Business Schools Meld Medicine with Management

Business Schools Meld Medicine with Management


Developing a robotic surgical program for a hospital in Toronto is not a traditional MBA job. However for Michelle Cleghorn, a part-time MBA student at Rotman School of Management, is it the perfect way to “have an impact” on society using novel technologies.

“Robotics is an exciting innovation — it’s the future of surgery — and it’s nice to know that I’m helping patients and improving their health and well-being, which is rewarding,” says Cleghorn, who manages strategic projects for University Health Network, the largest hospital-based research program in Canada.



Social Impact

She is not alone. Business school students are increasingly pursuing careers in healthcare, according to anecdotal evidence from schools, where they can positively improve patient care, whether working in the finance department or directly with patients. 

At Rutgers Business School in New Jersey, for example, 35% of last year’s cohort went to work in the healthcare, pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors, by far the largest contingent, says Dean Vera, director for MBA career management, citing a desire to make an “impact” as the main motivation. 

Healthcare is now among the fastest-growing industries for the recruitment of MBAs, according to the MBA Career Services and Employer Alliance, with 8% more business schools reporting increased healthcare recruiting activity last year compared with 2015.



Dual Degrees

More medical professionals are also seeking an MBA to move into executive positions, leading business schools to create more programs that meld medicine and management. For instance, the number of joint MD/MBA programs in the US has grown from six to 65 over the past two decades, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

One catalyst for the growth of interest in healthcare management education is the increasing number of challenges facing the industry. The rapidly ageing global population is placing pressure on healthcare workers whose budgets have come under strain since the financial crisis. “The industry needs more managers who can set budgets and execute a clear strategic vision,” says William Mitchell, co-academic director of the new healthcare EMBA course at Rotman.



Technological change

Another reason is the rapid rate of technological change, with more medical professionals seeking an education to get to grips with digital tools such as data analytics and wearable sensors. “There are new opportunities to use data and genomics to better allocate scarce resources to improve and extend lives,” says Brian Golden, vice-dean for MBAs at Rotman. “Strategic choices need to be made, which require good management.” 

For example, last year Cleghorn used a strategy course as part of her MBA to develop a proposal which lobbied for public funding for robotic surgery in Toronto. With the help of a professor, she explored how surgical programs could use their resources more efficiently, deliver safer care and reduce patient wait times. She is hoping for a positive result.




Academics at Michigan University’s Ross School of Business aim to help students become the next CEO of a medical practice or founder of a company at the forefront of the healthcare system’s transformation. The business school has just launched two dual degrees in conjunction with the university’s College of Pharmacy and the School of Dentistry — a Doctor of Pharmacy/MBA and Doctor of Dentistry/MBA. The business school also offers a healthcare management concentration in its regular MBA.

“We expect students to come up with an interesting new idea for a procedure, or a device to better treat patients,” says Bradley Killaly, associate dean for full-time MBA programs. “We will give them the confidence they need to pursue that idea as an entrepreneurial venture, and teach them how to get seed financing and navigate the regulatory environment.” 

For instance, Alexandra Pulst-Korenberg, a dual Michigan MD/MBA, is piloting a novel medical device — which organizes medical cords to keep them from tangling — that she developed through her student start-up, EasyIV, on campus. 

Pulst-Korenberg utilized funding from the business school’s Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurship and the engineering college’s Center for Entrepreneurship, to take her concept from ideation and sourcing to patent and prototype.

“In the future, I intend to pursue my two passions of practicing medicine and working entrepreneurially in a start-up,” she says. “Ultimately, I want to be a social entrepreneur in global health.”



Seb Murray
Written by Seb Murray

Seb is a journalist and consulting editor who has developed a successful track record writing about business, education and technology for the international press.

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