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Another Voice: UB is training tomorrow’s medical leaders today

By Philip L. Glick, David A. Milling and Erin K. O’Brien

A Stanford University student pursuing medicine and business recently wrote in The News that more U.S. medical schools are offering joint MD/MBAs. He described it as “tacking on” an MBA, a ticket to a Silicon Valley job, professional and personal satisfaction and wealth. We agree that an MD/MBA is a great idea, but for completely different reasons.

Since the 1910 Flexner report, which created today’s medical education system, medical schools have emphasized basic sciences, patient care skills and ethics. Unfortunately, that emphasis creates deficiencies. These include leadership, finance, health care policy, organizational management, human resources, negotiations, conflict resolution, communication, team building and medical malpractice, to mention a few.

Without these skills, tomorrow’s physicians will be at a significant disadvantage. That’s because the American health care system, the most expensive in the industrialized world, is undergoing tumultuous change. Outcomes will be closely scrutinized, fundamentally changing patient care.

At the University at Buffalo, we recognize how critical business understanding has become to the practice of medicine. Doctors share a unique background. We have this incredible medical knowledge based in experience, but ignore the business side at our own risk.

In 2012, the UB health sciences schools and the School of Management introduced the dual degree MD/MBA program with a health care concentration. We also launched the Accelerated MBA Program for medical residents and fellows. We are adding important “MBA skill set” topics to the curriculum for all students at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Better business sense also benefits medical students personally. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that the mean student debt load for a public medical school is $170,000, while for a private school, it’s closer to $200,000. At UB, we meet with our medical students every semester to help them develop the personal financial discipline they will need to pay off their debt.

We want our students and your future physicians to be successful, both professionally and personally. Our answer to the Stanford student’s “get it now” attitude is simply “get it right.”

Philip L. Glick M.D., MBA, is professor of surgery in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo and professor of management in the UB School of Management. David A. Milling, M.D., is senior associate dean for student and academic affairs and clinical associate professor of medicine at the Jacobs School. Erin K. O’Brien is assistant dean, director of graduate programs, at the UB School of Management.