The Merits of an MD/MBA Dual Degree
After graduating from medical school and entering residency, a person will have an amazing foundation of knowledge. It’s not rare, however, to hear an MD say, “I have no idea how to fill this out,” regarding forms needed to bill for their services. There is a breadth of scientific and patient-care related material to cover during medical school, so learning the basic business skills surrounding medical care is often sacrificed.
While a doctor’s focus should clearly be on his or her patients, hospitals and clinics do require substantial overhead costs to operate. Similarly, pharmaceutical companies often approach physicians with complicated treatment options that require a complicated cost-benefit analysis, and insurance companies have a puzzling myriad of steps and guidelines that must be followed for a physician to be reimbursed for services rendered. For these reasons, along with many others, the MD/MBA dual-degree has become an attractive option for many students. Taking the time during medical school to develop a strong fund of knowledge in business matters will pay big dividends in the future.
These benefits are significant for medical students since they can complete their MBA in a shorter time period than traditional business students. Medical school is a 4-year commitment, while business school normally lasts 2 years; however, many medical schools have created 5-year combined degree programs where students complete the first 3 years of medical school, attend the university’s corresponding business school for a year, and then return to and complete medical school. This saves the medical student a year of time, which is especially helpful considering how long the process of moving from pre-med to practicing physician takes.
The benefits of such a combined degree are plentiful. Students get a break from all their science coursework and immerse themselves in strategy, finance, entrepreneurship, and communications classes. Graduates with an MD/MBA can strengthen their bedside manner, strategic thinking skills, and financial planning abilities (especially helpful considering a physician’s probable high salary and large student loan debt). In addition, it’s important to remember that a physician is placed in a largely managerial role in charge of coordinating patient care across the nursing, administrative, and billing departments and that the managerial and leadership skills acquired as an MBA can easily be applied in a hospital or clinical setting. Thus, medical residency programs tend to look highly on applicants with the dual MD/MBA degree.
Versatility is another benefit of the MD/MBA route. Careers in consulting, finance, and the pharmaceutical industry are a possibility as is a leadership position in hospital administration. Physicians are not known for switching careers; however, with the current questions surrounding healthcare reforms and the future of medicine, graduates with an MBA are more suited to non-clinical careers and are better adapted to move into these areas later in life should they have changing needs regarding work-life balance.
Choosing a medical school is a difficult process, but one that offers a strong MD/MBA program would offer quite the added bonus. When researching programs, it’s important to know specific requirements. The good news is that most schools will accept students into their medical program first and then let them take the GMAT (if necessary) while they are in medical school before they start the business school part of their degree. In addition, there are significant scholarships available from many business schools for medical students, so this might mean that the only sacrifice you will have to make is a year of your life (and not another year of student-loan debt) in return for an opportunity to be ahead of the curve when it comes time to bill for your services!