Are MD/MBAs Real Doctors?

September 7, 2011
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A lot of my business school classmates had worked as engineers. They were drawn to the intellectual challenge and rigor of the engineering field and liked the relatively high salaries for engineering jobs coming out of college. But after a few short years working as engineers they realized the real decisions and the real money were made by business people, many with MBAs from top schools. So rather than putting up with the frustrations and plateauing compensation of the technical track, they took the business route.

A lot of my business school classmates had worked as engineers. They were drawn to the intellectual challenge and rigor of the engineering field and liked the relatively high salaries for engineering jobs coming out of college. But after a few short years working as engineers they realized the real decisions and the real money were made by business people, many with MBAs from top schools. So rather than putting up with the frustrations and plateauing compensation of the technical track, they took the business route.

Now they run companies, are partners in professional services firms, and work in private equity, hedge funds, venture capital and investment banking. Many still consider themselves engineers and use some of what they learned in school. But let’s face it, they’re not doing engineering.

 Adjusting, More M.D.’s Add M.B.A. in the New York Times has a promising start:

Under heavy pressure from government regulators and insurance companies, more and more physicians across the country are learning to think like entrepreneurs…

Mark V. Pauly, a longtime leader of the health care management program at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, said, “A light bulb went off and they realize that health care is a business.”

Good, I thought. I’ll be reading about how practicing physicians are becoming more business aware.

But no. All the examples are MD/MBAs who sound a lot like my engineering classmates. These aren’t “physicians thinking like entrepreneurs” as advertised in the article’s lead. Instead the various pharma company execs, venture capitalists, and professors are MBAs who happen to have medical degrees, too. Some are graduates of the many  joint MD/MBA programs that are springing up. Others decided to get their MBAs after starting or completing medical school or even practicing medicine.

Have you ever heard of someone going back to medical school after getting their MBA? Now that would be a story.

Next time the Times examines this topic I would encourage them to pursue a more productive path and write about:

  • How practicing physicians are incorporating business thinking into their work
  • Whether and why physicians are leaving the practice of medicine to pursue business degrees and careers
  • What medical schools should be doing to prepare doctors for business forces in health care
  • How some MDs manage to simultaneously engage in patient care and a business venture
  • What practicing physicians (without MBAs) think of MD/MBAs and whether they consider them to be peers