Kelley Joins Health Care MBA Market

Most doctors are trained as caregivers—not executives or even middle managers. But escalating overhead costs, expensive malpractice insurance and health industry reforms have forced many physicians to turn their attention to business matters. Others have already made the leap, opening supply lines, offering consulting services or acting as intermediaries between small practices and big networks.

Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business is the latest institution to offer a solution for doctors looking to develop business chops.  In September 2013 the school will welcome its first candidates for a Kelley Business of Medicine MBA, a hybrid online and in-residence degree targeting experienced doctors.

Kelley isn’t the first business school to tailor the MBA experience to medical professionals. Indeed, health care is fast becoming a hot area of growth for business education, with prestige players such as Yale, Duke, Dartmouth and Brown already in the game (see Enter The Health Care MBA). The University of Tennessee and Auburn University also offer Physician Executive MBAs, which also target experienced doctors looking to burnish their business credentials.


What differentiates Kelley’s two-year program is that it aims to accommodate practicing physicians by offering half of the curriculum online —the remaining portion will be covered during in-residence weekends. Students living outside of the program’s headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana, will be expected to fly in one weekend a month  to attend classes.

Vicki Smith-Daniels, Kelley’s chairperson of emerging graduate programs, oversees the new degree and says the school decided to introduce it after witnessing a series of shifts.  “Significant change is occurring in the healthcare industry around accountable care, offering better care at lower costs, physician unemployment and consolidation,” she says. “This really caused us to step back and reflect and ask how we best we could address the growing business needs in the healthcare industry.”

The program’s first class of 25 to 35 MBA candidates can expect to move through eight six-week quarters as a cohort, with a few elective options, Smith-Daniels says.  The system was designed to accommodate 40 or fewer students, she adds. The degree is designed for experienced physicians—an M.D. or D.O. is required, and successful applicants are generally at least three years out of their fellowships.


When describing potential students, Smith-Daniels says the school’s research team identified a need for both middle management and C-suite talent in health systems. The team also discovered a demand for physicians willing to guide group and private practices through business relationships with larger health networks. “Our ideal candidate is someone who is currently or aspires to be a service line leader and those members leading health organizations today who want to go further in the C-suite,” she says.

Students can expect to pay up to $58,395 in tuition, which does not include hotel or airfare for weekend sessions.  Some partial tuition fellowships will be awarded based on academic performance and professional performance, personal and career achievements and application strength.

The school hosted discussions with 76 industry leaders ranging from chief medical officers to life science company CEOs to healthcare attorneys to pinpoint key skills physicians might need to navigate health  systems.  The results of these discussions boiled down to a curriculum designed around six themes: collaboration, innovation, analytics, transformation, optimization and sustainability.


Kelley tweaked its core business classes to emphasize skills important in the healthcare industry, such as examining the real cost of patient care in its Strategic Cost Management course.  The school also created brand new classes that leverage faculty expertise and address emerging healthcare issues, such as  Understanding Consumer Health Behavior and  Medical Technology Evaluation, Smith-Daniels says.

The school has offered a dual M.D.-MBA degree for nearly a decade, but the new program will be completely separate, she says. Where M.D.-MBA degrees emphasize a core business curriculum with few, if any, classes to bridge the two areas of study, the Business of Medicine MBA will focus on integrating the two worlds in the classroom.

Smith-Daniels says Kelley has a leg up on the competition as the first top-ranked business school to launch an online MBA program, which it started in 1999.  She also points to the curriculum as a key differentiator.  “Everyone is going to tell you their MBA program is unique. But if you look at our course list, you can put those line by line up against any physician MBA program, any healthcare MBA program out there, and I will tell you we are very unique,” she says.



Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.