What do MD and MBA programs have in common? Increasingly, it seems, their students! At first this came as a surprise to me, especially when I look back at my own college experience and remember how the two departments, and even the students, seemed so distinct from one another. But perhaps you, like me, have come across some of the numerous articles that have appeared recently about doctors pursuing an MBA degree, and the growing popularity of MD/MBA joint delivery programs. Is there truth behind the trends they’re reporting?
According to AACSB International data, in 2004-2005 38 member business schools reported a healthcare emphasis in their MBA program, ranging from healthcare management, to pharmacy, to nursing. That number grew to 54 in the 2009-2010 academic year. The Association of MD/MBA Programs maintains a number of schools offering joint MD/MBA programs. In that list, only two were non-U.S. institutions (Canada). When I conducted a Google search of my own for MD/MBA programs outside of the U.S., I found none. Time will tell if other parts of the world will follow, or remain immune to the MD/MBA bug.
Possible reasons for new programs that link the two fields are more doctors viewing an MBA as an essential ingredient to improving their business acumen or the efficiency and productivity of their clinics and offices. After all, who hasn’t had at least one medical experience that consisted of long waits, appointment miscommunications, poor service and management, etc? It’s possible that incorporating more business skills into the medical field could help to relieve a whole different kind of headache.
Some of Jerome Groopman’s theories expressed in his book, “How Doctors Think,” may also hold true as another reason for this new trend. In a HBR review by Larry Prusak, both doctors and managers are questioned on their people skills; for doctors it’s the relationship with the patient and for managers it’s the relationship with the employee. Both professions face the risk of depending too much on procedure instead of “really thinking” and “participating.” According to Groopman and others, managers and doctors have much more in common, in terms of making a successful career, than what many would think.
- How Doctors Think, Jerome Groopman