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Why Get an MBA During Medical School?

By Shane Burke

I am more than half way through a combined MD/MBA program.  Because I frequently get emails from prospective students asking me about our program, I thought I would share some general advice for students considering a combined MD/MBA program in a more public form.  Here are the three most important points to consider before applying to combined MD/MBA degree program.

First, I always tell people to only go for a combined degree if they have a good reason for doing so. My own reason to pursue the MD/MBA degree was related to personal experience. Without going into too much detail, my mom suffered from health problems when I was growing up and she struggled to afford adequate heath care because, at that point, heath insurance companies could deny patients with pre-existing conditions. My mother was effectively priced out of the insurance market and was forced to pay her doctor bills with credit cards. Fortunately for our family, however, things changed when my dad got a new job with excellent health benefits. I am happy to report that my mom is now much improved, however, nearly 15 years later, my parents are just now getting out of the debt form that legacy.

Thus the reason I personally decided to pursue the MD/MBA degree was because I wanted to be the sort of doctor who could truly advocate for patients, like my own mother, who needed affordable health care.  I wanted a greater understanding of the overall health care system, so that I could help patients navigate through it. While it might not require an MD degree to learn this, I have found that few of my peers outside of the degree program have the same depth of understanding about these types of issues as I have.

The next thing to consider is what medical specialty you want to go into. When entering medical school, you don’t need to have your mind made up about what specialty you are going to pursue (and if you do, that will probably change). But for those rare few who know exactly what they want to do, especially those want to pursue a competitive specialty, it may be best to avoid the combined degree program. After all, it is a second degree with its own additional work that will require the investing of time away from your medical studies.

So for you future dermatologists / radiologists / ophthalmologists / urologists / plastic surgeons / orthopedic surgeons / neurosurgeons, definitely take this decision seriously.  Make sure that you would really be happy having an MBA instead of entering your preferred specialty, as you may not be able to have both. Despite the positives enumerated above, this blunt advice is something that I wish I had when I started this journey.

Lastly, don’t do it for the money! This may sound counter-intuitive because an MBA is all about managing money, right?  True, but the MD comes first in the title “MD, MBA.”  The MD supersedes everything. I believe that if you go through the trouble of going to medical school, a significant amount of your career should be spent being a doctor and seeing patients. If you have aspirations of starting a company and running it to an IPO, it’s un-realistic to think that you could have a thriving practice. If you’re this person, I’d encourage you to ask yourself if you really need an MD to do achieve your goals. It may be best for you to go straight to traditional business school. You’d be stealing a spot in medical school from someone that really wants it and you would also be wasting a lot of time and money on a skillset that won’t benefit you in the future.

I hope this post had some helpful insights into pursuing an MBA during medical school. Are you in a combined degree program and thought I left something important out? Maybe you’re an applicant still on the fence about taking the leap? Whatever, the case, I’d love to hear your thoughts – shoot me an email! As a bonus, to help you figure out how competitive you’re chosen specialty is, check out the following links.



If you’re viewing this in the future, be sure to look for a more updated version with a quick Google search. Enjoy!




Shane Burke

Originally from Surfside, CA, Shane moved to Boston for medical school. He is currently a 4th year medical student in the research concentration and combined MD/MBA programs at Tufts University School of Medicine. His undergraduate degree in Neurobiology at UC Irvine inspired him to pursue a career in neurosurgery. Being a senior medical student, he contributes to ProspectiveDoctor.com as a staff writer. With a business and technical background, he also provides strategic advising to the operations team. Shane enjoys mentoring underclassmen and was drawn to ProspectiveDoctor.com because of its mission to provide such resources within a supportive online community. Fun fact: Shane had never seen snow before moving to Boston

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