Executive MBA, Executive Student Profile

Meet Current Darden EMBA Student, Chris Thomson

By Susannah Fuller-

Chris Thomson is a Class of 2019 EMBA student in our Charlottesville section. He recently took time to answer some of our questions about his experience so far in Darden’s executive formats.

What is your current job?
I am an emergency physician and healthcare executive – my current role is Vice President, Medical Affairs for Centra Health, a regional healthcare system based in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?
I’m here pursuing my MBA for several reasons. First and foremost is to grow in my current role as a physician healthcare executive. Healthcare is at a crossroads, and physicians who understand how to care for patients while also understanding the new world where quality is linked tightly to payment will have a profound impact on wellness. I also have entrepreneurship goals. I have developed and patented several medical devices and want to get them into the marketplace to help patients. Finally, I co-founded a global healthcare company that has been successful, and I’m interested in scaling it effectively. The MBA skill set offers the foundation to achieve these goals.

Why did you choose Darden?
Darden is special for many reasons. I looked extensively at the top programs and in the end, the choice was clear. The Darden environment is vibrant, energetic, and fun – you will remain on your toes from the moment you step on grounds. The teaching is excellent; professors are experts in their chosen field and absolutely dedicated to the art of teaching. They take every moment of class time seriously and prepare extensively. You will find yourself within a coordinated master curriculum plan that offers much more than discrete classroom experiences, instead building connections in support of deep understanding and new analytic abilities. The innovative Charlottesville entrepreneurial cluster is a perfect backdrop for Darden’s Batten Institute and iLab. Finally, Darden has an intangible quality that I did not fully recognize until arriving. There is a drive toward humble, servant leadership that permeates the school, made possible only by a coordinated effort to choose faculty, students and staff that are driven, yet deeply supportive of each other. I am so happy here.

What attracted you to the executive formats of the Darden MBA?
Combining graduate business school with a time-consuming job is not easy. I have found the executive format at Darden coordinates well with my career. The academic gains made in class are designed to translate immediately and seamlessly into gains at work, so attending graduate school moves my worlds forward synergistically.

What’s your favorite thing about your classmates so far?
I like that the first words out of my classmates’ mouths are to ask how I am doing and how they can support me. I like the intelligence paired with kindness and compassion. I like the humor. I like the openness and willingness to share important life events. I like the bonds that developed quickly and effortlessly. There are a lot of things!

What are you most excited about accomplishing/doing during the program?
I am most excited about growing, which can take many forms. I anticipate professional growth, personal growth, and attainment of an ability curve that is frame-shifted above my previous trajectory.

What advice do you have for prospective students?
An MBA is part academics, part experience, and part colleagues. You can get by with less than all three, but given the effort you will put forth, why not make this the best experience of your professional life? Regardless of your reason to attend business school, make sure the program culture fits your needs. Interview students. Ask the questions you can’t answer with a superficial visit. This is not a rite of passage, it’s a growth experience and opportunity to reach heights you didn’t know you have. And above all, choose a program where you feel at home.