GLC Board Member, Amir Dan Rubin, MHSA/MBA, discusses leadership and Optum's Role in shaping Population Health

Over spring break, I had the opportunity to interview another GLC Board Member, Mr. Amir Dan Rubin. Amir is the Executive Vice President and Division CEO at Optum. We had a great conversation about how the Michigan HMP program has served him throughout his career, both professionally and personally. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did!

Amir RubinQ: After completing your graduate studies at the University of Michigan, you quickly began working at the executive level. What experiences were instrumental in your leadership development?

I feel very fortunate to have had positive academic and work experiences with wonderful teachers and leaders at great organizations. I have had the privilege of taking on new opportunities, potentially due in part to my willingness to tackle challenging and uncertain roles, and partly due to openness or a naiveté to taking on risks. I believe I looked for opportunities where I could make meaningful impacts in health care, were important for the enterprise in which I worked, were difficult and risky, provided a steep learning curve, and gave me a chance to grow.
In terms of my professional background, I worked before graduate school, and received wonderful exposure to product and business development. While at Michigan, I undertook joint Masters degrees with HMP and the Business School. My two summer experiences provided further exposure to the health care field. During one summer I worked at Northshore Health System in Chicago with an incredible HMP alumnus, Jeff Hillebrand. During my second summer I worked in management consulting in Minnesota. After completing my graduate school training, I joined a healthcare management consulting firm in San Francisco.
I had met my wife, Nicole, in the HMP program—certainly my biggest achievement at Michigan! While I was finishing my third year as a dual degree student, Nicole joined Henry Ford Health System as an administrative fellow. Once I completed my degrees, we decided to move to San Francisco, where we both worked in health care management consulting. After a couple of years in San Francisco, Nicole's prior boss from Henry Ford became the CEO of a health system in Texas and offered her an opportunity to join him. It was an exciting opportunity for Nicole, and I was open to change (plus I was young, in love, and somewhat geographically unaware ☺). I ended up joining the Memorial Hermann Health system in Houston, after an initial wonderful conversation with HMP alumnus Ken Wine.
I came in to the job in Texas a little naïve to all the challenges I would face, and I actually think that served me well. I've always enjoyed process improvement and taking on new challenges. While I joined Memorial Hermann as the Director of Business Development, the role quickly evolved to an improvement focus, working with my boss on turning around the health system's medical group. After the turnaround, the CEO suggested that I take on role of CFO for the academic hospital. Again being open to change and something new, I jumped at the opportunity. In addition to learning the details of budgets, finances and the revenue cycle, that role also introduced me to the world of academic medical centers. After subsequently taking on positions in hospital operations and academic faculty practice management, I was recruited to be the COO of an academic health system in New York, Stony Brook University Hospital. I subsequently was recruited to serve as COO for the UCLA Health system in Los Angeles, and then CEO at Stanford Health Care, the $4 billion academic health system affiliated with Stanford University in Northern California.

Q: Optum's work spans across the healthcare industry. Which specific parts of the industry excite you the most, and what role do you envision Optum playing in these areas?

I left a really amazing job as CEO at Stanford to join Optum for a chance to make an impact on population health, at scale. Optum is part of UnitedHealth Group, which is now the sixth biggest company in the U.S. UnitedHealth Group has two divisions: United Healthcare—offering health benefits, and Optum—a health services company. I had met UnitedHealth Group's CEO while on a panel at a conference together. He asked if he could fly out to Palo Alto to meet with me, and that started a conversation. Moreover, I had great discussions with two other amazing HMP alumni who had worked at UnitedHealth Group, Steve Nelson and Rick Jelinek. I became excited about Optum's mission of helping people live healthier lives and helping to make the health system worked better for everyone.
At Optum I serve as Executive Vice President and Division CEO for several businesses including OptumCare, Optum Population Health Services, and Optum360. OptumCare seeks to deliver better health and coordinated care by transforming care delivery through capitated ambulatory clinics, urgent care centers, and ambulatory surgery centers. With over 20,000 physicians, 500 centers, and 200 surgery locations, OptumCare delivers outstanding care and value, with great patient satisfaction and provider engagement. Optum's Population Health Services provide care management, disease management and specialty networks to health plans, employers, governments and providers. Optum360 modernizes provider revenue and administrative services through revenue cycle and physician practice management services. In addition to these areas, Optum is a leader in population health analytics and pharmacy care services.
I am excited about the challenge of managing multiple businesses with multiple teams, generating about $20 billion in revenue, and supported through 50,000 employees. With a great team, a focus on lean process management and customer service, and a newfound friendship with Diet Mountain Dew, I believe we are making traction.

Q: From your time as a graduate student at Michigan, what experiences or skills have proven most beneficial to your career?

The HMP program has been amazing for me—with its fabulous professors and administrators, talented students, supportive alumni; and heck, its ability to even find me a wife! I was able to learn so much in the program, and have access to fabulous summer and post-graduate opportunities provided to me by alumni. Additionally, I served in teaching assistant roles and took on research projects during the program. Moreover, I have worked with many of my HMP colleagues through the years, and they are the best in the industry. I have hired HMP students practically every year into summer internships, fellowships, and management positions. They are the best—great values, mission driven, bright, and hard working.

Q: As the healthcare policy landscape continues to change, what advice you would give to students, graduating from a public health program?

In addition to the field's mission of serving humanity, the exciting thing about the health care field is the opportunity to make it work better. The existing leaders, myself included, haven't yet figured it out, so there is much upside!
Students have an opportunity to be at the front-end of improvements, and change is ever present in our field. I would recommend staying up to date with industry activities and policy changes. We are experiencing the equivalent of "1000 year floods" as they said in Texas, every 8 years! Meaning, we are having significant industry changes with greater frequency than many might have expected. By remaining current with events, evaluating market place developments, and applying insights from HMP academic training, students can help define, shape and lead our evolving health system. It's a great time to take advantage of all the opportunities. Go Blue!

Interview by Andrea McAuliffe, 1st year MHSA/IOE student