Born to care, trained to lead
Aaron Chiu
  Associate Dean, Quality Improvement & Accreditation
University of Manitoba College of Medicine
Asper MBA, 2012

AARON CHIU was born a doctor – literally. On the day of his birth in Hong Kong, his grandfather decreed that Aaron would pursue a career in medicine. While going to school in Canada, Aaron was fortunate to discover a passion for clinical medicine. He eventually settled in Winnipeg as a neonatologist, a pediatric specialist who provides acute medical care to newborn infants.

“Neonatology suits what I love most,” he says, “which is the challenge and adventure of giving a newborn life a chance to succeed and thrive. If things work out well for a patient, you end up with someone who is going to be healthy for a very long time.”

He’s worked as a neonatologist for more than a decade, rising to the top of his profession as a medical practitioner and researcher in national and international clinical trials. He is also a seasoned educator with a background in administration:

  • Associate Professor (Pediatrics), University of Manitoba
  • Director of the Manitoba RSV Prophylaxis Program, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
  • Chair of the Neonatal Perinatal Medicine Subspecialty Committee, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (where he supervises the training of neonatologists across Canada)

As Aaron’s career progressed, he found himself being called upon to take on more administrative and leadership roles – which led him to two observations: “First, that physicians are good at looking after patients, and second, that they’re poor at administration, because they’re not properly trained for that.”

Driven to achieve a more effective balance in his own clinical and administrative work, Aaron decided the best remedy was to pursue an MBA.

After carefully considering a number of MBA programs across the country, Aaron chose the Asper MBA for three reasons:

  • The program’s strong ties to the local business community. He knew he needed relevant connections to further his career.
  • The program’s flexible, accelerated pace. He could take a one-year sabbatical from work, and the Asper MBA was one of the only programs that allowed him to complete his degree in 11 months.
  • The program’s location. Leaving his family for a year wasn’t an option, emotionally and financially.

Aaron concentrated his MBA on Human Resources and Organizational Behaviour to gain critical insight into how organizations work. The business and administrative knowledge he absorbed in the program has since provided him with a profoundly richer sense of how clinical practice fits into the broader perspective of health care administration.

“For example, now I can see how budgets and resources impact the clinical care I give, and vice versa,” he says. “That kind of high-level view is invaluable to making good decisions, for both my patients and my hospital.”

In his studies, he also had the chance to apply his knowledge of human resources to the field of medical education. “From a purely administrative point of view, certain aspects of medical education don’t work as well as they should,” he explains. “So we mapped out facets of medical education through the lens of human resources and found all kinds of solutions that have been used successfully in businesses.”

He hopes to apply these solutions in his role as a medical educator locally and nationally. “The MBA really broadened my perspective,” he says. “Now I get excited by learning new ways to approach a problem.”

Overall, Aaron says the Asper MBA has given him a distinct advantage over other candidates competing for senior leadership roles in health care. “I have confidence and competence in a realm most physicians aren’t familiar with.”

Aside from the academic benefits, Aaron says he gained just as much value from the people he met in the Asper MBA. “I was exposed to exceptional teachers and students from a whole range of industries, local and international. It was wonderful to learn about their skills, experiences, and approaches to problems. And I was really impressed by visiting speakers from the local business community – how interactive they were with the students.”

These interactions led Aaron to form close ties to strong industry leaders – ties that created opportunities to work as a consultant helping fledgling health care startups succeed and thrive.

In 2016, Chiu took the next step forward in his career when he was appointed Associate Dean, Quality Improvement & Accreditation, University of Manitoba College of Medicine. He also become president-elect of Doctors Manitoba for 2017-18.

“I see these wonderful new opportunities as a natural progression,” he says. “They’ve grown out of my strong focus on improving my effectiveness as a leader and administrator in medicine. My MBA from the Asper School has helped tremendously in that regard, by giving me a whole-system perspective on health care that includes everything from management best practices, finance, human resources and innovation.”

Reflecting on the impact of the Asper MBA on his career and his life, Aaron says he now considers himself a good doctor and a good leader. “I find myself with new skills, new insights, greater confidence, and the knowledge I need to meet any challenge.”