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career outcomes
April 20, 2021


Alum leads health care innovations at Cardinal Health

Why it matters:

Zain Mahmood leads Cardinal Health’s home health strategies, using skills he learned during his Carey MBA program to make innovative pivots throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Business of Health

Now more than ever, health care cannot be treated with traditional business fundamentals. Leaders need specialized industry knowledge to bring innovations to market and lead through change.

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Zain Mahmood’s (MBA ‘17) knew he wanted to work in health care, but he had to try a few different roles across the health care spectrum and then earn his MBA at Carey Business School before finding his perfect fit. Starting as an intern at Cardinal Health, Mahmood is now director of strategy and business development for the Ohio-based multinational health services company.

While an undergraduate studying biomedical engineering at Drexel University, Mahmood began exploring health care. He ultimately decided to pursue the business of health and worked on the provider side for five years.

“I wanted to stay in health care, but I wanted to broaden my perspective on the options that were out there,” he says. “That’s why Carey appealed to me. Carey has both the depth and breadth of expertise in the health care industry.”

Building a network at Johns Hopkins

Mahmood visited campus three times before committing to Carey.

“I spent a lot of time getting to know the community – the students, alumni, faculty – to make sure it was the right cultural fit for me as well as academic fit,” he says. “I loved the culture; everyone was willing to make time and make themselves accessible to other people. It was this combination of a good cultural fit and a great fit for the health care industry that drew me in.”

Making connections across the Carey and Johns Hopkins network continued to define Mahmood’s experience once he was a student.

“There is a huge willingness of professors and alumni to make time to share their perspectives, introduce you to others, and make their networks available to you,” he says. “And the breadth of the network in terms of what people are doing across the spectrum of the health care industry was awesome.”

He also credits Carey’s emphasis on ethics with helping him to choose a role at Cardinal Health— number four on Fortune’s list of most admired companies.

“I found and chose Cardinal because the ethics the company emphasized were very much in line with Carey’s philosophy of business, ethics, and leadership development. Carey helped me find a company that had values in line with mine,” Mahmood says.   

Solving complex problems in health care

Coming from a biomedical engineering background, Mahmood first took advantage of Carey’s core MBA courses and developed his understanding of how markets operate. He recalls a course on mergers and acquisitions that he still draws on frequently in his role at Cardinal. He credits his MBA courses with his ability to ask the right questions and find solutions.

"And you have to understand the problem, know what questions to ask, figure out how to get the answers, and ultimately make a recommendation in a persuasive fashion. I gained all of those skills at Carey and have since honed them in the work environment."
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“In my role, I lead strategy,” he explains. “It’s all about solving complex problems. You have to use logic, data, and facts. And you have to understand the problem, know what questions to ask, figure out how to get the answers, and ultimately make a recommendation in a persuasive fashion. I gained all of those skills at Careyand have since honed them in the work environment.”

Mahmood describes problem solving as a universal need, regardless of industry. But the health care space has seen a steady supply of curveballs over the past year. Even while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, Mahmood notes that it’s been a good year for health care because “health care companies really had to step up.”

And he predicts that the innovations will keep coming.

“More care is happening at the home,” he says. “That is going to continue. People are going to expect more things to come to them – doctor, pharmacy, tests. That’s a positive for my business because we focus on home health. And it has accelerated our strategies because the market is moving that way faster than anticipated.”

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