a team. The HPM Program does an amazing job staying at the forefront of healthcare curriculum, and it has been a great experience bringing a student perspective to the table. By contributing to programs evolution, my hope is to ensure future CBS students can have as great an experience as I’ve had.

Are you a member of other student organizations at Columbia?

I was really astounded by how active the student life at the Business School is and was pleasantly surprised to find welcoming communities in all corners of CBS.  I am one of the few girls that are part of the football club, which plays pick up soccer 3 times a week. 

In addition to that I serve in the Hermes Society, a student organization that works in conjunction with Admissions to connect with prospective students, help host events, and serve as a continued resource for students once they are admitted. Coming from a nontraditional business background, I want to help prospective students realize the value they can both gain and give by being here.

What event or speaker has most impressed you while at CBS?

I really enjoyed the diversity of topics at last year’s HCIA conference. Being more immersed in the world of providers, it was a great entry to hear from leaders in the pharmaceutical industry, often on the same panel. The juxtaposition of the Dean of George Washington School of Public Health with the head of CVS Caremark and to hear their discourse was beyond informative. Having voices in the room from many different actors commenting on the same issues made for such interesting discussion!

Tell us about your in-semester internship.

As a J-termer I take CBS core courses full-time over the summer, but also had the opportunity to intern at Montefiore Health Systems in the Bronx. Montefiore is unique in its longevity in the community and in the strong relationships it continues to uphold. I interned in the Strategic Planning Department, which works to expand the long-term mission of the health system. This differs from traditional business in that we not only address financial gain but also look at how particular initiatives, like expanding certain types of care, could benefit the care and health of the communities they serve.

By handling real data from across the state, I was able to learn more about how these decisions are actually made. Not only about how the business decisions of a health system worked, but also the greater macro trends of health care in New York’s urban and more rural areas.  It was a great supplement to my coursework.

How did you balance a full-time MBA and an in-semester internship?

If it is something that you are interested in than it shouldn’t be hard to make time for it. It’s all about prioritizing. There may be sacrifices but it’s worth it.  I structured my classes to fall on certain days so that I had free time to go into the office. I did homework during the commute to stay on top of my work. It’s why I am here, and what I want to be doing.

Are there any challenges/advantages to being a dual degree student? 

Having two viewpoints regarding health is incredibly transformative in how you approach anything in healthcare. I feel like having greater understanding of the underlying causes of health inequities has expounded what I’ve learned in business school and will make applying it much more meaningful. The old adage that “when one door closes, another opens” is appropriate here – both as is and vice versa! Doing the dual degree opens so many doors but comes with the realization you cannot do everything. Beyond having to be diligent about the requirements, sometimes certain opportunities come along that bring you to the point of sacrificing depth for width – you just have to decide what you want to get out of the experience. While you don’t have unlimited capacity, I’ve learned to expand my capacity (which admittedly isn’t difficult with the exciting academic, club, and other opportunities that come up at either school).

What is the best thing about living and studying in NYC?

Aside from the food, I can’t imagine studying anywhere else. The opportunities to intern part time or meet with someone who works for one of the many, many health care companies (in any industry: start up, digital health, private equity, payor/provider among others) in New York before class are not something you could do in any other city. Being able to learn from the vast network of CBS alumni in every vertical of healthcare is so easy to do in the city.  New York is such a hub with real time innovation happening here. Whether it’s healthcare or food related, I can’t get enough.  There are a lot of missing pieces in my 360-degree healthcare perspective and I feel New York has all of them.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I’ll be halfway to fixing the healthcare landscape in the US. OK, maybe ¼ of the way there. I realize it’s a daunting task but know that with the knowledge and network I’ve gained at Columbia I can effectively contribute to the transformation of healthcare delivery and increase the health of communities across the country.

What inspires you most?

I am really lucky that I have good health and lived in communities that valued good health. Knowing that I have the ability to help everyone have that is really important to me. My family showed me the value of hard work ethic and unconditional support in whatever I am interested. I have been surprised by how inspired I am by the other people I met here at CBS, and seeing their passion for whatever part of healthcare they are interested in as inspired me to explore and get involved in ways I wouldn’t have expected.