Sharat Kusuma, MD, MBA’02, BA’97, grew up in Albany, Georgia, and comes from a family of doctors. His father is a gastroenterologist, and his brother is a Vanderbilt-trained plastic surgeon.
Kusuma chose orthopaedic joint replacement surgery as his clinical specialty.
“The way you can immediately affect the gait and mobility of patients is incredibly gratifying,” he said.
After residency training in at the University of Pennsylvania, Kusuma did two fellowships, one at Rush University Medical Center and the other in bone-conserving hip and knee replacement in Birmingham and Nottingham, United Kingdom.
In 2009 he set up practice at OhioHealth in Columbus, Ohio, where he performed about 400 surgeries a year, and participated in implant design, robotic surgery and outpatient joint replacement programs. Kusuma also lent his surgical expertise to hospitals in South Africa, India, Ecuador and Peru.
Patients in these countries received the same hip and knee replacements as U.S. patients. Yet, “we’d treat them with acetaminophen and ibuprofen alone after surgery for pain control and they’d do amazingly well,” he said. “It really taught me how much we’re overtreating pain in the post-operative setting in America using opioids.”
By 2014 Kusuma was ready for a new challenge. That’s when the training he’d received in Vanderbilt University’s joint MD/MBA program proved to have significant value.
In the spring of 2002, he was one of the first three students to graduate from the dual-degree program established by the School of Medicine and Owen Graduate School of Management. Kusuma entered the program after his third year of medical school and completed both degrees within five years.
“I received fantastic education on health care economics at Owen,” Kusuma said. In particular, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tennessee, who taught health care management, “really influenced my thinking early in my career.”
In 2014 Kusuma left full-time orthopaedic practice and become a health care expert at McKinsey & Company, a top global management consulting firm that advises health care organizations, including hospital systems, biotech companies, and state and national governments.
In summer 2017, Kusuma started a new job at Apple’s world headquarters in Cupertino, California, on the Health Projects team, developing clinical applications for consumer electronics.
“Our current (health care) system practices episodic and reactive care,” he explained. “But if remote wearables allowed patients to share heart rhythms and steps, which are tracked every day by smartwatches, they and their doctors could interact better remotely and they could make day-to-day changes to improve their own health. It’s the day-to-day things that patients do that really affect their long-term outcome,” Kusuma said.