Interest in MD-MBA program grows

by Grace Afsari-Mamagani | 12/1/09 11:00pm

As a background in business is perceived to be increasingly important for medical professionals, the number of medical students turning to dual-degree MD-MBA programs to prepare them for the management side of health care delivery continues to rise.

Interest in Dartmouth's MD-MBA program, which can be completed in five or six years, has increased by about 400 percent since 2004, according to Tuck School of Business health care initiatives director Donald Conway, who co-directs the joint degree program. The approximately 10 percent of students in each DMS class accepted into the program spend their first three years studying at Dartmouth Medical School and their fourth year at Tuck, and split the remaining one or two years between the two institutions.

Conway attributed rising interest in the program to the increasing importance of understanding the bond market. In addition, he said, technical knowledge of how to run a business can easily be applied to hospital management.

Students interviewed by The Dartmouth agreed that the surge in interest stems in part from the importance of a business background in hospital management and the startup of private practices. The dual degrees are also relevant to global work through nonprofits, the students said.

"I came to medical school here at Dartmouth specifically because of the MD-MBA program and because I had done some business work," Eugene Hsu DMS '09 Tu '10, a student in his last year of the program, said via telephone from a Dallas airport while on the residency interview trail. "I'm going into anesthesiology and possibly critical care. It will be a combination of for-profit and non-profit entrepreneurship."

Si France DMS '06 Tu '07 said that the current dialogue on health care reform has inspired students to become involved in the reform process. Dual-degree programs help students understand organizational reform, he said.

"For me, it was really just following my passion for macro-level health care," France said. "Dartmouth was a perfect place to combine my studies of both the clinical realm and understanding of how to change and improve organizations."

Jessica Morgan DMS '09 Tu '10, who intends to be an anesthesiologist, said understanding the health care delivery system requires an understanding of both medicine and business.

"There are a lot of opportunities in the business school to learn about health care specifically," Morgan said. "In terms of residency interviews, people have been really excited about the dual degree."

While Tuck does not have a specific health care track, students learn about management in general and can take an elective in health management their second year at the business school, DMS professor and join degree program co-director Michael Zubkoff said.

The increased interest in Dartmouth's dual degree program reflects a national trend, Zubkoff said.

"Amongst medical students, getting an MBA is on the upswing and the programs are growing rather rapidly," he said.

Similarly, the number of applicants to the MD-MBA dual-degree program at Vanderbilt University has been rising steadily, senior associate director and diversity recruiting manager of MBA admissions Consuela Knox said in an interview.

Interest in the dual-degree program at the University of Pennsylvania has also increased over the past 10 years, according to June Kinney, associate director of the MBA Program in Health Care Management.

Typically, about six of the 80 students enrolled in one of the medical school's classes pursue the dual degree.

Students enrolled in the five-year program at Penn complete three semesters at the Wharton School of Business and devote the remainder of their time to earning a medical degree.

"We have entrepreneurs and people interested in health policy," Kinney said. "[These students] take up a broader role than they would have had they just gone to medical school."