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June 28, 2019

Why so many MDs are pursuing their MBAs

Daily Briefing

    More medical students—and even some practicing physicians—are pursuing MBAs to beat burnout and expand their career options in a "shifting" health care industry, Shelly Hagan reports for Bloomberg.

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    The rise of the dual MD/MBA

    In the last 10 years, the number of students earning dual MD/MBAs has doubled, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. At the University of California, Irvine students enrolled in a dual MD/MBA program make up about 20% of the graduating class—although many other schools have only one or two such students, Hagan reports.


    According to Hagan, the increase reflects the emergence of new dual-degree programs, as well as a shift in how "[t]raditional MBA programs" are recruiting students.

    Zach Powell, an anesthesiology resident at Columbia University Irving Medical Center who received a MD/MBA from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 2017, said that, when he was a student, "there was constant talk of how the health care business model is going to be changed and different reimbursements for doctors."

    "That was a big part of the impetus" for earning both degrees, he said. 

    Other doctors, years after med school, are pursuing their MBAs

    It's not just dual enrollees who are pursuing MBAs to complement their MDs, Hagan reports. Some doctors with years of experience are returning to school for their MBAs to combat burnout and re-engage in their professional development. 

    As Hagan reports, industry changes have hampered morale among health care workers. Doctors in recent years have had to adjust to electronic health records and changing reimbursement structures, as well as a shift toward employment in health systems instead of private practice.

    Mitchell Blutt, a doctor and CEO of the health care investment firm Consonance Capital, said, "I don't mean to put it in a negative light, but for sure some docs have become less enamored with the straightforward career of medicine."

    Why two degrees may be worth it

    While most medical students who enter MBA programs ultimately decide to pursue residencies, Hagan writes, their business degrees allow them to pursue health-business ventures while they practice medicine.

    Powell, for instance, plans to "split his time working in both private practice and medical consulting," Hagan writes.

    "These people are working really hard," said Maria Chandler, a doctor who led the establishment of the MD/MBA program at the University of California at Irvine 20 years ago. "[A]nd I think they're going to change medicine someday. There are just not enough of them out there" (Hagan, Bloomberg, 6/21).


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