Management and Medicine

Alumni Close-Up: Daniel Yoon

By Matthew Biddle

Photo: Marie Gentile

Every week, Daniel Yoon, MD/MBA ’02, divides his time between the clinic, the operating room and the boardroom.

As an otolaryngologist, he specializes in ear, nose and throat care for patients of all ages. Yoon also serves as executive medical director for the specialty division of Fairview Health Services, a Minneapolis-based health system with 44 clinics, five hospitals and $3.5 billion in annual revenue.

“My experiences and education in business and medicine allow me to perceive problems, challenges and opportunities from multiple angles,” Yoon says. “With all of those lenses, I’m fortunate to be able to care not just for my patients but for the 800,000 patients of the Fairview Health System.”

Growing up as the son of two practicing physicians, Yoon says medicine came naturally for him and his two sisters, who also work in health care.

Management, however, was a different story. With no prior exposure to business or economics, Yoon jumped at the chance to enroll in the inaugural cohort of the MD/MBA program, a five-year, dual-degree program between the School of Management and Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“If you don’t have some understanding of the business aspects of medicine — the laws and regulations, the infrastructure that supports health care — you’ve forgone half of what it takes to take care of the sick,” Yoon says. “Not understanding half of the equation made no sense, so this opportunity seemed like a gift from Heaven.”

Through the program, Yoon learned accounting and financial concepts and developed critical teamwork skills.

“One factor that made me stand out and put me on the fast track to senior management is my team-oriented approach to practice,” says Yoon. “Medicine can be highly individualistic — the mindset is, ‘It’s my surgery, it’s my patient.’ But once you engender a sense of teamwork, that we’re all part of one chain doing the best work for our patients, everything is better.”

Today, Yoon sees patients, from newborns to the elderly, for such conditions as hearing loss, chronic sinus infections, voice changes and trauma. His favorite part of his job is surgery.

“The first time I entered the operating room was like falling in love,” he says. “In an OR, when you’re gowned up, the air is so clean and cold, the light is so bright and the surgical anatomy in front of you is beautiful. I knew immediately I was meant to be a surgeon.”

Administratively, Yoon oversees more than 180 specialists across the Fairview system. He meets with hospital leaders and insurance companies, reviews budgets and financial forecasts, and works with clinicians to improve their practices.

“In today’s health care system, doctors are expected to see a lot more patients in the same amount of time, with more paperwork and the stress of new regulations,” says Yoon. “My responsibility is to support all of our specialists and have empathy to address their problems before they become disastrous.”

Outside of work, music has been Yoon’s creative outlet for as long as he can remember. A songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, he’s recorded 10 albums of original music and plays with his “psychedelic folk rock” band, the DCT.