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Career Catalyst: Healthcare Consultant - Matthew

Transcript of BMSA Presents: Career Catalyst Episode 2: BMSc to Healthcare Consultant @ KPMG


Amy (interviewer) (A): Hello and welcome to Career Catalyst: BMSA’s Pathways in Science where we interview past Medical Sciences students in various Science-related careers. My name is Amy and today we are joined by Matthew, a consultant in Healthcare and Life sciences at KPMG. Hi Matthew! Thank you so much for being part of the podcast. To kick us off, why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself, your current occupation, your module in Medical sciences at Western, and a fun fact about yourself!

Matthew (M): Sure, thanks for having me Amy, [I’m] excited to be on the podcast! Hi everyone, my name is Matthew, I am a healthcare consultant at KPMG in Canada. I completed a dual degree at Western, graduating in April 2023 from Medical Sciences and Ivey. In terms of Medical Sciences I studied IMS. And I did this in a concurrent fashion, so for the first two years I studied Medical Sciences, then completed two years of Ivey, and the, one final year of MedSci. Something cool about me – something outside of school and work right now – I volunteer with the Canadian Ski Patrol as a first responder. As a first responder this has allowed me to go to some pretty cool events, and help out with it. Including the Ride for Heart, the Ride to Conquer Cancer, and then recently the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. That’s been a lot of fun for me. 

A: That’s so cool! Wait, so Ski Patrol? Like up in the mountains?

M: Yeah, [Laugh] but locally, the Toronto mountains. If you see people with the redcoats and the white cross, I volunteer with them. 

A: Ohh I see. [Laughing] I’m from BC so I have a superiority complex when it comes to mountains. That’s super cool, and I also think the dual degree is super interesting. For any listeners who may not know, I am also pursuing the Medical Sciences and Ivey dual degree, which is why I was so interested in being able to sit down with you and have a chat. It is a bit of a weird combo - although more of us than you would expect - when you came into Western, did you have the intention of doing the dual degree? What were your careers in mind and your thought process?

M: I think to answer your first question, I did come to Western with the intention of doing the dual degree. For context, both of my parents work in the business industry and have that background, so growing up I was always very familiar with it. But for myself I was always very interested in science, and particularly in healthcare. On top of the clinical aspect, I liked the idea of problem solving, and having a career where I could impact other people’s lives. So coming into Western I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, I was leaning towards the clinical side of healthcare, but mostly because that was more of what I knew growing up and in high school, I hadn’t heard of all the opportunities that were out there. During my BMSc experience, I think it was really easy to stay locked in that mindset. Between exams and my peers, I didn’t get much exposure to different career paths. In Ivey I learned of a lot of other career paths, beyond the sciences and healthcare. There’s a whole other world out there, and I think being introduced to new concepts, learning about companies that I saw in my day to day. I was starting to learn that there are so many people behind these companies, who are needed to make these companies run. I think it was really interesting, I learned about so many other careers, accounting, finance, marketing, and of course consulting. My first summer at Ivey I decided to embrace that, I worked an internship as a customer and operations analyst at Bell. This was a full deep dive into the business side, and I wanted to experience all the projects they had there, and learn more about that side. This was a really interesting internship for me, as previously in the sciences I focused a lot on small systems like genetics and biology. 

A: The krebs cycle?

M: Exactly! And I think in business, that internship in particular, you’re focusing a lot on bigger systems. We were focused on customer experience systems and the process a person goes through when they call in to ask for help, and how does that work? I started to understand that I’m not just interested in the small systems, but also broader systems and understanding how to solve complex problems for some of those bigger systems. So I took that into my second year at Ivey, took a course with healthcare and business, where I got to learn more about the business behind some of these hospitals and healthcare organizations. As I mentioned before, I enjoyed learning about the companies I saw in my day-to-day, and in this course I learned more about hospitals. And at the time I was doing research in a hospital, I learned a bit about how the hospital worked and was working with a doctor, but I think this course and the experiences I started to dive into taught me a lot more about the business side which I would typically not consider when running a hospital. How do you make sure you have enough supplies, staff to run the hospital, staff showing up at the right time, those types of things.

A: Like management?

M: Exactly, how do you manage a hospital? Right, so I think that in hindsight it seems so obvious, like obviously someone has to run the hospital, it doesn’t run by itself. But at the time, especially when I was in sciences, I was so focused on the clinical side and my research, that it didn't occur to me that there were functions like this as well. So that summer I interned at Unity Health Toronto, or St. Michael's Hospital is one of the major hospitals within that group. And I think this was a very eye-opening experience because I met a lot of the different execs and managers there, people who might’ve come from a business background and transitioned into healthcare management roles. In contrast, people who came from clinical roles and transitioned into more business and management roles, and how they brought those different mindsets, and were able to make a bigger impact. This was what opened my mind, despite coming in with a more clinical mindset. I wanted to learn more about the healthcare system, the complexity of it, and learn about what I don’t know about different organizations. 

A: I see, I think the people who work in management are definitely underappreciated. They keep the system going, but no one really notices what they’re doing. I did want to dive a bit deeper into what tipped you over to the business side a little bit more. This is a cross-roads that I - and many other Medsci and Ivey kids - are at. All of us came into Medsci because we are interested in biology and medical sciences, and maybe wanna pursue med, but also want to keep business open as an option. Were there any experiences - I know you did research at a hospital and stuff like that - but what really tipped you over to the business side?

M: I think it’s a big question, even for myself, I think when I was in my 4th year when I was talking about being interested in the business side, but also interested in working in healthcare, that was really something I thought about a lot. One of the big opportunities was my internship at Unity Health Toronto. So I was a strategy intern, typically, when I expected to see myself working in a hospital, I pictured a clinical role, but I think in this role I learned a lot about – we were working on some really big projects about how to make a program run well in the hospital, how to take in more patients, and how to make - the emergency departments for example - run more smoothly so we can get more patients through. I think just when I was working on that I took so much time learning about the healthcare system, and I realized that there were so many things I - I kind of had to dive into why I was interested in working on the clinical side, and kind of separate that from actual healthcare, and see what other roles fit those similar qualities, and see if I was equally as interested in that. So I think for myself, I was really interested in learning a lot about new things, constantly trying to learn about new industries, how businesses work, and new problems. I was really interested in the problem solving aspect, so whatever career that I wanted to consider, I wanted it to be stimulated by problem solving, looking for different ways to approach problems, consulting experts for that. Also I wanted to feel like there was some sort of fulfilment, that I was impacting people’s lives, and there was a purpose to what I was doing. I wanted there to be a reason I was solving these problems, beyond the satisfaction of working towards a goal, something to motivate you. At that time I found out about healthcare consulting, this was really interesting for me, because it opened my eyes to an opportunity where I can problem solve, learn more about the healthcare system, and also feel like the projects that I was working towards could have an impact I could see in my day-to-day life, and also an impact in people's lives and how patients are affected. As I continued, over the internship and just throughout my fifth year, when I went back to my clinical classes I was just really constantly thinking to myself - how does this compare to the business problems I was going through? What fascinates me about business? Why am I still thinking of these business problems? Or like I'm curious in my day-to-day life when I go to continue doing research in the hospital now I'm curious about how did they get the supplies for this or how does this department run right? So I think that's what really tipped it for me, where I was like you know like I'm going to run with this and go learn more about the healthcare system and the areas that I don't know and see what I would like to - what other areas I might be interested in there, as opposed to pursuing a more than clinical route without really exploring other options. 

A: So correct me if I'm wrong but it's like you tried out things from the more managerial side. 

M: I think I tried from both sides - I did some research stuff, when I was in London I did some more clinical research at Victoria Hospital so I got some of that and I guess I can count it as education. 

A: Was that like wet labs? Like pipetting? Western Blotting?

M: No, I was actually doing more analysis on patient cases. So I was working with a surgeon there in th OBGYN department and we were actually working on a project - among other things - on a project where we were studying the use of catheters in the certain surgical protocol. And seeing if we were to use a new catheter, which was the new protocol, does it actually improve the outcomes after the operation? So like the rates of infection and recovery afterwards. And if not, it was basically a huge investment or it would cost a bit more to use a new catheter at the end as opposed to during the surgery. And so we were really considering whether it makes sense to take on these additional costs if it’s actually helping patients or not. A little deep dive into some of the work. 

A: yeah no no no no I love hearing about that, it actually feels a lot more similar to the business type of problem solving, in comparison to the more medical science research side. I just did a 2257 case and we just started the 2nd semesters new stuff and then they're like should we switch to online marketing or stick to trade stores and that seems like the same dilemma from over there where you're taking two different cases and evaluating - is this more financially viable, is this better for the patient. Versus like I just started volunteering at a wet lab as well and then that's just like pipetting, proteins, all of that jazz.

M: Yeah yeah there's a lot of I think when I was in my first years, pipetting, the wet lab was like my only image of what research could look like. And I think those are also still very useful areas and lots to learn from there, but for myself, I also was interested in doing some research opportunities where I can see the impact of my work come out. And compare two things, really thinking about what does it mean if one thing is better, or if the one option is better than the other. And just some quick advice as well for how to really make the decision about what you're passionate about is to try different things, look for areas, talk to different people, I guess just like you and I chatting. Look for opportunities to explore between the paths, explore each option. So what I mean by that is, yeah I did very clinical research, I took my very like technical MedSci classes, I also took Ivy courses. I did solely business internships, then I tried some healthcare business internships in between. And I also did a bit of research when I was at St. Mike’s on more of what I would consider like a business healthcare use. So we were studying Google reviews online which typically companies will use to improve their reputation among customers. But we were looking at Google reviews for hospitals and seeing if it reflects patient experience and can we use that to improve the quality of care patients receive at hospitals. So that again was testing in between and seeing what aspect of business and what aspects of healthcare and the clinical side that I enjoy. So really just test yourself and get a feel for yourself as well.

A: Yeah I think it's great that you have such a wide range of experiences. That's something that I'm probably gonna try to look for as well because it feels like you made a very informed decision in the end. Anyways, with your path aside, I wanted to ask more about the details of your career as a healthcare consultant too because it is a super interesting and pretty coveted role I'd say. Could you tell me about what a day in your career looks like?

M: Yeah, why don’t I start off with just more broadly what a healthcare consultant does and then I'll go deeper into what it looks like day-to-day. So I was thinking a bit about this, and I was thinking about what I can compare this career to, to make it understandable. I think what I would describe a consultant is - it's like a doctor for businesses. So what I mean by that or like businesses, governments, organizations. So what I mean by that is they'll come to us with a difficult and complex problem that is affecting the way we function - how they perform. So what I mean by how they function and perform - maybe it's how they're making money, maybe their profitabilities are going down, maybe they don't have enough staff for their needs, maybe they want to become more efficient with their processes. So these groups will come to us and ask “how can we fix this really difficult problem, this complex problem that's affecting our business, affecting our hospital”. And so our group will send a team of consultants, professionals, to go help them solve these problems. So how do I solve these problems? They’re such big, broad, complex problems right? So like healthcare professionals, we first need to diagnose the issue. They told us what they're experiencing, but we need to go for ourselves, do the analysis, interview people that work there, whether it's the leaders to the frontline workers to understand for ourselves what's really the problem here. Is it a problem that maybe they're spending too much money on something, or are they not making enough money? How can we determine what the problem is and then we can go in and find solutions to fix it. And so to be that doctor for the business. So the first part is again, doing the interviews doing data analysis research to understand what the problem is. Then we'll look at interviewing other experts, researching about what's been done in the past. So I think about it almost like imagining lit [literature] reviews except for you’re talking to different experts, other people who have done this in the past. Ask if it applies to this problem, and then how you can work with the teams and the people who are working in this specific organization to put that solution in place. Sometimes a solution works well with another company but you'll have to consider that this is a hospital, or this is a different health care organization, or different province than where it's been tested in the past. So again you’re interviewing people, doing more analysis to see how you could make sure this solution fits the context that we're trying to solve here. Essentially our goal is to help advise and assist them in solving these specific challenges in a short period of time. I guess to build onto that, now so that's consulting, now we have healthcare consulting. Healthcare consulting actually means that we work with organizations in the healthcare industry to solve those problems I mentioned before like governments, government agencies, life sciences companies, hospitals. Some of the problems that they might be experienced at that affect their performances like maybe opportunities to integrate digital health solutions or addressing nursing shortages and make sure that there are enough nurses to care for the patients at the level that they need. Or how can we reduce the amount of time that people spend in the surgical department or in the emergency department to make sure we can care for everyone and make sure people get through the hospital in a proper amount of time. So these are some of the problems that we will address in healthcare consulting. Just to cap it off, what does a day-to-day look like? I think this is a challenging question to answer because I think there is no standard day for a consultant. When it comes to addressing these broad challenges, first it really depends on what problem you're addressing, what stage of the project you’re in, but also what type of problems come up during that project. So what I mean by that is - I talked about maybe you're trying to figure out what the problem is and interviewing people. So one day you might be running a lot of interviews, doing a lot of analysis, and then in one of those interviews - I've had weeks where like I didn't expect to have a call later in the week because I just thought I would be prepping for my next presentation doing a bit more analysis - but in one of the calls somebody mentions “Oh yeah like we also have a problem with this or well our hospital takes a long time or emergency department takes a long time to push patients through but also there's this problem that causes that” and then you kind of adapt to that, and you have to figure out how can we learn more about that issue. Do we need to schedule more calls coming up? Do we need to run more presentations? Do we need to update our client about what we've learned? So the days are pretty dynamic but I would say that a lot of it is filled with developing presentations, conducting analysis, and interviewing and talking with people on your team or other experts to learn more about their expertise and what they would recommend for us to do for this problem. 

A: I see, I really like the analogy you used for the doctor for businesses and organizations and whatnot, I think that makes a lot of sense and is great for this podcast. Okay, I'm not super sure how much you're allowed to talk about, but I did want to ask as a healthcare consultant what kind of clients do you guys usually work with? Is it usually hospitals or is it like public health and government organizations and stuff like that? What are some problems you might often face in the sphere of healthcare consulting specifically?

M: I think I can talk about clients on a high level that we have and then I can walk you through some of the problems that - at a high level - we’ll typically face. So in terms of the clients, we work with governments, government agencies, so it's kind of part of the government still but it’s not like the government leader directly. Also, different provincial governments and provincial health agencies. Then we have our hospitals, we work with a lot of hospitals, sometimes health related not-for-profit groups and also life sciences companies - different like lab companies and private research groups. A lot of these groups, I think as you can probably imagine, a lot of businesses, a lot of organizations, they all have problems with how they run their business, how they run their organization. Even if it's not focused on money generating issues, a lot of people have issues with running costs. Maybe they want to try a new program and they’re unsure about how to put this program in place. So most of the groups that you can imagine in the healthcare industry we can work with or they may come to us with different problems. Examples that I gave are more like the high level I want the client that will work with or a lot of the clients will come with the big problems. I hope that’s enough clarity. 

A: Yeah, yeah, that’s pretty good. 

M: In terms of the problems that we approach or that we typically deal a lot with. I would think of it in like 4 different areas. One, we have our digital health problems. That's like - how do we integrate different digital health solutions into a hospital, into a healthcare agency to help them operate better. Whether it's to make the people who are working there, their lives easier, and make them able to focus on more important things. Like for example, nurses - making a strong electronic system will allow them to focus more time on the patients, as opposed to typing stuff in all the time. Fixing IT errors right? The next area that we can look at is operational excellence. So what that means is – how the organization runs itself. So on one hand you have running things efficiently, I mentioned before the emergency departments – how do we make sure that the way that patients are triaged and then brought in to be cared for – how can we make sure that it's done efficiently so that a patient isn't waiting 4 hours just to get triaged and then another 4 hours to see a doctor. Then, how can we make sure that the process we put the patients who are in most need at the front of the line, we get patients who maybe don't need as much care but need very quick care like how can we get them resolved quickly and then help them get back home quickly. Within operational excellence we also have financial sustainability. So what you would typically imagine with Canadian Healthcare is that a lot of it is based on funding right. So how can we make sure that we're working in a cost efficient way and that we're not spending more money than we need to to provide good care? Care system redesign, so that’s the third bucket, care system redesign. As I suggest in the name, how can we design new healthcare systems? Whether it's for an area that hasn't had a proper healthcare system before, then we would be investigating what you want out of the healthcare system? What does your population need? Or what do your patients need in the healthcare system to be cared for? If you're redesigning the healthcare system, [asking] what didn't work well before? What are you looking to improve on? And so again, identifying that problem and then seeing how you can help to solve it. The last one main area - that I could think of - is the health workforce. So staffing, nurses, how do we make sure that there are enough doctors, enough nurses, to care for patients and give every patient the time they need, rather than trying to rush through different processes because you need to care for more patients than you have time in the day.  

A: That was actually a lot more detail than I was expecting, that's very helpful. Something else that might be helpful to the listeners I wanted to ask about – what kind of qualities would you say it's important to have if someone wanted to break into this industry?

M: Yea, I think what's really interesting about consulting is that you don't necessarily need a background in – for example healthcare – to be a strong healthcare consultant. So I think the four qualities that I’ll highlight you can find in business students, you can find in science students, you can find in dual degree students, it's really not exclusive to certain educations or experiences. Four things I’ll focus on are: willingness and ability to learn, adaptability, strong teamwork/communication skills, and taking initiative. First, with the willingness to learn, as I talked about, we work on a broad range of projects and we do a lot of different things in the projects. And so often what that means is that you might be doing something for the first time, you might be working in an area that you're not too familiar with. For myself, even though I've had a MedSci background I'm not too familiar with how nursing shortages work, or what's going on in the nursing landscape or how care systems operate. So having a willingness and ability to learn quickly is really important because then when you find that a project requires you to do use a new skill – making certain presentations that you're not as familiar with – that you're willing and able to pick up these new skills and do what's needed to help you solve that problem. The second thing, adaptability, so again how I mentioned it's challenging for me to perfectly articulate what a day in the life of a consultant looks like because it's so dynamic. Things change all the time, sometimes you have to shift your deadlines because problems come up or maybe priorities change. I think being adaptable and being able to stay calm in those situations is really important as a consultant. If somebody tells you, you have to have a meeting tomorrow because something came up today you have to be able to not stress over it. Not freaking out about – how am I going to change my schedule, I had a set plan for today, I have to finish these tasks – how can you prioritize and pivot quickly? I think that happens a lot in consulting and being comfortable with adapting is important. The third thing, teamwork and communication. We spend a lot of time working together in teams, as I mentioned, usually what will happen on a consulting project is you'll get a team that will go on and work with the client. So in my team, there's four people and we work very closely with each other. We meet everyday and we're constantly bouncing ideas off of each other, setting up meetings to walkthrough and brainstorming sessions. So I think that you should not only be good at communicating – or work on your communicating skills – but you should probably enjoy working with teams and working in a team based environment because you work closely with clients and your coworkers on all these tasks. So I think a comfort with that would not only make you excel in consulting but also make you enjoy it a bit more. Last thing is I think like a willingness to take initiative and leadership. I think as with most jobs, I think consulting is very self driven, a lot of times when there's a problem at hand everybody's trying to figure out what needs to be done – how can I play a role in this team? So being able to take initiative and looking for opportunities to be a leader and take the lead on certain types of work will help you excel in consulting. You'll open up more opportunities for yourself to try new things and experience new projects or experience new tasks and that’s where you'll be able to learn more in consulting and be able to apply it to other projects and do well on the job.

A: I think I'll just end on this one last question which is: to any listeners right now who might be interested in healthcare consulting, what advice do you have for them to help them prepare for a career in this field and maybe break into it? 

M: Yeah, I would say – just continue to be curious and get involved in opportunities that you're passionate about and that also help you learn about new subjects. One thing that I think is really interesting about healthcare consulting or just consulting in general, is as I mentioned before, it doesn't matter if you're coming from a business background or if you're coming from a purely Medical Sciences background, you could have a more clinical masters and you're looking to go into more about management role. Really, again it goes back to those four qualities and some other qualities in addition to that, but just your ability to learn.  So I think what really makes you stand out as a consultant and helps you work better in your team and bring new ideas to your team are your new experiences. I guess as an example to help illustrate this point a lot of times people ask me “how much of my Medical Sciences background and why use in my job” and the short answer is really like none of it, I don't think I've had leading so far where I had to list out amino acids from biochem, or go through genetics stuff right. But I think what has really been helpful in consulting whether it's to suggest new ideas or new ways to look at problems is my research experiences outside of that, my extracurricular experiences outside of that, my different internships. Not to say that my internships are better than another for this job but I think it's just my unique internships let me bring a new perspective than my manager, than the other people on my team who have done different internships. I think what you’ll learn about consulting and working in a team based environment is that the more different ideas that you have the more options everybody can consider and the better of an idea that you ultimately come to. So I think for all the people who are interested in getting into consulting or considering it coming from a science background especially, continue to get involved in those science experiences, research, different extracurriculars that you're interested in and look to build on those skills through that. Like your teamwork and communication skills, your leadership skills, your learning skills, look to build on that through your science experiences and through what you're passionate about. I think that will help you excel when it comes time to apply for consulting and help you build a unique profile for yourself. 

A: Yeah I totally agree, I'm a part of a consulting club – which I know is kind of jokes – but I totally agree with having people from different backgrounds. Sometimes it's unexpected, the solution or the problem that whatever client you're working with is facing and sometimes it's someone with random experience who ends up being the most helpful. For example, in my project, I had a little bit of background in UI UX because of course I took. We didn’t think that we would be working with that at all but then it turns out that a lot of our project ended up being centred around UI UX problems and then I was just like Oh my God I know a lot of this! But we never knew that to start with. 

M: That illustrates my point perfectly, I think like on one hand if everybody had one experience, let's say everybody is really good at understanding the marketing side but there's nobody who understands UI UX. Well now everybody has good marketing experience but you still aren't closer to solving the problem because nobody has new ideas or different ideas so I think having those unique experiences they'll never expect when they come up but I think when they do come up and when it does become helpful, you really look back and be grateful that you pursued the experiences that you were interested in and pursued diverse experiences too. 

A: Anyways, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I really feel like I learned a lot and I really appreciate it. Thank you. 

M: Thanks so much for having me Amy!

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