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Another Voice: UB medical students schooled in financial literacy

By Philip L. Glick

My phone rang about six years ago. It was Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Dean Michael Cain, asking me to come over and talk.
The asked me if I would accept a position as MBA liaison for UB Health Sciences Schools and UB School of Management Collaborative Programs.

“Of course!”

These responsibilities entail recruiting health science students to UB’s dual-degree MBA program. The students add an extra year of study and then graduate with an MBA, in addition to their professional medical degree.

With the average public medical school debt exceeding $175,000 per student in this country, why would any of the students want to do this? And why would the health sciences schools or the School of Management want to do this? Because UB is committed to training tomorrow’s leaders today.

The answer to the first question and the mandatory nature of financial literacy lunch lectures is more complex. In the last 25 or so years, medicine has become a $3.5 trillion-a-year business; 18 percent of GDP or $10,700 per person is spent annually on health care. These expenses are not sustainable for our country’s economy.

The curriculum in medical schools and residency training programs has always had an emphasis on scientific, clinical and ethical skill sets. Historically, it has been deficient in business skills, including leadership, finance, strategy, etc. However, all this is offered in our MBA curriculum with a concentration in health care. Approximately 10 percent of our students now take advantage of this dual-degree program.

What about the other 90 percent of the students who don’t get a dual degree? I pitched to the Jacobs School curricular dean that we should teach financial literacy and make it mandatory. His advice was to avoid the bureaucracy and delays of curricular changes, teach financial literacy classes at lunch, offer free food and those interested will come. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the last five years.

However, this year when the announcement of my lunch lecture and free food was emailed to the students, the subject line said, “Financial Literacy Noontime Session (Mandatory).” My curiosity got the better of me about the word “mandatory.” I asked why and was told, “there are some noontime sessions that are mandatory or required for students to attend, and others are optional for students to attend. We try to make the expectations as clear as possible for each session.”

I was delighted by this. The Jacobs School realizes what additional skill sets our students need to succeed in the current complex medical profession and are truly preparing all of our students to be tomorrow’s leaders.

Dr. Philip L. Glick is a professor of Surgery and Management at the University at Buffalo.

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