If it weren’t for her family moving to Omaha, Ellie Rizzo probably wouldn’t have been a Maverick. Native from Iowa City, Ellie has a BA in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University. She says: “I always say that my major choice is more about my love for systems science than my love for plants.”
After graduation, she moved to Chicago and worked for two years as a healthcare business journalist and for two years as a fellowship coordinator for surgical specialties at an academic medical center. While working, she finished her medical school prerequisites at a community college.
All her experiences have led her to gain interest in business in medicine, even before she decided to apply to medical school. In her nontraditional portion of her education, she said she has learned a lot “especially in the dichotomy between business and medicine; the need of improved communication among leaders in medicine; the more business acumen clinicians acquire along the way, the more in control of patient care and their career they are likely to be, and that the structure of the U.S. healthcare system needs to work towards sustainability”. She felt that an education in business principles would be helpful for understanding organizational decision-making and industry trends in this regard.
All her experiences and also her family moving to Omaha has made her look for medical schools and applied to UNMC. She had always wanted to pursue an MD/MBA degree, and UNMC had a partnership with UNO for this specific program. That made UNO a natural fit for the MBA portion of my dual degree.
Ellie is currently finishing her M3 and with COVID-19, she said her day looks different than it used to. She sees a few patients in the morning, who have all different kinds of concerns from sinus infections to heart failure. Then, she delivers the results of COVID-19 testing to patients waiting in their cars out in the clinic's parking lot, rain, or shine. This repeats itself in the afternoon. She currently lives part-time in the hospital emergency room, and people who come in there have concerns from lacerations to respiratory distress from COVID-19.
Ellie Rizzo also had the opportunity to receive a GRACA (Graduate Research and Creative Activity) Grant, that supports faculty-mentored graduate student research and creative activity. Grants of up to $5,000 per student are available to currently enrolled UNO graduate students. Ellie is interested in the dynamics of how we create sustainable healthcare systems and pay for care in this country, especially in the context of what a hospital or clinic does operationally every day to take good care of patients. There are a lot of interesting discussions going on about this now, because of how COVID-19 is forcing our systems to get creative to cope with influxes of patients while simultaneously caring for the case-mix that is normally present. She said that her GRACA grant has allowed her: “to pursue a project looking at the network structure of industry stakeholders with a stake in the problem of healthcare cost inflation. I am hoping to create a model that illustrates how the dynamics among various healthcare industries contribute to the rising costs of care, and how that might inform where efforts for solutions may be most effective.”
After graduation, she will be proceeding on to a specialty she has not yet chosen. She hopes to be involved in administration at her institution when she will be a physician. She said that this will fit her philosophy that while it is critical to think about big solutions to big problems, the most effective thing we can do practically speaking is to work on making our little corner of the world a better place in the ways we know-how.
“I have already noticed that my MBA coursework has come in handy, as in some ways business skills are simply life skills. Whether it is interacting with patients and families or figuring out how to integrate as a student into an established clinical process, I am using my MBA.”
In addition to all the things that Ellie is already doing, she is also a violinist and plays in the Nebraska Medical Orchestra. She also co-founded The National Association of Medical Orchestras (NAMO) with the assistance of Dr. Matthew Brooks, who is Director of Orchestral Activities in Music and Medicine at UNMC, along with her NAMO colleagues, including UNO String Studies Coordinator Dr. Mary Perkinson, MD/Ph.D. candidate Matt Lordo at Ohio State University, and musician and teacher Nicoletta Moss in Washington D.C., they are working on coordinating and hosting a virtual conference in May 2021 for medical orchestra conductors, directors, and musicians nationwide.
Ellie said, “I love how dedicated faculty are to student learning and how friendly and collaborative the students are. I also got to know my wonderful fiancé, Devin DeLuna, who is also an MD/MBA candidate and is interested in medical innovation, in this University system during our anatomy lab! Nebraska is lucky it has a place so dedicated to training Nebraskans for the betterment of the state.”