Faculty Spotlight: LeBow College's Mike Howley
Despite the best-laid plans, sometimes life sends you down an unexpected road. At least, that’s what happened to Mike Howley, PhD, clinical professor of marketing in Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. Despite his current role as a professor for LeBow’s MBA program, his path to business academia was hardly straight and narrow.
It took Howley a while to join the business world. Twenty years, in fact. That’s how long Howley worked as a physicians assistant, before moving into management and starting his business care. For the first half of his career he did primary care in rural settings, seeing up to 150 patients a week. As he approached midlife, however, Howley became more interested in the processes of care. While managing a surgical practice, he decided to pursue an MBA.
“I went back to school in my 40s and it just lit a fire under me,” Howley said. “I found that the business people had the answers to so many of the issues that I struggled with to provide high quality care to our patients. The business people had this figured out: how to manage service processes, business process redesign, quality interventions, and project management.”
After securing his MBA, Howley set his sights on a PhD, knowing that he wanted to stay in the business sphere. He chose to pursue a doctorate degree in business administration with hopes that it would offer a practical, rather than theoretical, approach to health care. Armed with his healthcare background, Howley wanted to learn more about a business approach to optimizing the United States health care system to best benefit patients.
Howley brings this passion for patient care to the business world. He sees it in terms of care and responsibility: if a medical practitioner makes a mistake, a patient could be hurt. If a business owner makes a mistake, many workers could lose their livelihood. Because people in business have the capacity to do widespread harm, he believes, it’s important that they have the training and know-how to make smart decisions.
Howley never suspected that he would end up in academia after finishing his MBA. In fact, he was prepared to become a manager of the emergency room or operating room in a local hospital. But that, he said, is the “magic” of the MBA.
“An interaction will happen. The lights come on, the stars explode. And you suddenly see this path that you couldn’t see before.” That path would eventually lead Howley away from the hospital and towards Drexel.
So what advice does Howley have for current or future MBA students?
“Getting an MBA is an experience you can’t always control. We’ll put you into a new setting, expose you to fresh ideas and ways of thinking, we’ll introduce you to new people…and something unplanned might happen. That’s part of what we do,” he said. “You never know where you’re going to end up with these graduate degrees…allow for the unexpected.”