I’m often asked whether physicians aspiring to leadership roles need to have an MBA or other advanced degree. The short answer is, like so many things, it depends.
Let me use my situation as an example. I was interested in management (the business of medicine), but had only been out of my residency for about five years. As a young female physician in the new specialty of emergency medicine in 1982, I didn’t have much credibility. Despite doing committee work in the medical staff and in my own group of ED docs, no one seemed very interested in moving me into leadership positions. I believed that in order to have a better understanding of the business of medicine and to distinguish myself from the older, “wiser” doctors I needed an advanced degree to go farther in medical management.
If you are thinking about a full-time job in high level management in a large organization, such as CMO of a system or VPMA of a large hospital, you will need a degree in business or a related field such as public health or medical management. One exception occurs if you have already been doing this work without an advanced degree and have a strong track record of successes.
Working as a high level full-time physician executive means you will be the medical expert in a senior leaders group. If you are unable to understand the finances, strategy, marketing, cost benefit analyses and organizational budgeting you can easily be left out of the loops in which you need to have a voice.
On the other hand, if you are considering part-time executive work not in the C-suite, such as Medical Director of a provider group, you can learn as you go. It is still a good idea to take online or in person seminars and classes in the above topics. If you find you like it and have an aptitude for the content, you may decide to go further.
Barbara LeTourneau, MD, MBA – Senior Consultant, the Greenley Company