Dr. Nigil Haroon (GEMBA-HLS ’21) has worn many hats in his career.
Dr. Nigil Haroon
He keeps busy as a clinician-scientist at University Health Network (UHN), an associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and a senior scientist at the Krembil Research Institute and the Schroeder Arthritis Institute.
Beyond his clinical and academic work, he is the president of the Canadian Rheumatology Association, dedicated to supporting physicians and researchers who specialize in diseases of the joints and connective tissues, such as arthritis. And among his many interests and talents, his wildlife photography was once featured by National Geographic.
In April 2022, Dr. Haroon began his latest endeavor.
As the new Head the Division of Rheumatology at Sinai Health System and UHN — one of the largest rheumatology programs in the world — Dr. Haroon has big plans to lead the team into a new era of healthcare. He says the Global Executive MBA for Healthcare and the Life Sciences (GEMBA-HLS) program at the Rotman School was key in preparing him for this next chapter.
“After spending more than 25 years in medicine, I felt I was missing knowledge in the management and business side of healthcare that would enrich my career,” says Dr. Haroon.
“Before I completed the program, people perhaps only saw a physician and a researcher when they looked at me. The GEMBA-HLS gave me a stamp that says, ‘This person is not only a scientist, but he's also a medical leader who will thrive in leadership.’”
“The GEMBA-HLS gave me a stamp that says, ‘This person is not only a scientist, but he's also a medical leader who will thrive in leadership.’”
—Dr. Nigil Haroon
The science behind management
For Dr. Haroon, one of the biggest takeaways from the program was understanding the science behind management in the healthcare system.
“You start seeing the system very differently,” he says, noting the value of being exposed to world-class management researchers and resources at Rotman, including the Sandra Rotman Centre for Health Sector Strategy.
“Strategy, negotiation, how to successfully build a team and implement a plan — there are studies on the impact of each decision you make, and you learn all of these things systematically throughout the program,” he adds.
One of Dr. Haroon’s priorities as he begins his new role is to strengthen the coordination of patient care, education and research between UHN and Sinai Health System, the two major hospital networks involved in the Division of Rheumatology.
The rapid changes in the field of rheumatology are also top of mind for Dr. Haroon.
“Healthcare is changing significantly,” he says. “The advanced techniques we use in research have evolved. And, with the rise of big data, artificial intelligence and wearable devices for patients, there’s a major opportunity to adopt new technologies.”
With the challenges and lessons learned throughout the pandemic, Dr. Haroon says those experiences will also inform how healthcare is delivered in years to come.
“We ramped up our virtual care and were able to see even more patients than before the pandemic,” he says, noting that accelerating digital transformation in virtual care will remain a priority.
Building a network and new friendships
The nudge to pursue his MBA came from Dr. Haroon’s existing network. He recalls a conversation he had with his colleague Dr. Kathryn Tinckam (GEMBA-HLS ’20), who was named valedictorian of the program’s first-ever cohort. Dr. Tinckam was named UHN’s physician-in-chief in 2021, and previously held the role of medical director for the hospital network’s laboratory medicine program.
“I saw how Kathryn blossomed into one of the best leaders at UHN,” says Dr. Haroon. “She was a living example of the GEMBA-HLS program right in front of me.”
During the program, he says it was invaluable being surrounded by healthcare leaders from different parts of the world.
“The connections you make with your peers and leaders around the world, and the exposure you get to influential people — industry leaders, CEOs, management experts — that’s the kind of experience you gain beyond the curriculum.”
Dr. Haroon also credits the leadership training and personalized coaching he received as part of the program to helping him land his role.
“My coach spent hours with me going through potential interview questions, telling me why questions are structured a certain way and the best ways to answer them,” he says.
“The curriculum is excellent, and the incredible experience and quality of people you meet through the GEMBA-HLS program is just amazing.”
Written by Jessie Park | More Student Stories »