Lack of business education among doctors is a topic I’ve been considering as I decide which direction to take in my career. I wholeheartedly agree with the lack of physician engagement in the business of medicine is troublesome. However, blaming academia’s lack of financial education as an external force for the profession’s lack of financial ability is not productive. The mindset of placing responsibility on our educators actually exemplifies why doctors are not able or willing to manage a business. Doctors need to realize that no one will hand them more control or teach them how to attain it. It is not anyone else’s responsibility to help doctors successfully manifest their profession in the world. Perhaps the author is looking for a solution in the wrong place.
Doctors spend a significant amount of time in academia attending classes, taking tests, and building their resumes. They become experts at following a curriculum or a set of rules dictated by someone else. As students, they become accustomed to being spoonfed information and studying only for what will be tested. Rarely do students learn the skills of asking questions beyond the syllabus, determining which problems are worth solving, and finding solutions.
Therefore, claiming that the root cause lies in a lacking syllabus and saying, “No one taught us,” demonstrates a lack of insight and actually highlights the problem. With all due respect, it is akin to a child blaming their parents for their own problems and wishing their parents were better.
I appreciate the overall sentiment, though. Doctors would benefit from understanding how to navigate the practice of medicine in real life, which can involve dealing with burdensome administrative tasks, marketing and advertising, money constraints, and silly regulations. However, I do not believe that the solution lies solely in providing financial education in medical school. If such education were to occur, it would likely be taught from a textbook by a professor who has no successful business experiences, and assessed through another multiple-choice exam, perhaps including a question like “Define EBITDA.”
After considering all that, I do not have a better answer. This is not a discrete problem that can be fixed with a single solution. The problem is partly related to the method of schooling, with medical education being a prime example. I think it would help if doctors felt a sense of responsibility for something greater than themselves, such as preserving the autonomy and integrity of the profession. Then, it would be up to the doctor to decide the best way to achieve that in this complex world. Such a mindset is impossible to include in a standardized curriculum.
Woojin Joo is an internal medicine physician.