Traditional MBA programs typically take two years to complete and require more physical presence on campus. But in return, they offer ongoing face-to-face interaction with faculty and peers from a variety of business backgrounds that immerse you in the culture of business leadership, says Guy David, PhD, assistant professor of Healthcare Management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Coursework includes finance, marketing, management, entrepreneurship, strategic development, data mining, economics, legal issues, IT, and other areas, David says. The coursework, he adds, gives physicians who have been trained to focus on the individual patient a much broader understanding of the system in which they operate.
Successful career advancement ultimately requires managerial and leadership acumen: proof that you can run the business, manage upstream and downstream communication, and handle administrative and liaison duties within the hospital, Dunham says. “An MBA is a shorthand, a way to signal to people that that skill set exists, maybe rather than having to prove it in the trenches,” he adds.
As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, there will be a growing demand for physicians—particularly hospitalists—with greater procedural and conceptual understanding of healthcare systems and financials.
“Over time, it may become increasingly important to have received formal education in the business discipline,” Dunham says. “That’s something that time will tell.” TH
Chris Guadagnino is a freelance medical writer based in Philadelphia.
- Miller JA, Nelson JR, Whitcomb WF. Hospitalists: A Guide to Building and Sustaining a Successful Program. Health Administration Press: Chicago; 2008.