A recent The Atlantic article talks about the rise of the combined MD/MBA degree and increased demand for doctors with both degrees. Previously, MBAs held leadership positions in hospital administration, and MDs filled the middle management positions – now, with the dual degree, the lead position can be filled by someone with business and clinical acumen. According to the Atlantic article, those hospitals staffed by physician CEOs outperformed those that did not employ medical leadership. With the Affordable Care Act and the implementation of other healthcare initiatives, doctors are seeing a greater need to understand the business of healthcare. Healthcare consultants and managers of healthcare startups are also popular positions for MD/MBA degree holders.
In the last decade, it’s become increasingly common that doctors pursue additional degrees (PhD, MPH, MA, etc.), in part because of the growing complaint that med school curriculums haven’t changed much since the early 20th century. More and more students feel they need to supplement their med school education with additional schooling. In fact, 20 years ago there were only six joint MD/MBA programs, compared to 65 programs today. At UC Irvine, 20% of med students are also pursuing an MBA.
Another study indicates that an understanding of business may actually help physicians in the exam room as well – a strong sense of leadership and finely tuned critical thinking can help a doctor solve medical problems, particularly in primary care, a field that may be on the rise among MD/MBAs. According to the Atlantic piece, “The field allows doctors to be creative while serving a high-need medical population, and to tackle preventive care rather than band-aid solutions.”
These five-year programs enable students to pursue both degrees, paying a lot less for their MBA than they would if it were not part of a combined program. These programs also sort out timing issues that a person earning two separate degrees would inevitably encounter if not in a dual program. The breakdown usually goes as follows – three years of med school followed by one year of business school followed by a fifth year that combines the two disciplines (clinical rotations with business training).
The Atlantic article is fairly long and goes into much more depth. I recommend reading it if you are seriously considering an MD/MBA.