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Member Spotlight – Deborah Shlian, MD, MBA

Deborah Shlian, MD, MBA
Specialty: Family Medicine

Tell us about your work:

My clinical practice of medicine began as a partner in the Southern California Permanente Medical Group (Kaiser). After a decade I was recruited to UCLA as Medical Director of Primary Care for the Student Health Service. During my time there I went back to school for an MBA. With an MD, MBA I began doing consulting and executive recruiting for healthcare organizations, first in California and then nationally. In 2000, I moved to Florida to care for my parents. All through my career I have taught medical students and residents, published clinical research papers, wrote nonfiction books and articles on medical managements. In retirement now, I continue to act as a mentor and career counselor.

What helped get you there?

I would never have had the successes I’ve enjoyed in my medical career had I not found mentors along the way.

At Kaiser I met an amazing clinician, outstanding teacher and natural leader who became my first real mentor. Growing up in the early 1960’s, at a time when family and career roles were still fairly differentiated by gender, this view required adjustments from parents, friends and particularly school counselors who regarded nursing or teaching as much more acceptable careers for women than medicine. Indeed, the idea of career itself was “something to fall back on”, to be dusted off should a husband die, or family economics really get tight. Full time wife and mother was the generally accepted proper role for a woman of that era. Dr. Rasgon thought that kind of thinking was baloney and encouraged me to become the best clinician first and then to consider a leadership role within healthcare. Because of his mentoring, when the opportunity to become Medical Director of UCLA’s Student Health Service opened up, I decided to take the risk and put my hat in the ring. I got the job.

At UCLA, I took on the responsibility of oversight for 33,000 students and a large staff of physicians, nurses and non-clinical staff. As my administrative duties expanded, my boss, who became my next mentor, encouraged me to consider getting a Masters in Business. He convinced me that acquiring a working knowledge of the language and concepts of business would allow me to straddle the role of clinician and non-clinician administrator. I enrolled in UCLA’s Anderson School of Management and graduated with an MBA.

Have there been any interests that you have continued to pursue outside of medicine? Have you been able to combine these with your medical career?

My main interest outside of medicine has been writing. I have now had 7 published novels – one romance and 6 medical mystery/thrillers. All except my latest novel (Silent Survivor) which was written in retirement, were written while I worked as a clinician and then as a consultant.

What advice do you have for students?

Find mentors and be willing to take risks. My career path in both medicine and writing has not been a straightforward path. With each opportunity came a choice and a certain risk. Luckily, I found mentors along the way who helped me consider these forks which have made all the difference.

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