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Innovator Article

Peter Buggy Leads New Directions in Healthcare Strategy
Alumnus Enjoys Long, Healthy Career at Kaiser Permanente

By Marianne Skoczek

As Kaiser Permanente’s director of strategy management, Peter Buggy leads a high-powered team of business consultants who work with the health plan’s business lines to better execute strategies and measure their success. Often termed the model for the future of health care, Oakland, Calif.–based Kaiser Permanente is the nation’s largest not-for-profit health plan and health care provider.

What motivated you to earn an MBA?

I joined Kaiser Permanente as a health plan representative in San Joaquin County in 1985. Several years later, I had been promoted to area marketing director for Sacramento and the Central Valley. My supervisor suggested that while I had strong relational and communication skills, my relative weakness in analytical skills would likely limit my career. I took her words to heart and determined to earn an MBA. I selected UC Davis for its strong quant program.

How has your UC Davis MBA helped you advance professionally?

My MBA studies focused on finance and healthcare management. With this knowledge and my new analytical skills, I was able to transition from a line manage- ment role to more strategic leadership roles at the regional and statewide levels.

My career has been heavily influenced by one of Professor Michael Maher’s courses that included Kaplan and Norton’s book The Balanced Scorecard as required reading. I became very interested in strategy execution and performance management, and my enthusiasm eventually translated into my current position.

What’s most exciting—and most challenging—about working in health care?

Back in the mid-1980s, healthcare organ- izations had just started to focus on sales and marketing. It was a thrill to be part of the team expanding Kaiser Permanente’s operational footprint throughout the Central Valley. The market was simpler then, and we were able to compete and grow by emphasizing our advantages in price, convenience and quality.

Today’s market is extremely complex in terms of product offerings, funding mechanisms, distribution channels, market segmentation and customer expectations. Making health care affordable, and hence more accessible, is the single greatest challenge. The promise and uncertainty created by healthcare reform has resulted in both opportunities and risks in the short term.

You’ve worked with a UC Davis MBA consulting team and represented Kaiser Permanente at a recent career fair at the School. What motivates you to help students advance?

I enjoy being a good thought partner as students figure out what interests them and where the opportunities are. And I am thrilled when they can match their interests to an opportunity at Kaiser Permanente. Five years ago, we had between three and five UC Davis MBAs working here; today we have 30. That’s a testament to quality graduates and the relationship the School has built with us.