We spoke to Consultant Sam Kessel, who transitioned from being a physician in an intensive care unit (ICU) to a Consultant at L.E.K. Consulting. He tells us why he made the career change and the benefits the transition from a hospital to a boardroom has brought him.
The Draw to Medicine
I was drawn to medicine because of a fascination with medical technology that can have life-changing benefits for patients. I grew up having several minor surgeries that incentivized me and helped me realize I wanted to serve to help others facing similar challenges. Many physicians inspired me throughout my medical training with their compassion, service and skill. I started residency in July of 2020 when the first COVID patients were admitted to Dell Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas. During my intern year, I predominantly cared for these patients, and I was honored to be part of a talented and dedicated team.
The Leap From Medicine to L.E.K.
Due to the overwhelming intensity of the suffering I encountered in residency, I became burnt out and reassessed my career goals and aspirations. I realized that big-picture, strategic thinking was more energizing for me. During my emergency medicine rotation, when I wasn’t handling complex patients during my shifts, I spent time leading a due-diligence assessment for a cardiac imaging company with a local angel network. This experience helped me determine that the business side of medicine was dynamic and fascinating, and I was inspired to apply to L.E.K.
From the ICU to Leading an International Team
I became interested in consulting because it is effectively a residency in business. It offers an apprenticeship model to learn business skills within a limited amount of time. I applied to L.E.K. due to its leadership in biotech strategy and its international presence. My first case engaged my skills in both of these areas! I transitioned from working in the ICU, caring for severely ill patients, to leading an international team one month later. In my first case, my team helped our client assess which cancers to treat with a novel treatment and develop a revenue forecast for launch in the U.S., the EU and Japan. We worked closely with their chief medical officer, meeting once per week. The case prioritized two cancers for the company to focus on and culminated with a presentation to the CEO.
New Skills Outside of Residency
Since transitioning to consulting, I have enhanced my ability to lead teams and develop new approaches to strategic problems. I’ve been energized by entering this new field and want to demystify the path for other medical students, residents and attending physicians interested in making the leap, transitioning from medicine to consulting. Getting international exposure has been one of my favorite parts about the transition to management consulting. I’ve been able to work with colleagues from London, Tokyo and Mumbai, and I am hoping to do the six-month Swap in London or Singapore!
Advice to Those Considering the Transition to Consulting
I faced an identity crisis making a major career change, but you must be willing to push your comfort zone if you are going to grow! You will always have the heart of a physician even if you do not see patients daily anymore.