Collins College of Business alumna Kate (Flavin) McKinley (BSBA ’98, MBA ’00) is making great strides in the world of health care. Appointed chief executive officer of Elevar Therapeutics in July 2021, McKinley first joined the company in 2019 as chief commercial officer to lead its global commercial, medical affairs, business development, manufacturing, supply chain, alliance management and corporate communications functions.
Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, Elevar Therapeutics is a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing treatments for cancer patients who have limited therapeutic options. Such cutting-edge work calls for impeccable leadership. Fortunately for Elevar, being an effective leader is McKinley’s specialty.
McKinley brings her executive attributes to the highest level and recently gave the inside scoop on being CEO and what she admired most about her time at TU.
How long have you worked in the health care sector? What made you decide to pursue the business side of the field?
I have been in health care since I graduated with my MBA more than 20 years ago! I am frequently asked why I do what I do, and it comes down to two passions of mine: building high-performing teams and the opportunity to serve patients.
What aspects of being CEO of Elevar Therapeutics do you most enjoy? What projects are you most eager to work on?
I am very grateful to have the opportunity to work with and learn from my executive leadership team and the rest of my colleagues at Elevar. We are very busy building the company, hiring and retaining high performers and subject matter experts and ensuring a culture of accountability, bravery, collaboration and trust.
We have approximately six programs in clinical development for multiple solid tumor indications in oncology. The three furthest along are ovarian cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma – liver cancer and adenoid cystic carcinoma – and head and neck cancer. I am excited for upcoming meetings with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding these three programs as I believe we have the opportunity to seriously impact cancer patients’ lives. We are meeting with the FDA on clinical development guidance and new drug application timing soon. It’s exciting work!
Work environments everywhere have evolved to adapt to the pandemic. What changes in health care efficacy and efficiency have you found most notable pre- to post-pandemic?
The growth in telemedicine and on-demand health care due to COVID-19 has exploded and is not poised to stop. My hope is this will lead to patients being more proactive in seeking care and not waiting too long to advocate for their needs.
Additionally, many companies have found they can be even more productive in a remote work environment and attract and retain top-tier talent. This also does not seem poised to stop as companies are seeking ways to ensure their employees remain connected to their mission and each other while leveraging the productivity benefits of remote work.
You received both your bachelor’s and master’s degrees at TU. After you completed your undergraduate degree, what made you decide to continue your education at TU? Did you have any professors that were especially influential?
The University of Tulsa’s business college offers fantastic programs. I am so glad I chose to pursue both undergrad and graduate degrees there. My TU education and experiences helped shape my entire life.
I was driven to continue my business education and pursue my MBA at TU for several reasons, some of which were the personalized education I received during my undergraduate years and the opportunity to experience hands-on learning. The internships and leadership opportunities offered throughout campus life and the flexible scheduling that allowed me to work full time and obtain my MBA were all huge components in my decision to continue my education at TU.
I had so many fantastic professors that impacted my education. One experience that stands out to me is a research project I conducted with Dr. Ralph Jackson. Our project consisted of analyzing the future impact of the wellness movement on health care delivery. It truly sparked an interest in me to pay attention to trends and always be considering how they may influence the future.
“On team projects, Kate would be the person to lead the team. She had a great sense of humor and a ready smile. She worked hard but seemed to balance that with the ability to enjoy life and enjoy her friends. Kate was a person who seemed to me to be destined for great things. She’s a great example for our current students.” – Professor Emeritus Ralph Jackson
Being CEO must be a huge undertaking. When you can get away from those responsibilities, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Throughout my career, I have been a huge proponent for work-life balance and ensuring a healthy approach to work and life. I enjoy being active with my husband, Paul, and my very active son, Grayson. We take advantage of the outdoor lifestyle available where we live in Southern California – lots of walks, bike rides, games and picnics outside. Additionally, we love the mountains and visit in both the winter and summer months.
I also serve as board secretary to Mary’s Path – Changing Two Lives at a Time, one of only four short-term residential facilities in California for pregnant and parenting youths and their children. We provide aid, options and opportunities for parenting youths ages 12 to 21. The majority of residents arrive from foster care and have been trafficked by someone they know, so I am very passionate about improving the lives of these young women.
What advice do you have for recent MBA graduates with an interest in joining the health care sector?
Health care in the United States is close to 20% of the GDP. The need for and opportunities in the sector continue to grow for numerous reasons, including the aging of the baby boomers and rapid advances in health technology. This represents significant growth opportunities in health care delivery, business, technology and administration. In sum, we need more people and intelligent minds to helps us pursue these opportunities!
TU and the Collins College of Business have a deep network in health care, and I highly recommend MBA students optimize connections with current students, professors and alumni. Additionally, LinkedIn is a fantastic resource and joining groups such as the Healthcare Industry Professionals Group is a valuable ways to network, learn about the advancements and needs within health care and to participate in the discussion.
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