Admissions Blog

BBJ: Why an MBA is a good choice for an M.D.

By 14th February 2018 February 20th, 2018 No Comments

Source: Boston Business Journal

By Kent Bernhard
Feb 13, 2018.

More physicians are recognizing the need to add an MBA to their M.D. Universities are working to keep up with the demand; since 2000, the number of joint degree programs has doubled.

Early in her career, Dr. Sowmya Viswanathan, former chief ACO officer at Dartmouth-Hitchcock physicians network, discovered a gaping hole in her training.

After years of schooling and residency, she was well-prepared to be a physician. But as she moved into leadership roles, she found she needed to know more about the business of healthcare.

She said she didn’t know enough about how insurance worked, the management challenges any organization faces, or business strategy to be as effective as she wanted to be as she moved up the leadership ladder.

“None of us are really taught to think about healthcare as a business,” Viswanathan said. More and more, physicians are recognizing that, and it has led many to do what she did and add an MBA to their M.D. Since 2000, the number of joint MBA-M.D. degree programs has doubled.

While some argue that doctors should stick solely to medical training, the reality is that an MBA and M.D. is a powerful combination that can improve the leadership of medical organizations and lead to efficiencies that deliver better care.

Dr. Sowmya Viswanathan, former chief ACO officer at Dartmouth-Hitchcock physicians network: “None of us are really taught to think about healthcare as a business.”

The hospital industry is the only industry that doesn’t know the costs of running as a business, said Vivian Lee, dean of the University of Utah Medical School and CEO of its hospital system, at a Fortune Magazine conference. “All of these business principles — improving operations, looking at continuous process improvement — those have been mostly foreign to us until very recently.”

More physicians are recognizing that, and it has led many to do what Viswanathan did and add an MBA to their M.D. Universities are working to keep up with the demand; since 2000, the number of joint degree programs has doubled.

Viswanathan looked for an MBA program that could help her fill in the missing pieces in her education, while allowing her to continue a busy medical practice and family life. Finding that balance was a heavy lift, she said, because many top MBA programs would have required her to suspend her career and work full time on her business degree.

The Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst offered the perfect balance of a highly-competitive MBA program with online and in-person programs, and affordability, she said.

Dr. Bernard Lee, chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School: “With all the changes in health care, I felt that a strong understanding of the business of medicine was necessary.”

Dr. Bernard Lee came to a similar realization as Viswanathan. The Brooklyn, New York-native had known since childhood that he wanted to pursue a career in medicine. That’s what he has done, ultimately becoming chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School. He has a thriving practice specializing in breast reconstruction after mastectomy.

“I decided mid-career to pursue an MBA, after I had developed a multi-disciplinary program for breast reconstruction,” Lee said. “With all the changes in health care, I felt that a strong understanding of the business of medicine was necessary.”

Lee was a very busy person. In addition to his medical practice, he had two small children. “I could not take much time off from my clinical practice to pursue full-time coursework. These factors entered into my decision and I chose to do the online program at UMass Amherst,” Lee said.

Viswanathan said her decision to get an MBA prepared her for positions of increasing authority, including her current position and a previous role as chief medical officer and physician in chief at Southcoast Health in New Bedford. “I feel like I ventured into those opportunities because I developed a lot of confidence when I did my MBA,” she said.

Lee said his decision to earn an MBA was the right one. “As the chief of the division, business training has helped with strategic planning and operations management. Another example is quality improvement, which is an extremely important area in medicine. This field has been extensively studied in business and many of the concepts are now being utilized in medicine.”