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Making Older Adults Her Priority

Geriatrician bettered her business skills to better serve others

Kiffany Peggs
Chief Medical Officer, UnitedHealthcare Community & State

Vanderbilt Executive MBA 2017

Dr. Kiffany Peggs is unequivocal about the way that her Vanderbilt MBA has shaped her subsequent career. “I couldn’t do the job I have now without the degree I have,” she says.

A geriatrician by training, Dr. Peggs’ leadership position with UnitedHealth involves helping more than 10,000 elderly and infirm health plan members receive vital assistance they need. Those services can range from meal delivery to help with paying bills and repairs of rotten floorboards — all of which can affect a person’s overall well-being. She considers it a calling. As she told an interviewer in 2018, “During medical school, I especially loved care of the elderly and vulnerable. They always touched my heart.”

When she decided to return to school, Dr. Peggs was serving both as medical director of a small nursing and as a clinical professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “I didn’t want to concentrate in health care,” she says. “I had spoken to other physicians, who encouraged me to do a more general MBA so I could get a better sense of business practices as a whole.”

Since then, she has been able to apply what she learned every day. “People [at UnitedHealth] who had my job previously just stayed on the clinical side of things,” says Dr. Peggs, a classically trained concert violinist. Thanks to her Vanderbilt degree, she brings to senior leadership meetings an understanding of operations, finance, and even legal issues. And she’s still in regular contact with peers from her C-team, both socially and to discuss business challenges.

Dr. Peggs’ MBA also has served her well in managing two of her own businesses: a medical-legal consulting firm and a small, private practice through which she sees long-term care patients a few times a week. “I was starting one of the businesses when I entered business school, and I restarted it later and it has gone much better,” she says. “The strategy portion of running a small business is key.”

If it sounds like she has a lot on her plate, Dr. Peggs is used to that by now. Her first child was born four months after she began the Executive MBA program. Her second arrived a few months after graduation. She knows how to manage time. She still even plays the violin. But these days, she says, “it’s just for fun.”