MBA Student Sets Out to Change Healthcare System and Improve Outcomes for Kids with Disability

Gaj Pagoda QUT MBA
Paediatric Disability Specialist and QUT MBA student Dr Gaj Panagoda (supplied)

Dr Gaj Panagoda is combining his dedication to the well-being of children with the business skills gained from a QUT MBA to build a better health service in Queensland.

As a paediatric rehabilitation physician and general paediatrician, Gaj worked tirelessly to deliver the best care for his patients at Queensland Health and Queensland Children’s Hospital for 10 years.

Over that time, Gaj began to believe that he wanted to have childhood disability, injury and chronic disease better managed through the community rather than a hospital.

In order to develop the new model of care and create the most impact, Gaj is currently studying a QUT MBA to acquire the crucial leadership and business management skills he needs.

“I wanted childhood disability to be better managed in the community and I knew I had to jump out of the public health sector and set up this model of care myself,” he said.

“It’s an innovative approach that meets the needs of young patients and their families while utilising their local community for management. Local organisations like schools, sports clubs and allied health therapists in their area are engaged to support the management of the disability to decrease reliance on hospital-based services.”

To deliver the new model of care, Gaj launched ‘Superkid Rehab’, a rehabilitation service aiming to maximise the potential of children and young adults with disabilities, injuries and chronic diseases.

In addition to Superkid Rehab, he is now also the Lead Paediatrician at the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health, where the team provides paediatric and disability medical services across 20 Aboriginal health clinics.

Gaj said the QUT MBA was giving him vital business skills to lead the two ventures and manage a team of paediatricians.

“Management and leadership training are so important in the health industry from the point of view of being able to make better decisions and build better health services,” he said.

“Your decisions affect people’s lives so it’s critical that they are the best they can be.

“The QUT MBA has changed my way of thinking and how I approach the challenges that come up.”

The QUT MBA, offered through the triple-accredited (AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA) QUT Business School, is made up of four components that build on each other to provide students with an integrated and multi-disciplinary curriculum that will allow them to take on the challenges and opportunities of a complex business environment.

Each MBA unit of 6 credit points is delivered in a six-week teaching period with one week of assessment. These units have a strong focus on giving students the opportunity to apply concepts and management techniques learned in class directly to their workplace.

Gaj said he had already implemented projects developed in the QUT MBA in his Superkid model of care.

“You look at some of the work you complete in the MBA and know you just have to action it straightaway,” he said.

“The QUT MBA is intensely practical. Learning skills and approaches along the way that I can integrate with my health services has been terrific.

“One of the courses was on Design Thinking and it has provided a framework for a more empathic approach to service improvement and research methods.

“The QUT MBA has put me right outside my bubble and into a very rich learning experience.”

Gaj is now in the process of growing the interagency reach of the Superkid model.

“The Superkid model of care appreciates that a hospital can’t do absolutely everything. Health systems must leverage support in the community to achieve better co-management of kids with a disability and build capacity.

“One of the things I am most proud of is our waiting time of only two months. On the other hand, paediatricians in Brisbane are closing their books to new patients because they are overwhelmed and waiting times have blown out.

“We are bucking the trend because we know the communities well and can safely discharge patients back to their local teams.

“The QUT MBA has been an integral part of the success of Superkid and shaping its future.”

Visit QUT Business School or QUT MBA for more information about the program and the next intake in September 2022.

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Ben Ready founded MBA News in 2014 and is the Managing Editor. He is a former business and finance journalist with Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Dow Jones Newswires in London. Ben completed his MBA in 2012 and was awarded the QUT GMAA Entrepreneurship Prize. He is also the founder and Managing Director of RGC Media & Mktng (rgcmm.com.au).