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  Dr. Jeffery Vender
  © Nathan Mandell
Dr. Jeffery Vender '98

Obligation, passion drive anesthesiologist's service to Kellogg

by Ed Finkel

Soon after Dr. Jeffery Vender finished his two years in the Kellogg School's Executive MBA Program in 1998, the triple-degree Northwestern University alum (WCAS '71, Med '75) received an invitation from then-Dean Donald P. Jacobs that he considered an honor: to join the Kellogg Alumni Advisory Board (KAAB).

Vender, who chairs the Department of Anesthesiology and directs Medical Surgical ICU at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, felt more than a little enthusiasm at the prospect of giving back to Kellogg. "My classmates, professors and the Kellogg environment created a fantastic educational experience and fostered a desire to deepen my involvement with the school," he says.

Vender's service has led to roles such as speaking to prospective Kellogg students and helping launch a student mentoring program. He's met a "uniquely diverse and accomplished" group of alumni with one common bond: "an interest in supporting an institution that has grown in stature and earned its reputation through excellence."

He's found that Kellogg alumni like talking about their Kellogg experience much more than about the school's lofty global status. "It's about the total experience provided to the students associated with this great institution," he says. "I understand this personally because I share this passion. So when the dean's office calls, I have a sense of obligation to them for what I got out of Kellogg and what the school gives others."

Over time, Vender has watched as the KAAB has grown in numbers and, in a broader sense, contributed value. "We each look at that little, added difference we can make to perpetuate the success that preceded us," he says. "You want to make a difference in your own family, you want to make a difference in your community and your job, but philanthropically you also want to make a difference in the institutions that you value."

An attending physician at Evanston since 1979, Vender says the hospital faces the same business issues as any corporation, but with twists unique to the healthcare marketplace, such as competitive pricing, "volatile" expenses related to malpractice and the need to stress quality not just efficiency.

"Because we are dealing with human health and lives, we're faced with increased pressures on quality performance, which limits classic operational efficiencies of the kind often seen in corporations like Wal-Mart," he says. "With patient care, we don't have return policies for defective items."

The Kellogg School's Executive MBA Program provided a wealth of insights to handle these issues and more, Vender says. "The courses and the professors I had were outstanding in articulating problem-solving techniques that are essential when you deal with a dynamically changing environment and industry," he says. "Kellogg provided an appreciation for the various elements related to business, about which physicians have an inadequate exposure or understanding."

Beyond that, the school offered a foundation in team-building and ethical leadership. "Kellogg provides an unbelievable cultural environment to support these efforts," says Vender. "Success comes most often from our ability to interact with others and to optimize the output of a group. This was emphasized and exampled regularly through our class work. My classmates taught me more through cooperative efforts than one could imagine (and tolerated my lack of computer acumen). You learn very quickly that each person brings his own talents to the game, and what you must do is make sure you contribute and perform when you're called upon, with the skills you have to offer.

"Most of us are not track stars or professional golf players, where individual performance dictates everything, but we all benefit from team success."

Leaders do naturally emerge, Vender adds, but those who endure base their longevity on trust, integrity and communications abilities. "If you don't have the appropriate values, you can't lead," he says.

Continue to Janet Froetscher '83

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©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University