Joint M.D./MBA Program Prepares Students for the Business of Medicine - Higher Education
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Joint M.D./MBA Program Prepares Students for the Business of Medicine

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An innovative partnership between Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) and Georgia Institute of Technology’s Scheller College of Business will equip medical students with a “unique blend of skills” to successfully care for patients and manage the business operations of a medical practice.

The five-year, joint M.D./MBA program allows students to complete their business degree in one year while still enrolled in MSM’s M.D. program. Students graduating from the program have the opportunity to pursue careers at the intersections of healthcare, entrepreneurship and technology.

Dr. Maryam Alavi

“In today’s health care environment, being a great physician is not just about understanding medicine and patient care — it is increasingly important to have an understanding of the overall health care industry along with an ability to facilitate innovative thinking, demonstrate strong leadership and incorporate critical problem solving skills,” said Dr. Maryam Alavi, dean of the Scheller College of Business by email. “Tomorrow’s physician must be innovative and possess financial and managerial acumen. Our curriculum not only develops managerial and financial acumen, but also develops tech savvy, entrepreneurial mindsets.”

The joint program is established at a time where Black and other underrepresented groups make up approximately eight percent of the entire physician workforce. At MSM, a historically Black institution, Black students make up the largest group enrolled, with Asians and Hispanics following behind.

Students enrolled in the M.D. program at MSM can apply to Scheller College at any point prior to the end of their third year in the M.D. program. Once admitted to the joint program, students must complete 54 total credit hours for the MBA: 39 credit hours are specific to Scheller College and 15 credit hours from MSM can count towards the MBA elective requirements.

In addition to cultivating skillsets to establish and manage their own medical practice, graduates can also expect to gain leadership roles at health care companies, hospitals, insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, government organizations, consulting firms and more, Alavi said.

“The program’s focus on applied learning prepares each student to compete effectively in the technology-enabled health care ecosystem of the future,” she added.

The three-semester structure of the program reduces students’ cost and time spent completing the MBA degree, providing an all-encompassing experience in the field of business without interrupting a student’s career plans.

“Everything in business, we are literally learning in the first semester, so it’s definitely an immersive experience,” said Allison Rowell, one of the first two students in the program.

Rowell refers to herself and the second student, Ogechi Nwoko, as “trailblazers.”

The two students both received full fellowships, which were jointly funded by MSM and Scheller College.

“It’s been a whirlwind. It’s incredible,” Rowell told Diverse in between taking exams. “It’s pretty much everything that I wanted to get out of it.”

Rowell spent six years working as a nurse for the Grady Health System and at Piedmont Hospital before deciding to attend medical school at MSM. She said that from a nurse’s perspective, she did not initially understand why certain business decisions were being made.

“From the medical side, you just want to take care of your patients,” she said. “When I look back at my experiences, I look back and remember when I was in the front line, and now I’m learning how those business decisions were made.”

Currently, she is taking an operations management course this semester and is adjusting to the differences in learning structures – medical school is “very self-paced” with online lectures at times, she said, while courses in the MBA program are case-based and involve class discussions or group projects.

Allison Rowell

Rowell has also developed relationships with several Scheller College faculty members. Taking advantage of their “open-door” policy, she speaks with them about how her business work in the classroom will be applicable to medicine and hospital administration, she said.

After completing the MBA degree, she will return to MSM for the last year of her medical degree program with plans to pursue residency.

“There will be some time before I can actually utilize the degree from a business standpoint, but I ultimately want to go into psychiatry and have my own practice,” she said. “Having this business background will allow me to run my practice more efficiently.”

After launching dual-degree programs with other colleges at Georgia Tech, Scheller College leaders established the joint program with MSM this year, allowing students to learn at the heart of Atlanta’s Technology Square.

Alavi highlighted the significance of her college’s partnership with MSM, saying that diversity, equity and inclusion are “fundamental values” within Scheller College’s community. Officials “actively recruit, develop, engage and support a broad and diverse community of students, faculty and staff,” she said.

Rowell sees the joint M.D./MBA program as helping to increase the visibility of minority physicians entering the profession. Hoping to be a role model to younger elementary and high school students, she points to Dr. Patrice A. Harris, president-elect of the American Medical Association and a Black woman psychiatrist, as her own inspiration.

“I look at her and I see myself in that position in 15 to 20 years,” she said. “Just having that visibility, I think, will help. That’s where it has to start.”

Tiffany Pennamon can be reached at tpennamon@diverseeducation.com. You can follow her on Twitter @tiffanypennamon.

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