Biology, Anatomy, and Finance? More Med Students Want Business Degrees Too

Biology, Anatomy, and Finance? More Med Students Want Business Degrees Too

Physicians and medical school students earning advanced business degrees to work the business side of the booming health care industry.

Just over 60% of medical schools now offer dual MD-MBA programs, more than twice the number two decades ago, a recent study shows. And researchers estimate the number of dual-degree graduates has nearly tripled. Still, it’s difficult to know exactly how many physicians now have business degrees. While the medical school students who simultaneously earned both a medical and business degree represent almost 1% of the roughly 28,000 medical school students who graduate each year, that doesn’t include physicians, like Gundersen, who later go back to school to pursue an executive MBA.

For years, some doctors have sought auxiliary degrees, including master’s degrees in public health and law degrees. But more and more, doctors want to pair their clinical expertise with management skills and financial literacy as the American health system focuses on maximizing profits. Often that’s so they can become business executives, especially as lucrative health tech startups proliferate and hospital systems, pharmacy benefit managers, and insurers have swelled into formidable companies.

However, this pursuit of advanced business degrees begs the question: Whom will these doctors end up serving more, patients or shareholders?

Long gone are the days when nuns ran many local hospitals. Now, many hospitals are part of multibillion-dollar systems, some of which, such as HCA Healthcare Inc. and Tenet Healthcare Corp., outrank some of America’s most recognizable brands on the Fortune 500 list.

Still, it’s one of the few sectors of the economy where the people who know the most about what’s going on in their companies aren’t the ones running them, said J.B. Silvers, a management professor at Case Western Reserve University who has been teaching business fundamentals to medical students and physicians for decades.


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