Current graduate student reaps benefit of MBA thinking

Dr. Jonathan C. Lee is in the midst of his Online MBA program at William & Mary’s Raymond A. Mason School of Business, but he’s already seeing benefits.

Lee, medical director at The Farley Center at Williamsburg Place, an addiction treatment center in Williamsburg, recently published an article in The American Journal on Addictions that used the concept of “a wicked problem”—introduced to him and his classmates in their Mason Online MBA studies—to describe the opioid drug abuse crisis ravaging the United States.

“Right now there are a lot of different approaches to trying to deal with this problem,” said Lee, who is board-certified in addiction medicine, psychiatry and internal medicine. “We learn about the concept of a wicked problem and use it throughout our program. To me, it made a lot of sense to write about it in our professional newsletter.”

As Lee wrote, “Wicked problems are endemic complex systems with components that interact in complicated, poorly understood and unpredictable ways. Interventions into the system produce downstream consequences that cannot be known in advance and cannot be undone. It is impossible to establish a single locus for a wicked problem because changing one element of the system changes the dynamics of the entire system.”

In other words, wicked problems are the most complex and seemingly unsolvable problems. They demand attention but severely challenge anyone—or any one proposed solution—trying to overcome them.

As one of the leading causes of death in the United States, especially among adults under 50, the opioid crisis certainly qualifies as wicked. It has become a major challenge in the work of Lee and other addition medicine and public health professionals. Lee decided to introduce the concept of a wicked problem to the opioid crisis to urge multifaceted and non-traditional problem-solving.

“It’s effectively trying to tackle the problem from many different angles,” Lee said.

It’s why the Mason Online MBA program introduces the concept, urging students to relate it to a problem in their professional lives while training to become “Renaissance managers.”

As potential approaches to the opioid crisis, Lee urged enhanced patient-engagement efforts, greater embracing of the benefits of the Narcotics Anonymous 12-step program, medically assisted treatment, enhanced community care and even technology and social media in the effort to combat the crisis. Mostly, he said, overcoming the crisis will require changing the public mindset.

Lee quoted former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, who said, ““We must stop treating addiction as a moral failing and start seeing it for what it is: a chronic disease that must be treated with urgency and compassion.”

Lee is on track to finish his Online MBA at William & Mary in 2019, but he’s already reaping the benefits of Mason Online MBA thinking.

“I was excited to have the opportunity to share a different perspective,” he said. “My hope is this might help mitigate the crisis.”