Doctors at McKinsey mobilize in fight against coronavirus

Hundreds of former doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals now work at McKinsey, and as the coronavirus crisis has strained healthcare systems, a number of our colleagues have returned to the front lines to help.

One of them is Ian Lyons. An expert in our Healthcare Systems and Services Practice who served seven years as an NHS England ICU doctor before joining our firm, Ian has taken a leave of absence from McKinsey to help those who need his skills the most right now.

On one of his last days at the firm, Ian spoke with us about what he expected to be doing, how he was preparing, and more.

Tell us a little about your background.

I took a fairly circuitous route in medicine. I was in medical school for about nine years and eventually specialized in anaesthesiology. I then practiced in the NHS for about seven years in the Midlands, mainly as a doctor in intensive care medicine.

Why did you join McKinsey?

My work was hugely rewarding at the patient level. Over time, I began to see the underlying issues that drove people to hospital in the first place. These included things like poor access to care, poor care coordination, and other inadequacies at the system level.

Ian Lyons
Ian Lyons has returned to the NHS.
Ian Lyons

It wasn’t an easy decision to leave medicine, but after several conversations and a lot of soul searching I left to try and have a different kind of impact through McKinsey.

I’ve been at the firm for about two years now, trying from a different angle to address some of the same health-system challenges I encountered as a doctor.

And then COVID-19 hit.

Exactly—and everything changed. Early on in the crisis, the NHS asked former doctors who left the service fewer than three years ago to return and help alleviate the national doctor shortage.

I talked it over with my fiancée, who is a pediatric surgeon, and we agreed that I would return to the front line. The McKinsey office in London was supportive of me taking a leave of absence to do so.

What will you be doing for the NHS?

I’ll be going back to work in the ICU of my old NHS England hospital in the East Midlands. There, I’ll be dealing with incredibly sick patients to ensure they get the care they need.

Are you nervous?

I’m worried about getting sick as anyone would be. But I find that I’m worried a lot more about the patients who are suffering and dying, and about my fellow healthcare workers, all of whom are trying to deliver the best care under unprecedented circumstances.

How are you preparing?

For me there are personal, clinical, and professional aspects to it. On the personal side, I’m doing all the things you’d expect someone to do when they get ready to live away from home and the person they love for several weeks—or a few months.

As a doctor, I’ve been studying as much as possible and taking NHS training courses in the evening to brush up on my skills. And as a firm member, I’ve been making sure that I’m leaving all my work in a good place with my teams and for our clients.

Finally, how did your McKinsey team react?

I was a little apprehensive when I approached them about this, but their response was inspiring. There was no debate—and only one question: what do we need to do in order to make this happen?

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