President’s Scholar Gillian Murtagh: Standing out in a Crowd

Author: Lake Effects Blog

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Dr. Gillian Murtagh, Associate Medical Director for Abbott Diagnostics Division, was one of five recipients of Lake Forest Graduate School of Management’s President’s Scholars Program Scholarship.

We sat down with Gillian to talk about what it’s like to be a woman in two competitive fields – business and medicine, integrating the two fields together, and the coaching she received from LFGSM President and CEO Jeff Anderson.

A Family of Doctors

Families of female doctors are few and far between, but Gillian comes from such a clan. In this Irish family, female doctors span three generations. “My grandmother, grand-aunt, mother, aunt and female cousins are all doctors,” Gillian said.

The women in Gillian’s family have conquered immense challenges and accomplished wonderful feats. Gillian’s grandmother, Dr. Nora McGarry, was one of the first female primary care doctors in the west of Ireland. However, when Gillian’s grandfather passed away, Dr. McGarry was left to single-handedly raise eight children, all under the age of 14. That didn’t stop her from attending to her patients and working every day until the age of 83.

“My family history demonstrates that women should never underestimate their innate strength,” said Gillian. The next great challenge for Gillian– pursing an MBA.

Intersection of Medicine and Business

Gillian became a cardiologist in Ireland, but because the country is so small, part of the medical training is to go abroad. From New Zealand and Australia to Vietnam, Gillian experienced many different health systems and ways of life. Gillian then made her way to Chicago in 2012, where began to expand her medical expertise, moving from cardiology into radiology at Northwestern Memorial hospital. After mastering this new set of skills, Gillian was ready for the next challenge: to explore opportunities in the business world.

Gillian was determined not just to get by in the world where medicine and business meet, but to excel in it. “I didn’t want to just tread water,” Gillian said, “I wanted to swim.” She realized that in order to succeed, she needed to gain business skills and knowledge to complement her medical background.

Gillian began her search for the right MBA program by doing research and attending numerous MBA Open Houses. These events helped her find the right program – one in which the students, faculty, and institution could elevate her as a business leader.

Figuring it All Out

The transition from medicine to business has been difficult for Gillian at times. In medicine, there is one common goal: save a life. However, in business, goals depend on a slew of different factors and can vary greatly even within a company. Despite the hiccups along the way, Gillian has been able to put things into greater perspective. “While the corporate world is very tough,” she said, “I’ve been in situations where people’s lives have been in my hands, so that is a very different, real kind of pressure. I’m not sure what I am best at yet in business, but I’m figuring it out.”

Gillian has had a lot of support to “figure it out”. As a President’s Scholar, Gillian has had the added benefit of one-on-one sessions with Jeff, where he has helped her to better understand business practices in America and has provided insight into various business roles. Jeff coached Gillian how to act and respond in crisis situations – both personal and professional. “Jeff is like Obi Wan” Gillian said. “He understands the different forces in business and he can take you through a complete challenge and make you into a stronger leader.”

Besides the time spent honing her business skills with Jeff, Gillian appreciates the small group interactions where she has learned to analyze a range of topics in new ways. “The added value of LFGSM’s focus on group work and relevant topics is really important,” Gillian said. “We discuss so many different things – from markets and how they work to leadership.”

Gillian has seen a huge improvement in her ability to interact as a business leader and execute on goals. The most exciting moments for Gillian have been when she’s encountered those “AHA” moments. She recalls learning the ‘Playing to Win’ concept during the Strategic Thinking course. “I was able to apply this concept at my job the very next day, and every day since” Gillian said. “The integrated cascade of choices sits above my desk and allows me to envision how the work I am doing on a day-to-day basis contributes to the company’s overall success.”

We are currently seeking applicants for the next group of President’s Scholars

President’s Scholars are individuals who demonstrate exceptional leadership qualities, achieve measurable results and exhibit high growth potential. They join a tight-knit community of highly motivated professionals and dedicated Business Leader Faculty® mentors.

To be considered for the President’s Scholars Program for the Fall Term of the 2016-2017 academic year, candidates must complete the Lake Forest MBA admissions process by July 1. Click here for more information. Check out profiles of President’s Scholars, Rebecca Soriano and Greg Caronis.

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