As Health Care Evolves, Medical Students Seek Business Degrees

Posted in GUMC Stories

APRIL 17, 2014–These days, being a great doctor can mean more than just honing clinical skills and bedside manner. Health care, after all, is a multi-billion-dollar business, so playing a role in it can also demand sharp business acumen.

This point is not lost on Omar Rahman (M’17, MBA’17) and Chase Corvin (M’17, MBA’17).  After three years in medical school, both will take a year off to gain an entirely new perspective on medicine—by attending business school. Rahman and Corvin are in the midst of obtaining their MBA at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business as part of their five-year dual MD/MBA program.

Having been grounded in Georgetown University Medical Center ’s Jesuit principle of “care of the whole person,” they hope this experience will add “care of the whole health system” and even “care of the whole world” to their own individual mission statements.

The MBA portion of their studies, they say, helps them shift perspective from that of an individual patient to thinking strategically about the overall system—and business—that is responsible for that patient.

“Medical school teaches you how to take care of an individual patient, but the larger macroscopic problems in our healthcare system aren’t really addressed,” says Rahman.

For this reason, more medical students nationwide are earning combined MD/MBA degrees, according to the Association of MD/MBA Programs. To date, 57 medical schools and universities offer such a joint degree.

Expanding Business Literacy to Classmates

Rahman, Corvin and their MD/MBA counterparts are so energized by their studies that they have formed an organization—Business and Leadership in Medical Practice, or BLIMP—to share what they are learning in business school with their medical school classmates who are not enrolled in the dual degree program.  Rahman and Corvin, the current president and vice president, respectively, founded BLIMP along with their medical colleagues Alexander Butler (M’16), Jack Steele (M’16) and David Gostine (M’18, MBA’18).

With the motto “Keeping Healthcare Afloat,” BLIMP serves as a platform to allow medical students who do not seek an MBA degree to be in on the conversation about how business literacy can improve American medicine.

“We want BLIMP to be a forum about how we can improve the delivery of health care as a cost-effective system that focuses on quality of care,” says Corvin. “Physicians need to be a major part of this effort—and with fewer than four percent of hospitals now being run by doctors, medical students must prepare themselves to take on these roles.”

Georgetown has offered the dual degree since 2000. There have been seven MD/MBA graduates in the last five years, with another seven anticipated by 2017.

“An MBA program allows med students to take a deep dive into areas such as stakeholder theory, change management, operations and other topics that are critical to running successful medical institutions,” says Lauren U. Grainger , director of academic affairs for the MBA Program Office at McDonough School of Business.

To discuss all that an MBA can offer medical students, BLIMP holds journal discussions and events. One featured a panel of experts on how the Affordable Care Act will affect medical students as future healthcare leaders. Stephen Ray Mitchell, MD, MBA , dean of the School of Medicine, headlined another recent event.

“More than 60 medical students were in attendance, and that was a welcome surprise,” says Mitchell, who earned his Executive MBA in 2013. “We discussed why leadership and a business perspective are important to their future practice. For me, the usefulness of the degree wasn’t so much in managing finances as much as it was about thinking strategically, incorporating marketing, communication and innovation.”

Living up to Both Degrees

Andrew Gostine, who earned his MD/MBA from Georgetown in 2013, says his time at the business school was empowering.

“Business is very different from medicine. I think the skills I learned in business school are, in many ways, better suited for developing solutions to the problems that plague health care,” says Gostine, an anesthesiology resident at Northwestern Memorial Hospital .

He recently started a consulting business, and is pursuing a master’s degree in predictive analytics.

Among other projects, Gostine wants to develop prediction algorithms, using medical records and genetic information, to tailor the practice of medicine to each individual patient.

“For example, in my residency I’m learning hundreds of different combinations of drugs I can use to care for critically ill patients with similar diseases. But it’s unlikely that they all provide the same outcomes. With advanced statistical software, we can track these outcomes and predict the safest treatment for each patient.”

He is working on these goals while pursuing his number one dream—to be an anesthesiologist in intensive care units, working on the most complicated cases. “I hope to live up to both of my degrees,” Gostine says. “The combination offers me a different perspective at a time when health care is changing rapidly.”

By Renee Twombly
GUMC Communications