Michael Bayeh calls it “an amazing moment.”

Less than two years after his introduction to Dr. Atul Gawande through a course reading in the Master of Healthcare Administration program at Suffolk's Sawyer Business School, Bayeh found himself training the world-renowned surgeon, writer, and public health researcher in how to implement a virtual care program.

Bayeh had been impressed by Gawande’s book, Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science, when it was required in his Introduction to the U.S. Healthcare System class, particularly its emphasis on the human side of medicine.

So respect was mixed with a bit of awe when Bayeh had the opportunity to dispense advice to Gawande 20 months after becoming an admirer.

“I didn’t stutter for a single second,” Bayeh said, remembering the moment when the two met on a professional level at Brigham & Women’s Hospital.

In fact, Bayeh took the opportunity to talk with Gawande about healthcare and how virtual care, which replaces some doctor or hospital visits with online or video conferencing, can be a solution for many problems that Gawande raises in his publications.

“He encouraged me to be involved in some of the initiatives he’ll be launching soon,” Bayeh said. “If I hadn’t taken [the introductory course], I wouldn’t have known how significant it is to train such a person.”

Real-world experience

It was his experience in the Sawyer Business School’s Master of Healthcare Administration program that not only led Bayeh to a full-time job at Brigham & Women’s, but also gave him the confidence to talk healthcare with Gawande, a top Brigham surgeon and professor at Harvard Medical School, who also writes for the New Yorker and has authored four New York Times best sellers.

“Coming into the classroom with no U.S. healthcare experience, then learning so much and becoming so comfortable in discussing different topics with literally anybody shows how good the MHA program is,” Bayeh said.

Bayeh, who was born in New England and raised in Lebanon, earned an undergraduate degree in business management at the Lebanese American University and, inspired by relatives who are doctors or otherwise involved in healthcare, has long been interested in a career in the industry.

“My main reason to be in healthcare is to serve people. I thought my skill set would work better in doing that on the administrative side of things,” he said.

Global healthcare hub

Bayeh wanted to study in Boston, a global powerhouse in the healthcare arena, and he was impressed that students and alumni of the Business School's Master of Healthcare Administration program have jobs in the top healthcare organizations in Boston and beyond.

His interest also was sparked by the MHA program’s pursuit of the gold-standard accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME), which it has since received. That accreditation is seen as an indicator of the excellence of the program, says Bayeh, and Suffolk’s is the only MHA program in New England to have the CAHME accreditation.

Bayeh, who will receive his master’s degree in May, said that MHA students are exposed to an extraordinary level of expertise.

“Some of the best people in Massachusetts healthcare come in to teach a course or as guest speakers,” he said. “But it’s not just within the classroom. It’s outside of the classroom too.”

Students are encouraged to get involved in professional organizations, attend conferences, and take advantage of networking opportunities. Bayeh has served as student co-liaison for the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) for the past year, gaining experience and confidence in public speaking.

“One of my highlights was being able to stand up and talk in front of dozens of CEOs,” he said. “It’s a credit to the program and to the professors who make students feel comfortable in doing so.”

Internship leads to job

Professors link students with internships at prominent Boston-area healthcare organizations. Bayeh landed an internship at Brigham and Women’s, which last September led to a full-time job that includes implementing the hospital’s virtual care program.

“Virtual care is a big thing now and growing in healthcare,” said Bayeh. “Instead of having a patient drive into Boston and pay parking, they can go onto a computer or smart phone and virtually connect with a provider.”

Bayeh trains doctors who want to be onboarded into the program. One of the most recent departments to go through the onboarding process was general surgery, which led to Bayeh’s “amazing moment” training Gawande. 

Afterwards the student fired off an email to Suffolk Healthcare Programs Director Richard Gregg and Professor Amy MacNulty, saying: “I want to thank you both so much for the opportunity to come to Boston, learn about healthcare, get my foot into Brigham through my internship, and most importantly know the value of such a precious moment I witnessed today. Without you, none of this would be possible.”

Heading for the coast

Bayeh’s work with Suffolk and Brigham & Women’s has opened new doors. This summer he will be moving to Los Angeles to work at RadNet, one of the top imaging companies in the United States. The company is starting to ramp up its virtual care capability and realized that Bayeh is the man to help them do it.

“They were amazed by the knowledge of virtual healthcare I’ve acquired from my classes and in my work experience in the past year,” said Bayeh.

Bayeh hopes his experience in Boston and L.A. will help him one day contribute to healthcare improvements in the Middle East.

“Why not create a strong virtual care platform that would give patients in the Middle East access to U.S. hospitals?” he asked.