Practicing doctors may get more out of MBA programs

It's not unusual for us health writers to think, "If I had a dime for every time I heard a practice management expert say that physicians have inadequate business skills to run a practice..." And apparently, a growing number of medical schools have caught on to--and acted on--the same notion.

According to Stephen Whitney, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics-emergency medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, and a physician at Texas Children's Hospital, the MD/MBA program instituted at Baylor in 1997 was the third of its kind in the country. Currently, he tells Physician's Money Digest, more than 50 medical schools have dual-degree programs.

But despite some long-held skepticism as to whether physicians truly benefit from earning master's degrees in business, advocates say the extra education is essential to survival in today's rocky healthcare climate. "The complexity of reform laws, the complexity of the business situation for medicine over the last several years has made it more and more important that physicians have some sort of idea what they're doing from the business side of things," Whitney said.

"I don't think any physician should be able to leave medical school unless they have a business school degree," said Faran Bokhari, MD, a board certified surgeon, Rush University professor, and trauma and burn specialist at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. "It's tremendously helpful."

For practicing physicians who want to enhance their business skills, however, going back to school is no easy undertaking. "It's doable," according to Whitney, "but if you do it well and put as much time into it as you really need to in order to get what you need out of it, it takes almost all of your time."

Despite the challenges of juggling the roles of doctor and student, there may be advantages to taking in business classes after gaining real-world experience in medicine. "You understand what they're talking about, and how it fits into the practicality of the workflow," Bokhari said. "Otherwise they're just theoretical concepts. You need the concepts, but I think practical experience is very important. I think you're primed for learning at that point. It's like a second life."

To learn more:
- read the article in Physician's Money Digest

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