Aside from giving physicians the knowledge and techniques to improve their practice, an MBA can open doctors’ eyes to a different culture and a different way of thinking, one that’s more egalitarian, says Chandler, who also serves as president of the Association of MD/MBA Programs.
“We’ve been set up to think that we know more than we do,” she says. “I think just learning that—as bad as that is—in business school gives you a great understanding.”
In business, projects are planned and executed in teams. Students learn quickly that new ideas and solutions to problems can come from anyone in a group. In fact, it’s expected that good ideas will come from everyone. That’s a far cry from the hierarchical culture of medicine, says Chandler.
She was discussing that concept with a surgeon who has an MBA, telling him that everyone on a care team should be given a chance to provide ideas and input on treatment, that perhaps the best idea may come from anyone. The only exception, she told him, was maybe during a “code” situation.
To her surprise, he disagreed, saying that input from everyone might be even more important during an emergency.
“He said if that nurse or somebody else helping you resuscitate a patient knows something and is too afraid to say it, because you’re shouting orders, then you’ll not be as effective in resuscitating your patients,” Chandler says.
A better physician
In addition to the team culture of business, an MBA can bring more practical benefits to physicians in smaller private practices, namely communications skills, accounting savvy and management expertise.
“Managing staff is not what most physicians got into medicine to do,” Chandler says, “But most physicians end up having to do it.”
Doctors with MBAs are better able to manage staff, she says. They also look at their ledgers through a new lens, trying to spot opportunities to improve efficiency without sacrificing quality.