You Need an MBA? What do you learn in business school anyway?
R. Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPE, Business, Career and Executive Coach
for physicians and clinical leaders; Founder and Director of Creative
Strategies in Physician Leadership
newsletters ago, I addressed some reasons for physicians to
consider pursuing an MBA
(see "To MBA or NOT to MBA, That is the
Question" at the bottom of this page). Ever wonder how you can get the learning
without spending the time or money for the actual credentials? Here
are two good books that provide a good overview of the basic MBA
Ten Day MBA, by Steven Silbiger, and The
Physician's Essential MBA, by Michael Stahl and Peter
wrote his book after completing two years at one of the country's
"top ten" business schools. His stated goal was to "cut
to the heart of the top MBA programs' subject matter clearly and
concisely." Silbiger's basics fall into nine disciplines:
and Dean's essentials are based on the University of Tennessee's
curriculum for the Physician Executive
MBA, a physicians-only program
launched in 1998 (I was a member of the inaugural class). Because the
focus of the program is to develop healthcare leadership skills on top
of business knowledge, the "essentials" includes these
and Strategy in the Healthcare Industry
of Healthcare Policy
Policy for the Physician Leader
Organizational Design to Lead Change in Health Care Enterprises
Practice of Marketing: What Every Physician Leader Needs to
Business Performance (Finance)
Flows, Expansion and the Access to Capital
Managing and Improving Health Care Operations
Management: What Every Physician Leader Needs to Know
Leadership in the Healthcare Industry
Law and Business Ethics for Physician Leaders
and Decision Making
you decide to pursue an MBA, your options are many. First,
the traditional 2-year program offered by most Universities will
require a full time commitment. If
you don't want to take two years away from your current work,
most schools also offer
an Executive MBA option, with classes in the evening, weekends, or
through distance learning.
In addition to the University of
Tennessee, the University of South
Florida also offers a physician-focused curriculum.
University of California in Irvine has a Healthcare Executive MBA,
where students meet once a month for 3 days on campus over 22 months.
University of Massachusetts now offers an MBA through the
American College of Physician Executives. More and more
universities are expanding
their MBA programs to meet the needs of the
route to acquiring "MBA equivalent" business education is by attending an
"executive" business course at your local University.
Many University business schools have a 9 month "Executive
Management" program, usually meeting once a week for 3 hours, and
covering the essentials.
Students generally are off the hook for any serious homework and the
Certificate awarded at the conclusion of the program is still worthwhile
to include in your resume if that's important to
the route you choose to expand your business skills will be based on
cost, time, the impact on
your family, your professional and business focus, and whether or not the
"MBA" credential is imperative for your
may be overkill---and conversely, may be inadequate
MBA program may offer you a "big picture" view
of business, operations and leadership---the language,
theory and principles. This is not necessarily going to be
the "be all, end all" of business training, such
that, voila: you're an experienced businessman. Far from
it's equivalent to doing the first 2 years of Medical
school, and getting the theory and vocabulary.
an MBA may be overkill for most physicians.
importantly though, MBA programs don't necessarily help
you in applying these principles to YOUR actual business
example, I have had several physician clients who have
MBA's and who have then come to me for the "how
to" nitty-gritty of navigating and succeeding in
their leadership or business role. In other words, having
the theory was just one component to gaining clarity about
their professional direction, and about how to handle
critical situations with a subordinate, a project, a
marketing plan etc. One-on-one coaching helps them apply
the theory directly to their situation.
may want to look at the alternatives to an MBA, depending
on what your own personal and professional goals are. For
example, one goal may be to improve your acumen as an
investor. An MBA program will teach you the underlying
principles of cash flow calculations, rate of return
calculations etc. You can also get this same knowledge
from a short course in college or a distance education
course. AND none of these courses (MBA or otherwise) will
provide you "insight" about what industry is
going to be the "hot one."
also that if you are practicing physician and your goal is to optimize
your practice income, professional fulfillment and
business growth, an MBA program or even an executive
management program may not provide you with tools and
strategies you need. An additional strategy to consider
is to engage the services of a business
or executive coach well versed in healthcare AND physicians. Indeed
I have found that many of my physician clients who have an
MBA appreciate the focused business strategizing
and personal leadership development that only one-on-one
executive coaching can provide them.
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MBA or Not to MBA, That is the Question
At one point or another you will wonder
whether you want to get an MBA—either as a pre-requisite to making a
career transition, optimizing your clinical practice, growing your
medical business or moving up in your current medical
management career path.
You may have read with envy how MBA students from top schools are being
snapped up at $110K to start by both blue chip companies and start-ups.
Could this happen to you, and at twice the salary, if you
share with you the real "scoop" on the value of an MBA
for non-physicians versus
The vast majority of MBA students either
in full time or executive MBA programs have been in a business setting
at least 3 to 6 years. They have been working in the “business
context” for a while and understand the progression from junior to
senior executive. And yes, there are lines of recruiters vying for the
latest crop of MBA graduates. These
graduates will be harvested and placed in junior positions within
corporations, consulting firms or financial institutions.
It is expected they will both produce and continue to advance on
the job for the next 20 + years.
the same cannot be said about physicians who earn an MBA. Physicians entering MBA programs after
five to ten years in clinical practice (and after three to seven years
of post-doctoral training) are not viewed by recruiters as the same
strain as their non-clinical, and generally younger, classmates.
are some reasons why recruiters look askance at new “MD, MBAs”:
1) physicians don’t have experience in business (running your
own practice doesn’t count),
2) physicians aren’t team players,
physicians won’t join a company as a junior member, or
have unrealistic expectations about base salaries.
These are generalizations, I know, but more often true than not.
So why should you consider an MBA?
are at least three
good reasons for you to pursue an MBA:
1) for the
business skills education,
2) to learn the business world language, and
connect with other students who can broaden your business knowledge,
For physicians in medical management careers, the most
important reason is that having an MBA is an expectation if you want to
move up to
your next opportunity.
all physicians, your ability to enter the business world--whether in
pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, information technology, and numerous
other fields--depends more on your specific accomplishments that
demonstrate business acumen or ability to solve specific business
problems. The MBA is not
Once you are clear about what you want from your MBA
experience, then you will know which programs to consider and how much to
invest. But first,
understand your true motivations and be realistic about the outcome.
practicing physicians wanting to improve their business
operations, getting a business degree may be the wrong
strategy. A business course in a community college
will provide an adequate foundation. Then supplement
that some focused professional development assistance from a
find in working with my many physician clients who have and MBA
degree is that what stumps them is the APPLICATION of
business concepts to their actual work environment.
As a coach, I help my clients not only to understand and
apply key business principles, but also to become
excellent business managers.
If you have specific business
or leadership issues, consider
enrolling the services of an executive
coach who understands
healthcare business AND physicians is a smarter strategy.
I invite you to learn more about our
coaches and executive coaching
R. Gaillour, MD, Business, Career and Executive Coach
for physicians and clinical leaders; Director of Creative
Strategies in Physician Leadership
received my MBA from the University
of Tennessee Physician Executive MBA Program in 1998, after
spending over five years as a technology senior
executive. Because I knew what I wanted to achieve
from the program, it turned out to be a great experience.
Beyond the MBA, I have continued to develop my
business and management skills through the executive coach
training that I've completed. If you're serious about
success, the learning never stops!
you are contemplating hiring a coach, Contact
me to arrange introductory meeting.
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