Dr. David Lowry is about as educated as they come.
A graduate of Otterbein University in Ohio and cadet of the Air Force ROTC program at The Ohio State University, Lowry attended medical school at Vanderbilt University, while serving as a second lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve.
He is a skilled clinician with 30 years of experience under his belt in a variety of settings; however, he encountered one that was foreign to him after being named the Chief Medical Officer at Caldwell UNC Health.
"Six years ago, our hospital became part of the (University of North Carolina) Chapel Hill system," Lowry said. "I was given more responsibility in terms of process improvements, planning and things of that sort, which really piqued my interest in the business aspect of medicine. I was appointed as chief medical officer three years ago. Shortly after attending my first meeting as CMO, I realized I needed more tools in my kit. I needed to learn the language of business."
That's what led him to the Lenoir-Rhyne University Master of Business Administration program.
"There are a lot of executive MBA programs that have popped up over the years for physicians," Lowry said. "Many of them are online, out-of-state programs. I wanted something that gave me a lot of flexibility, but also something that I wasn't attending strictly by computer from four states away. LR had a program very structured for adult learners. I live in Hickory, so I had the opportunity to go to campus and sit down for a lecture. At the same time, classes are broadcast online. In some cases, when I was traveling, I tuned in to classes from my hotel room in Washington, D.C."
According to Lowry, CMOs aren't required to have an advanced business degree, but it's increasingly becoming the norm. Not that it's common though.
"I'm finishing my 36th year, and he is the second MD I've worked with to get an MBA," said Dr. Dale King, Jefferson-Pilot Professor of Business in the Charles M. Snipes School of Business and Economics at Lenoir-Rhyne. "I worked with him closely on his practicum, and he did something that was just phenomenal; he took his MBA course project and applied it to his hospital."
For his practicum, Lowry developed an antibiotic stewardship program, with the help of King, which provided a way for Caldwell UNC Health to optimize its use of in-patient antibiotics, while maintaining a high standard of care. It counted toward his degree and was implemented at the hospital.
According to Lowry, it has saved the hospital nearly $250,000 in the first year alone.
"We identified reasons why we were using antibiotics to such a high degree in our in-patient setting, and we were able to obtain the services of an infectious diseases doctor in a different part of the state to help us work on how to best utilize our resources," he said. "The program combines aspects of virtual medicine and involves utilizing resources from two hospitals in a team-based approach to patient care that includes physicians, advanced practice providers, infection preventionists, nurses and inpatient pharmacists."
As CMO, Lowry serves as a vice president of Caldwell UNC Health. He's a practicing physician who also helps oversee quality and ensures that medical procedures and processes are done properly. He's also involved in business operations and marketing innovation.
"I joke that my job is to translate MBA into MD and translate MD into MBA," he said.
Lowry has proved to be fluent.
In his time as a grad student at LR, Lowry attended classes on campus and remotely. He worked on traditional assignments and even made a foray into a junkyard with classmates to find a part for a project.
"In business and in health care, people work as teams," Lowry said. "In today's world, it takes a team to succeed. That's one of the good things at LR. A lot of projects were centered around a group or team.
"I feel like I was well trained at LR and had a good experience. It was very beneficial, and I've been able to apply the things I've learned every day."