Clinical psychologist and leader in healthcare Slavomir Zapata (Class of 2023) is a First Year student in Darden’s Executive MBA program. Zapata says his classmates and community have become like a family, and their support has helped reposition his goals and career trajectory.
Zapata just returned from a global residency in Spain, where his classmates participated in immersive cultural experiences and company visits, meeting with industry leaders and learning about the impact of global business.
He shared insights about his Darden experience so far, why an MBA makes sense for a healthcare professional and what’s next for his career:
Q: What is your current role? What is your professional/academic background?
A: My career has focused on the development and delivery of high-quality mental health care to produce large scale positive impact, especially to Veterans. As the Chief Psychologist at the Washington, D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center, I lead a Service of psychologists and doctoral trainees at the medical center and its six community clinics. My clinical focus has been in health psychology, serious mental illness, and working with underserved populations.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?
A: As a clinical psychologist and leader in healthcare, I’ve seen where our healthcare system has faced significant challenges — and has opportunities for improvement. I’ve wanted to contribute to positive change at a more macro level and believed that an MBA would provide me with both business acumen and credibility.
Q: What led you to Darden?
A: The faculty here is world-class, and it’s clear that they are passionate about teaching. I also believe that Darden’s use of the case method is the absolute best way to learn. It creates an immersive experience where every member of the class contributes and adds value from their individual perspective and background. Lastly, the strength and diversity of the student body is evident.
From the beginning, every Darden student and alumni I reached out to made time for my questions. They repeatedly told me about how I would have the support of the Darden network for life.
Q: What has been the impact of your Darden experience so far?
A: I came to Darden for an incredible learning experience, but what I got went far beyond that. The people who make up the Darden community are some of the most incredible individuals I’ve encountered. The professors are knowledgeable and invested in your education, the admissions and career teams make themselves accessible at all hours of the day, and your classmates are there for you during every step of the journey.
I just returned from our first global business trip to Spain as part of a global learning perspective where I got to experience firsthand with my classmates how international business is done, and how we as leaders can position
ourselves to be part of that global business network. Darden teaches you how to combine your experience with new skills, and then supports you through the transition. After over a decade of working in healthcare and Federal Government, I’m soon transitioning into a public sector role with Mitre’s Center for Government Effectiveness and Modernization Health Innovation Division as a lead health and systems advisor with a plan to better optimize healthcare.
Q: What is your best piece of advice for prospective students?
A: If you have been thinking about pursuing something bigger, pivoting to a new venture, or taking a step forward in life, don’t wait. If you’re considering MBA programs as part of that journey, start exploring. Reach out to admissions teams, current students, and alumni for their perspectives so that you can find the opportunity that’s the best fit for you goals.