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What Is An MD/MBA Degree? And How To Get Into These Programs

June 3, 2022
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What Is an MD/MBA Degree?Career Outlook, Education, and SalaryTop MD/MBA ProgramsHow to Get into MD/MBA ProgramsFAQs: MD/MBA Degrees

”Rohan

Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Chief Resident in Anesthesiology, Weill Cornell Medicine, & Admissions Officer, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/13/22

In 2014, The Atlantic reflected on the growing popularity of the MD/MBA degree, noting how “the number of joint MD/MBA programs in America has grown from six to 65 in 20 years,” with “more than half of MD/MBA programs started after the year 2000.”

 

The MD/MBA dual degree closes several gaps in traditional medical education. In 2018, Harvard Business Review reflected on the importance of leadership training for doctors.  Another study published in the same year concluded that “the quality of medical leadership has led to variations between different organizations, as well as occasional catastrophic failure in the standard of care provided for patients.”

The importance of an MD/MBA degree has also been revealed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since its first reported cases, patient health and population health have been studied together and forums have hosted dialogues between health advisors and business experts.

In this article, we will explain the practical and educational value of an MD/MBA degree, discuss its career benefits, and list the top universities offering the MD/MPH degree. Finally, we will provide ambitious students with tips on getting accepted. 

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What Is an MD/MBA Degree?

Top MD/MBA programs usually offer students an integrated curriculum, business and medicine sometimes woven together, rather than simply having students complete two curriculums back-to-back. 

For example, all medical students at Johns Hopkins are required to complete its Scholarly Concentration program, where students develop their own individualized research project. Students enrolled in the MD/MBA program at Johns Hopkins have an additional condition: their proposed project must be “business oriented” and should “apply to the dual degree.”

The medical and business curriculums are joined together for students who want to learn about the merits of a business education as doctors and the merits of a medical education as business professionals. It is this combination that makes leadership one of the essential skills of the MD/MBA dual degree. Harvard conceived its MD/MBA program for “the critical need for leaders educated in the intellectual disciplines and practices of medicine and management.” 

After rigorous training, the dual degree will equip graduating medical students to manage the flux of patients coming in and out of hospital wards or their future private clinics. Not only that, it also enables students to successfully run large organizations or enterprises in the health sector.

The growing reliance of healthcare on artificial intelligence and augmented reality requires medical professionals who understand the shifting trends in entrepreneurship and tech cultures. A start up in the field of medical technology might be reluctant to hire a recent medical graduate who has never taken a course in data management. An MD/MBA graduate would have the required business background to understand the vision and strategies of social enterprises delivering AI-powered solutions to specific medical issues.

The quantitative side of the MBA component could also speak to the humanitarian side of aspiring medical doctors. The drive to make an impact in the world can be carried over in the business part of an MD/MBA program. 

Medical students are able to pair their sense of community with rigorous training in accounting practices, statistics, and financial literacy. Ultimately, they will be able to find ways to reduce costs to patients while improving quality – making healthcare more accessible and open to all.

An additional advantage to the MD/MBA degree helps MD students venture outside their medical bubble and network with students, faculty members, and guest speakers from the tech and business world. 

For example, the University of Pennsylvania introduces its MD/MBA students to its famous PennHealthX events, which discuss together “healthcare management, entrepreneurship, and technology.” This interdisciplinary forum also invites students to its “Tech and Tacos nights” and “to the weekend-long PennApps Health hackathon,” a staple occasion for Pennsylvania’s tech lovers.  

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Career Outlook, Education, and Salary

An MD/MBA degree opens up great career prospects for medical doctors. From heading insurance companies and managing hospitals to using technology to change the way we access healthcare, there are several career options for prospective students considering the dual degree.  

We compiled a list of ten medical doctors with additional MBA credentials. Those additional credentials either secured them leading medical positions in the private or public sector or compelled them to start their own health-related venture.

Table outlining the names, jobs, and alma maters of 10 MD/MBA graduates

Sources: Alina Neuberger, Joshua Riff, Priya Kamani, Geeta Nayyar, Rahul Sharma, Laura Esserman, Erwin Hass, Andrew Blauvelt, Simon Lin, Abe Malkin

This list of leaders shows us that an MD/MBA degree expands the career prospects of medical practitioners. An MD/MBA dual degree enabled these experts to either be in charge of the medical needs of large business conglomerates (i.e. Target and CVS) or to use their business understanding of data and technology for the medical field.

Salaries are also higher for MD/MBA holders, especially in the past ten years. A 2010 survey reported “an average salary of $325,000 for the MD/MBA graduates” with the four highest earners “making more than $600,000 a year” in venture capital and nonclinical careers.

Moreover, a 2014 report by the New York Times showed how “the base pay of insurance executives, hospital executives and even hospital administrators often far outstrips doctors’ salaries.”

The figures cited in the report include on average:

These annual incomes are significantly higher than the average salary reported for a surgeon ($306,000) and a general doctor ($185,000).

Top MD/MBA Programs

Some MD/MBA degrees offer a stronger medical curriculum than its business counterpart, or vice versa. We compiled a list of five universities whose medical and business schools are equally excellent.

Stanford University

Stanford University’s MD/MBA program is arguably the best dual degree in the United States. It ranks 4th in Best Medical Schools: Research and 1st in Best Business Schools according to US News’ 2022 Rankings.

Akhilesh Pathipati, who completed both degrees in 2018, acknowledged how “medical schools provide excellent training on how to recognize and manage disease, but students graduate with little knowledge of the health-care system.” He also noted how Stanford’s courses in statistics would help medical practitioners evaluate the likelihood of different surgical outcomes. 

After graduating, Akhilesh Pathipati joined MVM Partners, a global investor in “medical technology, pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, contract research and manufacturing, digital health, and other sectors of healthcare.”

Harvard University

Harvard University’s MD/MBA program is a close runner-up when it comes to combining medical and business education. According to US News’ 2022 rankings, Harvard ranked 1st in Best Medical Schools: Research and 5th in Best Business Schools. 

Sofia Warner, who was enrolled in the dual degree in 2016, reported how the program helped her gain “clinical insight combined with effective leadership skills and an understanding of the broader healthcare market.” In her research, she connected her studies of C-Sections in her medical program with her research into the financial costs of childbirths in the business curriculum. 

After graduating, Sofia Warner co-founded Elektra Labs, “a healthcare company advancing remote patient monitoring by enabling the safe and effective use of connected biosensors at home.”

Columbia University

Columbia University’s MD/MBA program is also a great place to reap the fruits of both domains. Columbia is ranked 4th in Best Medical Schools: Research and 7th in Best Business Schools according to US News’ 2022 Rankings. 

Julia Iyasere, who completed the dual degree in 2008, described how it was during the dual program, along with subsequent work in graduate medical education, that she “really started to see the other side of the healthcare system and was exposed to the administrative part of the healthcare system.” 

Currently, Julia Iyasere is the Executive Director of the Dalio Center for Health Justice at New York – Presbyterian, where she leads “the Center’s efforts to address longstanding health disparities due to race, socio-economic differences, limited access to care, and other complex factors that impact the wellbeing of our communities disproportionately.”

New York University 

Ranked 2nd in Best Medical Schools: Research and 10th in Best Business Schools according to US News’ 2022 Rankings, New York University’s MD/MBA program is an excellent option for prospective students looking to receive two prestigious degrees. 

Max Colbert, currently enrolled in his fourth year of the dual degree, is using his NYU education to understand the “intersection of clinical ophthalmology and the biotech/pharmaceutical industry.” He is also working for an ophthalmic device startup, AI Optics, which aims to “prevent blindness with the power of AI.”

University of Pennsylvania 

The University of Pennsylvania’s MD/MBA program is also an attractive option for students looking to combine medicine and management. UPenn is ranked 9th in Best Medical Schools: Research and 2nd in Best Business Schools according to US News’ 2022 Rankings. 

David Mui, currently enrolled in the dual degree, is seeking through his studies “to combine interest in digital health, global health, education and technology to disrupt healthcare access and delivery.” 

In parallel with his medical and business education, he serves as a Venture Fellow at DigitalDx Ventures, an “impact fund comprised of a team of successful Silicon Valley digital health investors, medical and legal professionals leveraging AI and big data technologies to diagnose major global health issues.”

How to Get into MD/MBA Programs 

Compared to regular medical programs, an application to an MD/MBA degree requires prospective students to select a narrower framework to their personal statement and a more in-depth exploration of their academic interests.

Show Your Global Understanding

In an MD/MBA degree, local healthcare systems cannot be properly understood without viewing how health is accessed around the world. Students are expected to understand healthcare within the larger framework of globalization. The dual degree is ideal for worldly students who can cater their leadership approach to differences between cultures around the world. 

An essential course in Northwestern’s MD/MBA experiential unit catalogue is Medical Technologies in Developing Countries, which includes market research trips “in India, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi and Zambia, each with a focus on medical technologies such as HIV tests, tuberculosis tests, and neonatal devices for small and sick newborns.” 

Given the international nature of the business components in MD/MBA programs, applicants should seek to showcase skills and experiences that would equip them to rise as global leaders. Applicants might briefly mention their fluency in foreign languages in their medical school applications. Those competing for an MD/MBA program, however, should further elaborate on how these language skills can help them understand the global nature of healthcare.

Showcase Your Interest In Communication 

Communication is an essential skill for medical professionals dealing with patients from a diverse range of backgrounds. Similarly, communication is valuable for life sciences companies that have to tailor their communications to a range of demographics and audiences at a global level. 

MD/MBA programs are therefore interested in medical students with an interest in communication as a quantifiable science. For example, at Northwestern, medical students simultaneously enrolled in the Healthcare at Kellog Pathway, will benefit from the prestigious business school’s courses in Biomedical Marketing and Pharmaceutical Strategy. 

Applicants need to convince MD/MBA programs that they have already acquired essential notions in communication to succeed in these business-oriented pathways too. For example, whereas a medical student would highlight how volunteering for the Red Cross helped their medical understanding, an MD/MBA applicant would also share what the Red Cross taught them about diverging communication practices in community care.

Demonstrate Your Skills In Data Analysis

Data is indeed a salient feature in the work undertaken by MD/MBA holders. For example, Living Matrix, a company that MD/MBA graduate Priya Kamani, founded, “established itself as the fastest growing patient information management system for Functional Medicine, the first and largest network of Functional Medicine practitioners, and the world’s largest and most robust database of Functional Medicine cases.” 

Likewise, Simon Lin’s work at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital aims to “utilize electronic health records (EHRs) and health information technology (HIT) to improve safety, quality, outcomes and effectiveness.” As Chief Information Officer at a hospital, he reaps the fruits of both his medical training and the data work he carried out during his MBA program. 

Applicants should therefore connect their interest in data with their aspirations to becoming a medical doctor. For example, a prospective student who had taken a course in biostatistics during their undergraduate degree can capitalize on how it helped them understand healthcare’s increasing need for medical professionals who can make sense of statistical information.  

FAQs

1. Will I need to study for both the MCAT and the GMAT? 

It depends on the university you’re applying to. Johns Hopkins University only requires an MCAT score for prospective students interested in their MD/MBA program. Prospective Perelman medical students, however, would need to submit GMAT or GRE scores to enter Wharton. 

In case you are struggling with the GMAT, make sure to check Inspira Futures’ definitive guide on improving one’s scores.  

2. Do I have to apply to both degrees at the same time? 

Medical students can often apply to enter the MBA program in their home university after matriculation. For example, Johns Hopkins University allows students to start with the MBA program and then progress to medical school (as long as they are accepted in both programs). Alternatively, they can start as medical students and consider applying to the MBA program during their medical studies. 

But these options depend on the university. At Tufts University, it is not possible to enter either program in one’s second year.

3. What would my summers look like? 

Summer is an important period for medical and business alike. MD students usually take up clinical rotations, sometimes in another university, whereas MBA students profit from the break to intern at a company. 

MD/MBA programs are usually flexible when it comes to how students plan out their summers. The University of Pennsylvania reports how most of their MD/MBA students opt for a business internship during the summer between year four and five – but there have been students who preferred to dedicate that time to further their medical education.

4. I love the idea of the dual degree but I don’t think I can afford a 5th year of schooling. What are my options? 

Students who are unsure about whether they can squeeze an extra year of MBA studies during medical school can look for dual degrees that can be completed in the regular four-year medical education timeline. For example, candidates of the MD/MBA degree at Tufts University can complete both degrees in four years.  

5. I have the freedom to choose when to work for my MBA requirement during medical school. In what year should I switch from medicine to business? 

It depends on the student’s priorities. For example, Dartmouth encourages “students to begin the MBA after year 3 so that they have the experience of clinical medicine to take with them to Tuck.” However, students aiming to work long-term in business might want to consider keeping their MBA degree till the end to profit from its internship component.  

6. Does an MD/MBA degree save you money? 

Compared to the costs involved with students enrolling in MBA programs long after finishing their medical education, MD/MBA degrees can be cost effective. Prestigious MBA programs charge two years of tuition fees, whereas five-year MD/MBA programs see that amount slashed in half, “representing a savings of one year compared to the length of time required to earn the two degrees separately” as New York University has suggested about its own dual degree.

Final Thoughts

An MD/MBA degree is a great option for ambitious students who wish to tackle the next challenges in healthcare with a sense of innovation. Most importantly, the dual degree helps medical students develop leadership skills, which remains lacking in traditional medical education.

Prospective students who appreciate these leadership skills but feel uneasy about other components inherent to an MBA degree should consider the Medical Doctor/Master in Public Health dual degree. Make sure to check Inspira Advantage’s definitive guide on the MD/MPH degree.

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