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Peter Slone

Senior Vice President Public Affairs at McKesson, MBA 2005

How did your education at UNC Kenan-Flagler prepare you for what you are doing today?

Working late one night, I heard a loud bellow from a guest office down the hall. The president of the company’s largest business ($5 billion in gross revenues) excitedly beckoned me to look over his shoulder at the quarterly financial news that buoyed him. A big AOP beat and other evidence of a huge quarter laid out on Excel spreadsheets.  While I feigned joining in his delight, it was in that moment I realized that I needed to get my MBA to better understand the mechanics of our global businesses on every level to have full credibility with C-suite leaders.  So, I set out to get my Global OneMBA degree at Kenan-Flagler. It was there that I gained the business and financial acumen that was the missing link in my career.  Strategy courses taught by the remarkable Hugh O’Neill and Peter Brews, and Leadership from Mabel Miguel and others better grounded my deep healthcare policy expertise in that busy intersection where strategic business growth can be catalyzed through thoughtful public and regulatory policy engagement.  I also learned invaluable executive leadership skills for a global economy, including the criticality of recruiting and managing best-in-class talent to success.

What was the biggest challenge while getting your MBA? Biggest reward?

With great trepidation, I started the program at age 50 with two kids and a job and a half. Quantitative coursework, all-nighters, domestic and global team calls at all hours working with dinosaur-age communications technology that would be laughable today – all posed enormous challenges. As if that weren’t daunting enough, I managed to have major eye surgery the first semester forcing reliance on computer-read HBS case studies and dense textbooks.  But a surprising reward came in my tight knit study group that made it their mission to pull me through a challenging time. We had each other’s back and it all managed to find equilibrium by the time the program finished.

What advice would you give current students or recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in your professional field?

Spend time early and often on the front lines of patient care – shadow clinicians, make the rounds with them, watch surgical procedures, get your hands dirty in processes like prior-authorization and claims processing and appeals, talk to as many patients and their caregivers across as many disease states as you can. Unless you can take a business solution or service and interpret it for policymakers, regulators or would be allies through the lens of the patient journey with intimate knowledge and deep passion, find another field to grow your career. It’s always about the patient – access, affordability, treatment adherence and improved clinical outcomes in a value-based model.  Know it from every vantage point. Most importantly, whether in healthcare or another field, get deeply grounded in how innovation happens and the markers for success.

What made you choose a career path in healthcare?

Sometimes, a career path finds us through a strange mix of intellectual curiosity, opportunity, and serendipity. My Dad was a registered pharmacist and with his two brothers owned a small town independent pharmacy that bore the family name. Like anyone who has worked in a family business starting at an early age I did all manner of menial tasks and was the conscripted stock boy.  When the brothers were overwhelmed by the volumes of prescriptions to be filled, I helped by counting pills and stocking the shelves of pharmaceuticals delivered by our wholesale distributor McKesson.  Then, as a senior in high school I interned in the state legislature and met the Speaker of the General Assembly, whose campaign for Congress I later worked on after undergraduate school at Georgetown University.  In the interim, he had been the State’s Commissioner on Aging and led a blue-ribbon panel on nursing home reform.  I came to share his keen interest in long-term care issues and after following him to the U.S. Congress, staffed him on all healthcare issues.  I staffed him on the House Select Committee on Aging chaired by the legendary Claude Pepper – an icon among senior citizens and who authored the Older Americans Act.  As my dad forbade me from going to pharmacy school and entering the family business, I had to scratch that healthcare policy itch in different ways.  After six years on Capitol Hill, I joined a policy consultancy in its infancy and over 17 years built a solid stable of healthcare clients.  One of them, Medtronic, the world’s largest medical technology company, brought me in-house to build a global governmental affairs program.  At that point, there was no turning back as I grew my healthcare policy thought leadership over 14 years there.  Finally, and perhaps proving the adage that if you wait around long enough in life everything comes full circle, a headhunter presented me with an opportunity to work for a Fortune 5 healthcare company, McKesson.  As part of McKesson’s far-flung enterprise, its’ HealthMart community pharmacy network was like coming home again for me.  Little did I ever imagine that healthcare would the pathway of my professional journey, or perhaps in hindsight I always did.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

First, to Stanley Tucci’s series about eating his way through all of Italy’s provinces. Second would be the entirely implausible golf hole-in-one…alas.