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Taking Time to Learn Healthcare

Vanderbilt helps Former Marine transition to civilian career

Jeff Lenar
CEO-in-Training, Acadia Healthcare, Las Vegas

Vanderbilt MBA 2019

Jeff Lenar had no experience in healthcare, the field he wanted to enter. In fact, he had no experience with civilian careers at all. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, Jeff spent seven years as a Marine infantry officer, with deployments that took him from Afghanistan and the Middle East to Cuba.

What experience had taught him, he says, is that “many veterans do not have a firm grasp on what a civilian career looks like.” He concluded that going directly from the Marines to an MBA program would give him the business knowledge he needed—and valuable time to learn about the healthcare industry.

For Jeff, Vanderbilt was a logical choice. “I knew I wanted to pursue a career in healthcare,” he says, “and Vanderbilt’s location in a healthcare city, along with Owen’s healthcare program, solidified the decision for me. I also liked that the program is smaller, giving me a great opportunity to interact with my entire class.”

Still, Jeff admits, as “a student making a 180-degree change” in his professional career, he was “a little anxious” when he arrived on campus. “I showed up with no idea of what investment banking entailed or what the role of consultant did.”

But he applied himself to his work at Owen with the same determination he showed when he lost 100 pounds (after playing on Navy’s football team) to accept a commission in the Marines. He involved himself in in the Vanderbilt Business Healthcare Association and a professional development initiative of the Nashville Healthcare Council. And he took full advantage of help from Owen staff in setting up an independent study with Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital and in connecting with alumni in the healthcare industry—including one at Acadia Healthcare, the company that Jeff joined after graduation.

“Owen,” he says, “gave me a fantastic opportunity to lay the groundwork for my next career—and make great friends on the way.”



Fun Fact: On average, Jeff reads a book a week—or at least he did before all the required reading in the MBA program.Prior to starting at Owen, I spent seven years in the Marine Corps serving as an infantry officer and completed five deployments visiting over 20 countries. Of all the countries I've been to I had the most fun in Bahrain (I spent a little under a year in the tiny, Gulf country).

Owen gave me a fantastic opportunity to lay the groundwork for my next career—and make great friends on the way.