Magnar Kvilhaug, RPh, MBA
Program: MBA, 1996
Hometown: Mattapoisett, MA
Quote: “Regardless of the class or the topic, I had the opportunity to interact with classmates from various fields—and someone would always bring real-life experiences into the classroom situation.”
What was your path toward pursing the MBA?
I earned a bachelor’s in pharmacy from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, and had worked in both retail and hospital pharmacies. In all these situations, it became clear to me that there was so much more to know beyond the healthcare aspect in the delivery of healthcare.
Healthcare organizations—like most organizations today—are tasked with doing more with less. I wanted to understand the delivery of healthcare from more than the pharmacist’s perspective. It was important to me to understand more about the processes and how to work with people.
Why did you choose to attend Charlton?
The real benefits for me were the location and the flexibility of the MBA program. I was able to attend classes in the evenings, so I could continue to work as a pharmacist while going to school.
What did you gain from the MBA?
Pharmacy is a very specific field; the course of study is very narrow. What I liked about the MBA program was that it was broad.
We studied the issues that all organizations face—not just businesses. Any organization that brings people together to accomplish a common goal can benefit from the topics covered in the MBA program.
Regardless of the class or the topic, I had the opportunity to interact with classmates from various fields—and someone would always bring real-life experiences into the classroom situation. As so many of our professors would tell us: “you’re adding to your toolbox.”
The MBA was a laboratory to understand real-life examples of the topic at hand. The subject was no longer simply theoretical, but actual.
How have you combined your two perspectives: pharmacy and business?
“Regardless of the class or the topic, I had the opportunity to interact with classmates from various fields—and someone would always bring real-life experiences into the classroom situation.”
At the end of my MBA, I worked in a long-term-care pharmacy, providing pharmacy products to nursing homes and assisted living centers. Then I moved to working with specialty pharmacies: pharmacies that provide complex, expensive drugs—$1800 per month or more—often used to treat rare diseases such as multiple sclerosis, hepatitis C, and cancer.
Three years ago, I established my own company, Odin Pharmacy Innovations, and now serve as a consultant for specialty pharmaceuticals.
I work with specialty pharmacies, manufacturers, and insurance companies to establish clearly-defined processes for patient access to these drugs. I focus on insurance coverage, financial assistance, and distribution enhancement—that is, determining ways for patients to gain timely access to these very expensive medicines.
What are some of the complexities of your position?
As a consultant for specialty pharmaceuticals, I work with both people and processes; there are the people who need the drugs and the processes that can make that happen in a timely way.
One of the areas that is critical in the distribution of these medicines is that most insurance companies have a prior authorization process for approving the coverage for these medicines; so I collect the appropriate documentation and package it to the insurance companies.
Another example involves orphan drugs—drugs that are used to treat a very small patient population. I helped a specialty pharmacy create a process to enhance speed of delivery for these types of drugs. I’ve also focused on rare disease drugs for a genetic disorder, where I’ve helped patients and their families gain access to needed information.
It’s a demanding job, with a lot of travel—probably about 40 weeks of the year. But I really enjoy being a consultant. It’s an opportunity to teach and share with others what I’ve learned over the years.
The MBA has allowed me to straddle both worlds—I’m able to understand both “business speak” and “healthcare speak.” And that has put me in the position of really being able to help others.
How have you put your MBA into practice?
My expectations for the program were met, specifically the “how to” aspect of business. I felt, for example, that the organizational theory class would be helpful—and it was. The late Walter Einstein’s organizational theory class was a capstone class for me.
I still think back to the exercises for queueing theory: the study of waiting lines and how to move products through a line. I’ve used this knowledge to help organizations develop call centers, for example.
There were surprises, too—classes that I didn’t realize would be helpful in the future. From my perspective, I thought that the organizational behavior class was going to be fluff, but in my consulting work, it’s been of great value.
Any advice to students considering an MBA today?
Certainly the flexibility of the program is still a big advantage. I’d also encourage students to explore UMass Dartmouth’s dual programs that combine the MBA with other disciplines, such as the MBA/JD and the MBA/MPP. I would have pursued one of those options if they had been available while I was here. Those programs lend themselves well to future activities and careers.