A place for business in medical school

A recent article in the New York Times business section discusses an increase in the number of doctors getting M.B.A.’s in addition to their M.D. degree. In fact, there have even been many new programs that combine getting both of these degrees together. The article emphasizes the importance of seeing that “healing is an art, medicine is a profession and health care is a business.” However, is adding more degrees, increasing student load debt and spending more years at educational institutions the best way to get doctors to be fit for the business aspect of health care?

I think it is completely true that the medical profession entails much more than just medicine and healing, and with the right education and mindset, doctors can become entrepreneurs who can make great differences to improve health. Doctors have a perspective that allows them to develop solutions to many problems that other people would never be able to establish. Whether doctors use this different perspective to become physician-scientists, enter health care IT or any other aspect of medicine, having basic knowledge in business can be exceptionally important. Unfortunately, many physicians or doctors-in-training never have had exposure to the basic guidance that would allow them to create proper business plans to make their solutions come to life or take the reins of business related careers in the health care industry or even the skills to develop convincing pitches to attract investors. At the same time, many of these doctors who could make great differences in health care do not see spending more time and money getting an additional degree worth it, and some even consider it as a risk they are not willing to take.

An effective and very feasible solution to educating future physicians with the business skills they need to inspire their entrepreneurial minds would be to incorporate a compact and basic business course throughout the first few years of medical school.

Like most other medical schools, our medical school already has elective classes where we meet once a week to discuss issues in health care. These classes are very important to understanding the profession we will soon be practicing. However, business is also a major player in health care and should be addressed within these classes. Simply adding a one hour class that meets every month to discuss basic business skills that apply to the medical profession can easily be implemented at many medical colleges. These classes could teach medical students the basics to get any of their future ideas off the floor. These are the ideas that will help mold and change the health care of the future and we should be working to nurture them in any way possible.

For some future physicians, these new skills may be what make their practice more successful, and for others, these courses may make the idea of getting an M.B.A., which once did not seem worth it, much more favorable. In either case, giving med students simple medically related business lessons throughout medical school can be fundamental and should be implemented by all medical schools.

Jay Agarwal is a medical student.

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