Dr. John Wong, WG’20, came to Wharton to gain business knowledge, explore new opportunities, and learn about entrepreneurship.

Dr. John Wong, WG’20, has already earned a lot of degrees: a medical doctorate, neurosurgical residency training, and a Master’s degree in science. As an expert in brain aneurysms and stroke, he was one of the first neurosurgeons with dual specialist training in both open surgery and minimally invasive endovascular therapy of the brain and spine. To date, he has worn several hats – teaching, conducting research, and practicing medicine — as an associate professor and head of neurosurgery at the University of Calgary in Canada.

Through the research aspect of his job, John and a neurosurgical partner are working to develop a new type of stent to help treat brain aneurysms. As they refine their medical device in the biomedical engineering laboratory, John sees strong potential for commercialization, which is a significant part of what brought him to Wharton.

“I’ve treated thousands of patients and have helped lead neurosurgery locally in my department and on a national level, but I’m thinking about what I’d like to do in the next phase of my career. I came to Wharton to expand my knowledge of organizations and business culture and learn about entrepreneurship. I believe it’s important to reinvent yourself every five or ten years to seek new horizons,” he explained.

John knew he needed an EMBA program where he could focus 100% on learning. “When taking local courses, I would get phoned frequently because of my different responsibilities so it was hard to engage. To really internalize the material, I needed to physically disconnect on a short-term basis and that meant doing a program away from home,” said the 50-year-old father of three teenagers.

“As I looked at EMBA programs, the only one that stuck out for me was Wharton because of its reputation for academic rigor. I wanted to be immersed in a program with the same standards of excellence one would expect in a full-time MBA program,” he said. “The milieu of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit in the San Francisco Bay area was also very important to me. And with less than a three-hour direct flight from Calgary, it’s a relatively painless commute, all things considered.”

John with his learning team (from left to right): Jess Loeb, Katie Madding, Vasu Guddati, Kevin Jackey, and Nitin Tyagi

John, a first-year student, points to five aspects of the program that are already adding value to his career:

Learning Teams

“As a university professor myself, I recognize educational quality when I see it and the Wharton program is impressively well organized from the logistics to our small learning teams. I’m in a group of six people who come from diverse backgrounds, but we enjoy working together and supporting one other. We even have a nickname that speaks to our playful attitudes and ambitions: the Golden Gate Unicorns! It reminds me of medical school where you face challenges together and bond as a necessity, so you get to know each other very well and those relationships can last a lifetime.”


“The ideas and concepts in the business world are different from medicine, but still complementary. Students from a healthcare background gain a lot out of this experience. We’re studying organizational culture, management, and leadership, and these business lessons apply equally well to the operating room, medical clinic, and hospital environment.”


“Many students at Wharton are keen about entrepreneurship and everything we learn can be applied to this space. The fundamentals of business are covered in the core first-year classes, and we also have opportunities to participate in student-led clubs where we practice pitches, meet professors offline to vet ideas, and hear from experienced guest speakers who are true business leaders and icons.”


“We discover a lot from interacting with one another, both in and out of the classroom. Wharton EMBA students are on a career track heading to the top of their game and each person is an expert in his or her own right. They are very generous with their ideas and insights. It’s an incredibly supportive environment, which is what makes this such a worthwhile experience.”


John jokes that some of the class material can be “harder than brain surgery.” However, he notes that “anything worthwhile is usually difficult, and the program only expects as much from me as I expect from myself. In the process, Wharton opens up whole new vistas where you can see so many different destinations and know that it’s possible to reach them.”

— Meghan Laska

Posted: March 28, 2019

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