February 24, 2021

Doctors Discover the Benefits of Business School

As recently as the late 1990s, there were only five or six joint M.D./M.B.A degree programs at the nation’s universities, said Dr. Maria Y. Chandler, a pediatrician with an M.B.A. who is an associate clinical professor in the medical and business schools at the University of California, Irvine. “Now there are 65,” she said.

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.”

Dr. James S. Kuo, 47, said he was a third-year medical student at Penn when he decided to go to business school, too. After receiving his M.D. and master of business administration degrees, he jumped to a Wall Street job with a large health care venture capital firm.

Dr. Kuo went on to manage several heath care funds and later led several small health care companies.

Now he is chief executive of Adeona Pharmaceuticals, a company based in Ann Arbor, Mich., that is developing innovative medicines for the treatment of serious diseases of the central nervous system.

He is also nonexecutive chairman of MSK Pharma, a private company in La Jolla, Calif., that is led by his wife, Dr. Geraldine P. Kuo.

She is a specialist in muscular-skeletal medicine at the Veterans Affairs health care system in San Diego.

“In her work, she came across a medical need and an innovation to solve that need,” he said.

One of the latest universities to consider a combined program is Creighton, a Jesuit university in Omaha, which plans to begin offering a joint degree next summer.

Anthony R. Hendrickson, dean of Creighton’s school of business, said the program would be flexible, based on each student’s academic and business experience and personal goals.

He said total tuition would be $191,688, including four years of medical school and a year of business studies. At Duke, the total cost of tuition for medical school and a year and a half of business studies is $235,244.

Creighton, like many universities with business schools, also offers part-time courses for physicians alongside its classic short courses for executives of all types.

Statistics about the joint programs are sparse, said Dr. Chandler, who is president of the Association of M.D./M.B.A. Programs. But she estimated there were as many as 500 students total in the programs.

Some, like Tufts and Texas Tech, offer the combined program in four years, she said, and many programs offer special aid packages.

“All physicians need some kind of business training,” she said. “For example, some physicians with large research grants don’t know how to manage the money.”

As for the nation’s troubled health system, “we are not running the business side very well,” Dr. Chandler said. “Part of the problem is we don’t have physicians sufficiently involved. They have a fuller insight about what is needed.”

“Cue the theme music from ‘Jaws,’ ” said Professor Pauly, of Wharton. “Entrepreneurs have to know how to navigate with the desire of payers to hold down prices and control uses in health care.”

He added: “They have to know how to please pointy-headed bureaucrats. This is going to be one of the survival skills in the future in health care.”

Not all physician entrepreneurs come from the joint programs, of course. There are also business school graduates like Dr. Wendye Robbins, a fourth-generation doctor, who did her undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and later earned her M.D. at the Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Now she is president and chief executive of Limerick BioPharma, a small start-up in South San Francisco that works on transplant-associated metabolic diseases, specifically Type 2 diabetes. She founded Limerick with business partners in 2005.

With strong grades and support from the head of her medical faculty, she said, she was accepted as an intern at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and then for a postgraduate residency at Johns Hopkins University. Then she was hired as an anesthesiologist and pain doctor at the University of California, San Francisco. Through her husband, who has a business degree from Wharton, she met venture capitalists. “They offered to fund the stuff coming out of my lab,” she said.

She left academics and started her first company, NeurogesX, which commercializes pain medicines.

After five years, she left the company and took a teaching job at Stanford because, she said, she wanted to stay in touch with students and patients.

Her advice to entrepreneurs-in-waiting: “Take a risk, step into the unknown. Don’t be afraid to fail. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and had plenty of disappointments.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=0a3ab9245dacea64a82de46743456047

Speak Your Mind