Managing Your Practice

Business Blueprint

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.


  1. Miller JA, Nelson JR, Whitcomb WF. Hospitalists: A Guide to Building and Sustaining a Successful Program. Health Administration Press: Chicago; 2008.

Veteran Advice For Aspiring HM leaders

Dr. Howell

Think carefully about whether you’re appropriately balancing the interests of your employer (i.e. the hospital) and the physicians in your group. Some hospitalist group leaders tilt toward being “union pit bosses” and beat up management, lobbying aggressively for their groups’ interests, Dr. Nelson explains. Other hospitalist leaders tilt too far the opposite way and try to beat the physicians into submitting to whatever the hospital might want. You’re going to be talking to both parties about all kinds of issues on a long-term basis, and you need to forsake adversarial negotiating tactics to cultivate­ long-term relationships.

Don’t make promises that are hard to keep. A leader often faces a tricky issue and might be tempted to take the easy way out by granting special deals, caving in, or meeting demands (e.g. promising a desirable scheduling arrangement as a recruiting inducement). That’s a rookie mistake, Dr. Nelson says, and others in the practice might resent it.

Advocating for your physicians doesn’t always mean more pay, bigger offices, or better benefits. “Good leadership goes beyond that,” Dr. Howell says, “by having good situational awareness to notice what’s important to other parties and building their trust.” By turning one of his offices into a part-time lactation room for mothers with newborns (half of his hospitalists were women of childbearing age, and five of them gave birth in the same year), Dr. Howell earned their trust and respect for the price of a door lock and a small refrigerator.

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