Physicians with both MDs and MBAs practice less, move into leadership, business

June 30, 2014

As more medical schools offer dual medical doctor and Master of Business Administration degrees, a new study measures the impact of the burgeoning educational trend on physicians’ career opportunities.

As more medical schools offer dual medical doctor (MD) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees, a new study measures the impact of the burgeoning educational trend on physicians’ career opportunities.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) looked at graduates from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School MBA program in healthcare management from 1981 to 2010. The survey found that graduates with dual degrees had more positive attitudes and flexibility in their careers. The physicians reported spending less time practicing, and tended to move into leadership and business positions later in their career.

With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and its emphasis on new models of patient population management, researchers believe that advanced knowledge of both clinical and business in healthcare could be an advantage to physicians.

“Given the changing dynamics of hospitals that require better balance between clinical care, leadership and business initiatives, graduates with MD and MBA training could potentially fill a growing need within the workforce,” the study’s authors say. “Future research and policy efforts might be focused on how to better align the interests of these graduates with training and development pathways that result in leadership positions within health systems or in roles that affect population health.”

The survey found an increase in both recent and older graduates moving into entrepreneurship or venture capital and hospital or provider administration. Marketing and consulting, insurance and managed care, and nonprofit and philanthropy also saw large increases of graduates moving into these fields later in their careers.

“The MD was more often reported as providing professional credibility, whereas the MBA was commonly reported as conveying leadership, management, and business skills,” say the study’s authors. “The combination of degrees helped to inform business perspective, provide multidisciplinary experience, and improve communication between disciplines.”

The few negative remarks recorded from the graduates said that the amount of time and cost of their program, along with how some peers in one discipline negatively perceive the other discipline were drawbacks of their program.

“The majority of respondents did not report any negative impact from the degrees; however, some reported that the MD ‘pigeonholed’ or limited their business career options, and the MBA was sometimes seen as a ‘distraction’ from their medical career,” the study’s authors say.

According to the AAMC, the number of MD and MBA programs has increased five-fold since the mid-1990s. Currently, more than 54 medical schools have a dual-degree program incorporating an MBA, with 500 graduates per year, according to the Association of MD MBA programs.