Entrepreneur Turns to USC EMHA Program to Help Found Health Care Startup

After graduating from the Executive Master of Health Administration (EMHA) online program, physician Ryan Nazar launched Practical Healthcare, “the first social media platform purpose-built for patient empowerment.”

When Ryan Nazar, MD, launched Practical Healthcare, a startup aimed at empowering patients and building a community, he was on a mission to improve patient satisfaction, especially when it came to difficult disease and injury diagnoses.

But while Nazar had plenty of medical experience as a board-certified disability medicine physician, he knew he needed to advance his health care management and leadership skills to ensure his new company was a success. That’s why he turned to the Executive Master of Health Administration (EMHA) online program from the USC Price School of Public Policy.

Nazar, who attended medical school at University of Kentucky College, graduated in 2011 and decided to pursue neurosurgery, heading to Toronto for an internship and later Louisville for his residency. It was at that time, he said, the seeds for Practical Healthcare were sowed.

A patient from his residency was struggling to recover from a neck injury, despite the fact that she continually wore a brace. When Nazar deepened the physician-patient dialogue and asked how she wanted to tackle the treatment, she chose to remove the brace.

After doing so, she was finally able to recover. Inspired by the power of patient storytelling, Nazar soon published a peer-reviewed study outlining the disadvantages of legacy neck brace treatment, which “immobilized” patients’ necks and “recreated” the injuries.

“[The study] went on to us developing a 3D-printed cervical collar that I took to market. That was my foot out of the door of practicing clinical medicine,” he explained.

From there, Nazar continued to work in the medical startup space, ultimately settling into the business side of health care. While he was confident in the career pivot, Nazar sought an advanced degree to help him thrive in a leadership position.

“I [applied] to USC to obtain the EMHA to develop that skillset and gain the connections to really have a bigger impact on patient care and health care delivery,” he said.

Nazar was particularly drawn to the program’s group-based, problem-solving learning models, allowing him to gain “collective knowledge” from both the instructors and fellow cohort members.

“[It] created the sense that … I’m going to come here and have connections for the rest of my career and life that I can depend on and grow,” he said.

Although he graduated in 2019, Nazar said the program and his USC connections continue to influence how he approaches his work at Practical Healthcare as well as the industry at large. Being able to hone in on patient care within the EMHA was especially important for Nazar, as it helped maximize his impact on the health care field.

“[The program] allows you to specialize in different fields within health care. [It focuses on] what you value, and then it allows you, rather than putting your energy everywhere, to focus it in one area where you can make an impact, where you can break through the health care inertia,” Nazar said.

When Nazar completed the EMHA program, he was well-positioned to become a true leader in the health care startup space and launch the company he had long dreamed of: Practical Healthcare, which he described as “the first social media platform purpose-built for patient empowerment,” one that’s essentially a combination of LinkedIn, Reddit and Pinterest with “a medical twist.”

“Through the EMHA program, I discovered the power of storytelling, the value of learning from classmates and the importance of crowdsourcing solutions from peers[.] I honed my process improvement skills. These principles have deeply influenced Practical Healthcare, where we see patients as experts and foster a network of personalized treatments …. We aim not to disrupt health care, but to empower the resources already within our system[,]” he recently shared on LinkedIn.

Simply put, Practical Healthcare is for patients who feel a “one-size-fits-all approach” doesn’t tackle the unique medical issues they may have. Instead of having dissatisfied patients turn to social media platforms for advice, which can lead to misinformation or a lack of qualified assistance, they can utilize Practical Healthcare, where they can network with other patients with similar issues and values to get support.

A newsfeed function ensures these patients are getting up-to-date, trusted medical information aligned with their needs. There are also empowerment tools that allow patients to feel more confident in taking control of their health care journeys.

It’s an exciting moment for Nazar, who stresses he couldn’t have achieved the success he has at Practical Healthcare without USC Price. It’s why he strongly encourages other people interested in health care leadership to explore the EMHA online program. For those potential new students, he advises using their time at USC to truly define and pursue their goals.

“I think for anyone coming into the EMHA program, listen to yourself first and foremost. Realize that you can write your own story while at USC and take advantage of that. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that it’s something that aligns with you and that you’re following your success and your vision,” he said.

Learn more about the Executive Master of Health Care Administration online program today.

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