Alternative Careers in Medicine

Getting an MBA

As you go about your work at the hospital or clinic you entertain the thought that an MBA degree might open up all sorts of new career vistas. While there are specific considerations for each physician, the following general issues should be thought through carefully.

A. Remember that it is a part of our professional culture as physicians to place a high value on formal qualifications. Project ahead; how do you envision using the degree?

B. If you elect to get an MBA degree as a way around a career conundrum, you are short-circuiting the process of putting your career under the microscope.

C. An MBA is a general business degree. You get a taste of a whole range of business disciplines, but little in substantial depth.

D. There are scores of very sharp business minds in every arena of healthcare without an MBA.

E. A common misconception is that possession of an MBA is going to up your worth in industries like medical insurance or pharmaceuticals. On the contrary, your primary appeal remains your medical degree and your specialty training.

F. The subject material is not necessarily a piece of cake. There may be more than one reason why economics is called the dismal science.

H. As a rule, the younger you are, the more value there is in getting an additional degree.

I. Degrees like MMA (Master of Medical Management) or MHSA (Master of Health Services Administration) are MBA equivalents focused on healthcare. Outside the walls of the healthcare industry they are less useful than an MBA.

Physicians as Independent Consultants

Popular lore is full of pejorative comments about ill-informed consultants picking your pockets while giving you answers to questions you didn’t ask. It’s no wonder that you don’t find many physicians jumping to get into independent consulting as a line of work.

What does it take to succeed in consulting?
1. It requires emotional strength and flexibility.
The management guru and consultant par excellence, Peter Drucker, said: “If you have the emotional fortitude to last three years, you’ll succeed.” To be an effective consultant, you have to like being a consultant. It’s not a refuge from other unpleasant or unrewarding professional activities.

2. It requires an enjoyment of independence.
Consulting involves close work with others where you’re almost a member of the group, but not quite. You find yourself using “we” interchangeably. Sometimes as a member of your consulting practice, sometimes as a member of the group you are assisting. At project end there are handshakes. Any shades of “we” dissipate to “they”.

3. Proper framing of the role of a consultant.
There’s an irony to the manner we physicians view consultants. Isn’t that what we do every day? In caring for a patient am I not a consultant to that patient? I propose that you consider yourself not as a consultant, but a solution architect. Organizations and businesses turn to software solution architects to tune IT platforms and programs to their particular needs.

Formal training and years of experience including serving as a de facto consultant to our patients and colleagues should make physicians superb solution architects. We possess detailed domain knowledge of our discipline, and a careers’worth of experience of advising others how best to tackle problems.