Preparing for What Will Be

Mahesh Krishnan, MD ’94

Future-Proof: To design or change something so that it will continue to be useful or successful in the future if the situation changes.

When you ask Jefferson alum and 1994 Medical College Class Agent Mahesh Krishnan, MD, MPH, MBA, FASN, what he would have done if he hadn’t been a doctor, he replies, “I would be an architect. I like building and envisioning things; and hope that the things that I build make the world a better place.”

Krishnan earned his medical degree as part of the long-running cooperative BS/MD program between Pennsylvania State University and Jefferson’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College. He found the prospect of studying at Jefferson very exciting and shares that he was drawn to SKMC because, “what was true at its founding is still fundamental today, including a curriculum featuring design-thinking and system-oriented approaches.”

“I was impressed with Jefferson’s forward thinking and their commitment to staying on the cutting edge,” he remarks. “I had a tremendous time at Jefferson.” He appreciated the variety of clinical experiences and class camaraderie, noting that classes were both cohesive and collaborative, even given the large size of the school. “It was a great opportunity to do healthcare policy research,” he shares. “The experience was formative for my career.”

Krishnan chose to specialize in nephrology, because in his words, it offers a range of possible treatment solutions, from transplant, to dialysis, to medical therapy.

“I am a people person. I liked the longitudinal nature of the specialty and the continuity [that allowed me] to be with patients for their entire journey,” he explains.

Following nearly five years practicing nephrology, Krishnan left his clinical practice and served as medical director for Amgen, serving as the medical director for Epogen®, the head of global health economics and outcomes research for nephrology and the medical policy lead for all Amgen US products. 

For the past 13 years, he has been at DaVita, a healthcare services company. Currently, he serves as group vice president, Research and Development at DaVita Kidney Care, overseeing pharmaceutical strategy and implementation as well as government affairs. Krishnan is responsible for medical policy for all DaVita businesses in Washington, D.C., and for strategic partnerships in technology and research and development.

He also served as the company’s first international chief medical officer, setting up 253 clinics in 11 countries in five years. He led the policy and implementation of the ESRD bundle, one of Medicare’s first value-based purchasing programs, and is an expert on quality measurement and data systems in dialysis.

Additionally, Krishnan has a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University and an MBA in medical services management from the Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business. He has written two books, has more than 70 peer-reviewed publications, and has served on editorial boards.

Through it all, Krishnan’s involvement and commitment to both Jefferson and the future of healthcare has continued to thrive. After organizing and attending reunions and working to fund scholarships, Krishnan embraced the opportunity to give back through his current role as the 1994 Class Agent. In the role, he serves as class leader, advocate, cheerleader, benefactor, fundraiser, and correspondent. Jefferson boasts one of the largest alumni networks in the country, and Krishnan is not only interested in helping to continue, and bolster, the connection with Jefferson and its alumni; he wants to sharpen the focus on how alumni interact with students as well.  

“What gets me out of bed is improving healthcare at scale,” he says. “In my opinion, healthcare could be significantly better. My personal mission statement is to improve the efficacy, efficiency, and safety of healthcare scale for patients and the providers who take care of them.”

He continues, “Most doctors can take care of individual patients, but no one has taught them to take care of populations. We need clinicians with the voice and vision to build organizations. It is critical to elevate clinicians to the level to run organizations, which will change the world and make healthcare a better place. In order to improve things at scale, one needs to be in the driver and not passenger seat. Clinicians need to design systems to improve care—because who would know better?”

While he does not have a bucket list, Krishnan shares, “I live life in five-year segments. Every five years I purposely switch careers and have a different goal. My current goal is to build transformational organizations and products in nephrology and mentor clinicians to balance medical expertise with the ability to build organizations.”

He cites television show Ted Lasso, and its mention of a quote by poet Walt Whitman—Be curious, not judgmental. “Stay curious, and think about the world as a bunch of systems, whether medical, like the circulatory system, or organizational,” he advises. “You have to understand how systems work if you want to make the world a better place.”

Krishnan emphasizes the power of the Jefferson alumni connection and the importance of forging a strong, lasting network, from current and future students to alumni past and present. “Jefferson continues to provide cutting-edge teaching and training to future-proof clinicians,” he says. “This is preparing for what will be, not what has been. You have to build something to make sure it survives.”

Krishnan’s commitment to the principles of service and quality of healthcare delivery is also shared by his family. His wife, Rachna, is the CEO of a nonprofit mental health counseling center for women. In addition, he is incredibly proud and gratified that both of his children have followed in his footsteps and enrolled in Jefferson’s accelerated program. His son, Akshay, is in his third year, and his daughter, Anjali, just started her first year. He shares, “I told my kids to do whatever they wanted, and they decided on their own. It’s very exciting to see them start their journey in medicine.”