The Power in an MD/MBA
The MBA and MD are both degrees that offer vastly different career paths. Yet, experts say, when combined, the MBA/MD can improve leadership in medical organizations and, ultimately, lead to better care.
Kent Bernhard is a contributor for Boston Business Journal, a publication covering business news.
“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,” Bernhard writes.
According to The Atlantic, the number of joint MD/MBA programs in the US has grown from six to 65 in 20 years.
Why Healthcare Needs More Business Leaders
“Many of the greatest challenges in healthcare today are business problems,” Evan Rachlin, an MD/MBA graduate who works in healthcare at Bain Capital Ventures, tells The Atlantic.
Legislation, such as the Affordable Care Act, have motivated many medical students and residents to better understand the business of healthcare and how aspects, such as budgeting and accounting, affect healthcare.
Alexi Nazem is a third-year MD/MBA resident in internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. In an interview with The Atlantic, Nazem argues that topics learned in business school should also be taught in medical school.
“Eighty percent of what we learn [in business school] should be taught in medical school,” Nazem tells The Atlantic. “There are a lot of things you learn in medical school that are not as relevant to the practice of medicine as management and leadership are.”
An MD/MBA Offers New Perspective
One of the arguments in support for the joint MD/MBA is that it offers students a unique perspective.
Akhilesh Pathipati is a fourth-year MD/MBA student at Stanford. In a post for Stanford’s Scope blog, Pathipati explains the difference between business school and medical school and how a combination of both offers a unique perspective.
“Business school teaches students how to approach decisions in the absence of evidence,” Pathipati writes. “Class discussions frequently revolve around ambiguous choices and the frameworks used to analyze them.”
In contrast, medical school is heavily evidence-based.
“Classes impart proven information and we’re evaluated on how well we know established guidelines,” Pathipati writes. “Although this is a vital principle, sometimes high-quality data doesn’t exist; for instance, in determining how to approach preventive care, chronic disease, or end-of-life decisions. Such situations occasionally leave doctors paralyzed by indecision.”
By having a business education, Pathipati argues that medical professionals can embrace such challenges.
Bridging a Gap
Policymakers, administrators, and physicians often don’t see eye to eye. Pathipati says this often leaves doctors feeling “unheard” and distrustful of non-clinical leadership.
For Pathipati, he says an MD/MBA degree can allow him to bridge the gap between business leaders and clinical professionals.
“Getting a dual degree is not only a way to learn new information, but to learn how to convey that information to different stakeholders,” Pathipati writes. “In doing so, I hope to facilitate communication that can lead to better solutions.”