Physician and Mom Brings Baby to Haslam PEMBA, Both Earn Diplomas

December 14, 2018

Undertaking an executive MBA program while working can be a challenging prospect on its own. Deborah “Deb” Vinton entered the Physician Executive MBA (PEMBA) program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business in January 2018 while working full time and caring for two young sons and a two-month-old daughter.

Vinton says Haslam’s willingness to accommodate her extra responsibilities made it possible for her to tackle the degree.

“I think the biggest thing for me was knowing that if I needed accommodations they would provide them,” she says. “I don’t think I would have felt like I could take part if they hadn’t given me that reassurance.”

PEMBA, a nationally ranked MBA program exclusively for physicians seeking leadership, management and business skills, includes a year of intense coursework, multiple projects and four campus residencies.

Vinton, then assistant medical director of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Virginia, knew she wanted to do a health care-specific MBA but wasn’t at first sure which one to pick. After doing her research, she quickly settled on Haslam’s PEMBA.

“It was clear that the curriculum was immediately applicable to my health care field, and the projects and problems we would work on in class would translate into my everyday work from the get-go,” she explains.

When Vinton transitioned to the top medical director role, it meant finishing the PEMBA quickly was more imperative. Her emergency facility is opening a new facility in summer 2019, and she wanted to gain the operational and planning skills necessary to guide the transition.

“This was the perfect program because of its condensed nature,” she says. “I wanted to complete my MBA before we were in the throes of planning, which is starting right now. So it was critical that I get the degree in a timely fashion.”

She did so with her youngest daughter in tow during residency periods – a sign, she says, of how much the program supports its students.

“They accommodated me by giving me ultimate flexibility when I was here,” she says. “I brought my daughter, Raya, to class with me, and they provided me with special seating, gave me places to nurse and offered us food and drink. The staff, the professors, all have been incredibly devoted to us as a class and offered great mentorship. However I needed help, they were there.”

Vinton also credits her husband, Joshua Easter, an emergency physician at UVA, for his assistance. “I could not have completed this program without his amazing support,” she says.

Kate Atchley, executive director of executive MBA programs and director of the PEMBA program, found Vinton’s ability to juggle all aspects of her life over the last year impressive.

“Deb’s perseverance and creative way of balancing work, life and school are a real inspiration,” Atchley said. “And, of course, we will be awarding her sweet daughter a mock diploma as part of the PEMBA graduation festivities.”

Perhaps someday not long from now Raya’s older brothers, Max, three, and Xander, five, will be able to entertain their younger sister with the tale of how she completed the Haslam PEMBA with their mother while they and their dad kept things in order back home.