Monday, September 8, 2008

MD to MBA: How did that Happen?

Many people that I meet find it hard to understand why a doctor would postpone finishing training to complete an MBA. In fact, many of my colleagues were skeptical of my reasons for opting to go to Ivey. I think that many of them thought that I would never return to my training program after graduation (but today was my first day back...and it felt good).

I needed to have an eye operation when I started residency. I didn’t know how long it would take to recover my sight after it, and so I thought it would be the perfect time to complete a master degree (now almost a prerequisite to getting an academic position in medicine in Canada). I thought very seriously about a Master of Education (M.Ed.) but upon telling my program director and mentor about my interests in a yearly review he offhandedly said, ‘Why don’t you do an MBA?’

That gave me some food for thought. I immediately started to do some research on MBA programs and found that many were 2 years long. Those wouldn’t fit with my schedule. Ivey had a one year health sector program. I remembered that a medical school professor, Kellie Leitch, was cross-appointed at Ivey. She talked to me about the program and its utility in practice and I was sold. A year before I started I studied for the GMAT while listening for Code Blue to be called in St. Boniface Hospital. Having successfully completed the test I spoke with 2 members of the Ivey interview team, and found out that I was accepted.

In producing a poster for the annual meeting of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons last year I found that the reason American physicians are going to business school is primarily to regain control of their work life. For me the MBA has given me a different perspective on the problems facing the Canadian Healthcare System. It has strengthened my resolve to be part of the solution.

And after today it turns out that I also just like working in the system. For all the complaints that surface there is a fulfillment that working in healthcare gives that keeps me going. It even makes the 5:30 mornings worth it.


Kishore Visvanathan said...

You got it right, Jesse. If I would have known what I know now (17 years into a career in urology), I would have done what you did: MBA during residency training. Medical administrative work can be extremely rewarding. Working to improve the system leverages our effort to help many patients at once, rather than the one patient at a time we help with clinical work.

We'll get so much more accomplished "from the inside" rather than sitting in the surgeon's lounge griping about administrators/bureaucrats who "just don't get it." An MD/MBA who's committed to improving the system for our patients is a powerful bridge between clinicians and administrators, with credibility in both camps.

I'm sure you'll be fully committed to the remainder of your residency training, but i look forward to reading about how you apply your MBA training to your residency experience.

Also, you may be interested in looking at how our urology clinic has been implementing Clinical Practice Redesign. It's on our blog "Adventures in Improving Access" the the Saskatchewan Health Quality Council website.

All the best.

Kishore Visvanathan
Plain Brown Wrapper

Dr. Jesse Shantz said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence Kishore. I just had one of those conversations you eluded to in the OR lounge today. They happen almost daily which means that there is some energy to talk about improving care and some ideas. A lot of time the implementation and incentive is what's lacking.

I'm looking forward to reporting more on the perspectives that my training have given me in future posts. I also hope to make some comments on emerging trends in Health 2.0, a subject that I have become very interested in. I'm sure you'll share my enthusiasm given your blogging!