Disagreements on Dual Degrees

In this issue of Cardiovascular Business, we examine the growing trend of MD/MBAs. Traditionally, physicians who chose this path first earned their MD, practiced for several years and then pursued an MBA. While a handful of MD/MBA dual-degree programs existed two decades ago, the numbers have reached an estimated 65 today.

This intermingling of educations is not without its critics. Some medical professionals question the motivations of physicians who want to develop business skills as well as clinical expertise. But as many advocates point out, physician leaders who understand the fiscal underpinnings of healthcare reform can play a key role in protecting clinical integrity during this time of change. They can provide clinical perspective in business decisions that affect physicians and their patients.

Another concern often raised about physicians seeking dual degrees is that the effort expended into training a student to be a physician is wasted if, after finishing an MBA, the student chooses a business career. It seems to me that if the tug of business proved stronger than the desire to take care of patients, then perhaps that student was not ideally suited to become a practitioner anyhow.

I would not see that training as a waste, but rather, an attribute. Innovators have a standard joke about technologies that have been developed in a void: They are a solution in search of a problem. In this instance, inventors develop a product with little or no understanding of how it might be used in a real-world setting—or even if it is there is a demand. Having highly trained professionals who can identify innovations that truly fit a medical need would be an asset. 

Do you see MD/MBAs a positive trend in healthcare? I would love to hear your thoughts.