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Remembering How to Think Differently

Physician gets back to problem-solving business roots — and starts a company

Anuj Aryal M.D.
Interventional Pain and Addiction Medicine Physician, Veterans Administration and Tennessee Department of Health

Vanderbilt MM Health Care 2022

Dr. Anuj Aryal is board-certified in three different specialties — anesthesiology, pain management and addiction medicine — and he has built a successful medical career in Nashville as a practitioner with the Veterans Administration and consultant to the Tennessee Department of Health on the judicious use of opioids for pain management. He came to realize he was looking for more.

“After practicing as a physician for the last 10-plus years,” Dr. Aryal explains, “I wanted to get back into learning how to think a little differently than as a physician about how to solve problems and to utilize my love of economics (his major field of study as an undergraduate at Northwestern University), business and investing to explore other opportunities.”

For a number of reasons, starting with Vanderbilt’s reputation, the MMHC program felt like the right choice at the right time. “Having a spouse who is also a full-time doctor and having three children, I couldn’t look at programs out of state,” Dr. Aryal says. “I didn’t want a program that was 100% online. And if I'm looking to stay within health care and solve a problem, there's nowhere else I want to be besides Nashville, a national health care hub.”

Just as he had hoped, the program “has already taught me new ways of thinking,” Dr. Aryal says. He cites accounting as a prime example. “It was basically a new language to me,” he says. “Without this program, I wouldn’t have much knowledge about accounting or financial statement. I really enjoy both health care and thinking about the economics of health care, and this program helped build back a desire to explore that more in my career.”

The program changed Dr. Aryal’s career in one other tangible way. As part of his work in small groups, he and one of his classmates began discussing different ideas to solve a particular problem in health care. Their conversations led to an idea for a business to facilitate fair and open pricing for surgical procedures. As the idea took shape, Dr. Aryal and his colleague were able to use professors in the program as a sounding board. “They gave us feedback and suggested ways we could improve the idea and shared thoughts on how to move forward,” he says. “We’re still in the early stages, but we’re hoping that we can launch it here in Nashville, and if it is successful we can take it nationwide.”

Fun Fact: Anuj loves international travel with his family, who have been to Machu Picchu together and visited Greece in 2022.

If I'm looking to stay within health care and solve a problem, there's nowhere else I want to be besides Nashville.