On a Mission: Matthew Cook’s (MBA ’03) Lifelong Dedication to Improving Healthcare

Matthew Cook headshot
Matthew Cook (MBA ’03) is president of Benioff Children's Hospitals and senior vice president of Children's Services. Learn how he dedicated his career to improving the quality of healthcare with the help of his education from the Executive MBA Program at NYU Stern and how he continues to stay connected to the Stern community.

The healthcare business has been a lifelong concern for Matthew Cook (MBA ’03), who was 12 when his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Over the course of her treatment, which had to be imported from Boston to their small town on Martha’s Vineyard, the mounting costs ultimately caused the family to lose its health insurance. 

A system where healthcare costs remain the primary driver of bankruptcies could clearly use fixing, Cook observed recently. From college onward he has worked in the industry to help make that happen. He currently serves as the president of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals, in San Francisco and Oakland, and senior vice president of Children’s Services.

True to his ambition, while an undergraduate at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Cook worked with a team in the university’s health services research group, which was spun out after he graduated as an early experiment in monetizing the school’s intellectual property. Working with that firm for several years, the team developed an algorithm to measure physicians’ quality of care that was later used in hospital settings.

From there, Cook joined a healthcare consultancy in New York. While there, he applied for the Executive MBA Program at NYU Stern. “Stern had a welcoming feel to it, a very personal, yet professional, touch. My goal was to marry the pragmatic side of being in the business world with the theoretical frameworks.”

After graduating, Cook joined The Chartis Group, a healthcare consultancy, remaining for more than 8 years. His next stop was in strategic planning at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, ultimately serving as executive vice president, strategic planning and business development. After that, he moved to Indianapolis to lead the Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, as president, later adding the chief strategy officer role for the parent organization.  

In his current position at UCSF Health, Cook oversees two children’s hospitals and various school and outpatient clinics and multi-specialty outpatient services for children. “I learned from my mother’s illness that children need advocates,” Cook said.

Cook has stayed connected to Stern since attaining his EMBA degree. He delivered the graduation address virtually to the EMBA Class of 2020, as the pandemic set in, stressing the need for leaders to be adaptable to the “endless stream of curveballs” that life brings. 

Two years later, with COVID-19 unexpectedly still present and a new pandemic hobby—growing a hydroponic garden—Cook addressed the current EMBA graduating class, describing a healthcare industry beset by burnout and staffing shortages and not at all amenable to hybrid working. 

Empathy and compassion are still necessary qualities for anyone looking to enter the healthcare industry, Cook said, whether in a for-profit or nonprofit capacity, but the ability to pivot quickly is more important than ever. “You need to be passionate about healthcare, but with the industry experiencing a lot of disruption, a greater level of adaptability is required now than 20 years ago.”