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July 2008 - Volume 5 - Issue 1
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University of Miami MD Degree Means Business

This September, the first class of medical students will enter the University of Miami’s brand-new joint MD-MBA program, a collaboration between the university’s Miller School of Medicine and the School of Business. "The program will allow medical students enrolled in the school of medicine to spend one extra year doing extensive course work to obtain their MBA," explains Steven Ullmann, PhD, professor and director of programs in Health Sector Management and Policy.

The Business of Medicine

As with most industries in today’s business world, the landscape is constantly shifting and this new co-degree is a response to those changes. "Twenty or 30 years ago, one could work in isolation as a medical professional," notes Ullmann. "But in this day and age, that is just not possible anymore. Having the ability to understand the business aspects of operating a medical practice will allow medical professionals to be that much better at what they do. If they can work more efficiently and effectively in today’s business-oriented medical care field, their businesses will run that much more optimally."

The MD-MBA degree will give graduates a decided advantage in today’s marketplace. "They will be business savvy and the degree will allow them to work in a variety of disciplines in the healthcare sector – such as a physician executive or a medical director," Ullmann says. Current literature in professional journals cites the growing need for business-savvy physicians, and it is becoming more common for clinical practices to request students with training in both business and medicine, he adds.

The university has been offering an excellent MBA program in Health Administration since 1976, accredited both in business and in healthcare. "Over the last few years, we observed that a growing proportion of people in that program were physicians," explains Ullmann. "This made us realize medical professionals want to understand the business aspects of healthcare."

Medical students will take courses unique to healthcare management and administration, such as reimbursement, managed care, and consumer-driven healthcare. These business courses will also help them navigate the complicated intricacies of Medicare and Medicaid.

Because more physicians are working in practices and in affiliation with hospitals and diagnostic centers, they need to know specific business methodologies and skills – including management, marketing, finance, budgeting, contract negotiation, and legal aspects of operating a healthcare practice.

Although the interest in this new co-degree is growing, Ullmann and his colleagues are noticing some trepidation on the part of medical students. "They are realizing that knowledge of medicine is not enough and that business training is an important asset for their careers."

Highly Skilled Graduates

The university anticipates that this unique collaboration between the medical school and business school will enhance marketing the new program nationally. "There are not a lot of programs of this type in the country," Ullmann says. "So we are hoping to attract better medical students and better business students through this program." He adds that the university receives about 20,000 applications a year at the undergraduate level for just 2,000 slots. "So this demonstrates that we are a highly selective research-focused university."

In response to the growing interest in combining healthcare and business training, the university is developing a variety of other programs. "Our Nursing School and our Program in Public Health are also co-joining MBA programs and management training within their programs," reports Ullmann. Additional programs are designed specifically for students in a variety of clinical disciplines. For example, the Executive MBA program in Health Administration offers a course that meets for a three-day weekend once a month.

The nursing school will offer an MSN-MBA degree. As nurses progress professionally to get their masters degree or doctorate in practical nursing, they are discovering new career avenues, such as nursing directors, managers, or vice presidents of clinical care. These positions require a significant understanding of the kinds of business practices the university teaches in its business school. In response to this, the university is developing an MSN-MBA degree.

"We are also in the process of discussing options for business training that would not be as extensive as an MBA, but would give clinical professionals an understanding of some concepts of business," explains Ullmann. "So we are considering establishing two levels: the full-blown MBA and a healthcare management certification for people who want to get a basic understanding of how they, as clinicians, will operate in the business of healthcare."

Ullmann says it is still too early to determine the number of students who will ultimately enroll in the first class offering the combined MD-MBA. "We have had a number of applicants and I believe we will see a trickle become a flow, similar to what we saw in our executive programs. As more people learn about the program and how it responds to the real needs out there in the marketplace, we will see continued growth in the program."

Dr. Steven Ullmann can be reached at (305) 284-9920.
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