Doing things the MBA way

Essential business skills physicians need to know.

By Joe Capko | Feature Articles | Winter 2012


Ask a doctor why he or she decided on a career in medicine, and you might hear a mix of reasons: a yearning to help people; a keen interest in science; desire for a role that commands respect. Maybe some will even admit to wanting a potentially lucrative career that is also prestigious.

One thing you probably won’t hear, though, is a longing for a management role in a $3 trillion industry—even though that is another way to describe what being a physician means today in the U.S. health care system.

Lack of appreciation for medicine as a business—and reluctance to develop business skills—can hold new doctors back, making it harder for them to reach their primary goals of providing excellent patient care and achieving enduring career success and financial security.

“It’s a travesty that physicians do not receive a business education,” says Maria Young Chandler, M.D., MBA, associate clinical professor of pediatrics and management, University of California, Irvine and chief medical officer of The Children’s Clinic, a six-site nonprofit health center in Long Beach, Calif. “Medicine is a business. Without business skills, physicians could find themselves swimming upstream.”

After as much as 10 years of post-graduate education, though, getting an MBA may not be appealing or feasible for many young physicians. The good news is, any physician can become more conscious of the business aspects of the health care field. more »


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Careers for you in the military

By Mark Terry | Feature Articles | Summer 2011


Col. Frederick Lough, M.D., director of cardiac surgery at George Washington University Hospital

Taking care of soldiers is a huge job. “We have 4 or 5 million people, once you blend in the active duty, the reserves, the dependents and retirees,” says Frederick Lough, M.D., director of cardiac surgery at George Washington University Hospital and a colonel in the Army Reserve. “It’s an immense medical system that takes care of neonates to retirees to the actively injured in combat.”


The classic TV show and film MASH has given us a distorted view of military doctors. First, it focused on surgeons drafted into a war zone. Second, it was both comedy and anti-war satire. Third, times change, and the military changes with it: The classic Mobile Army Surgical Hospital no longer exists, having been phased out in 2006 and replaced with a smaller, more efficient system of treating battlefield casualties. And finally, physicians are no longer drafted—physicians in the military want to be there. And many want to be there because it can be a unique situation for a rewarding long-term medical career. more »


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10 signs of a well-run practice

Questions to help you decide how well a practice is run

By Teresa Odle | Feature Articles | Spring 2011 | Uncategorized


Jill Stoller, M.D., managing partner

A lot of young physicians have their eyes opened when they get into a practice that they haven't evaluated," says Jill Stoller, M.D., managing partner of Chestnut Ridge Pediatric Associates in Woodcliff Lake, N.J.

Location, location, location. Along with compensation, it’s one of the first considerations when physicians job search. But you can golf most anywhere and ski in most northern and Rocky Mountain states. Even if you return to your hometown, you might have several practice opportunities from which to choose. So don’t overlook how well a practice runs when researching places to work.

Most physicians would agree that resident programs don’t prepare physicians well for the business side of medicine. Jill Stoller, M.D., FAAP, managing partner of Chestnut Ridge Pediatric Associates in Woodcliff Lake, N.J., says there isn’t much emphasis on practice management. “But I think it may be changing a little bit,” says Stoller, who also chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Section on Administration & Practice Management. “A lot of young physicians have their eyes opened when they get into a practice that they haven’t evaluated.”

Physicians don’t better vet practices because they may lack the business savvy to do so or they run out of time. Many simply must adjust after so many years in medical school and residency. Ryan Mire, M.D., FACP, is an internal medicine physician with a multispecialty practice in Nashville, Tenn., who has been in private practice since 2002. more »


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Back to school?!

What is motivating physicians to head back for more training and additional education?

By By Cindi Myers | Feature Articles | Winter 2011



For Paul Levy, MD, pursuing an MBA helps him understand the business side of medicine—and prepares him to handle a changing professional landscape.

When Dr. Paul Levy became a heart surgeon, he thought that was enough. He’d worked hard, making it through medical school and internship and fellowships. During the next 25 years, he rose to the top of his profession as one of the senior members of the New Mexico Heart Institute, named the number-one cardiac surgeon in Albuquerque in 2010 by Albuquerque The Magazine.

But by 2009, the world of medicine was changing rapidly. What had always been enough for Levy wasn’t anymore. “I’ve been in a patient’s chest for 20 to 25 years,” Levy says. “That’s where I’ve had my head. I know I can do this job, but I realized one day it was time for me to expand my horizons. I really need to know more about what’s going on.”

Levy signed up for the University of Tennessee’s Physician Executive MBA program, or PEMBA. In doing so, he joined a growing number of physicians who’ve decided to pursue an advanced degree, like an MBA or JD, in addition to their medical diploma.

Why another degree?

The reasons physicians pursue additional degrees vary. Many, like Levy, pursue degrees as a response to the current medical climate. “You’ve got to be aware of what’s going on in health care to stay in business these days,” Levy says. “There are a lot of doctors who are frustrated. There are a lot of doctors moving toward business degrees. They’re concerned about their profession.”

Some want to expand their career options. Dr. Mike Ward, who is currently completing a two-year operations research fellowship and pursuing a master’s in quantitative analysis through the University of Cincinnati, received his M.D. and his MBA from Emory University.

“The MBA brings diversity and opportunity,” he says. “It lets individuals know what you’re interested in and capable of doing.” Ward, one of the founders of the National Association of MD/MBA Students, thinks an MBA on a physician CV opens doors for more leadership roles in clinical medicine, as well as administrative and academic positions. more »


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How to love your job

By exploring your answers to just a few questions, you can find a job and location you love.

By Andrew Harrison | Remarks | Winter 2011


For the past seven years, I have studied human motivation and careers. Part of those six years was spent traveling the country interviewing people who love their work. After 95,000 miles and 145 interviews, I have been able to learn from people of diverse backgrounds, ages and careers.

When I was asked to write this section, the first person that came to my mind was Dr. Hillary Beberman, a family medicine physician. Her journey to becoming a doctor was not a simple one. She left a well-established career as a financial journal writer to follow her passion in medicine. Although she enjoyed her writing job, something was missing. “The pay was great and I was exposed to some great things, but I wasn’t fulfilled. I asked, ‘Is this what I want to be doing for 50 years? Am I helping people?’ I wanted to make a difference. I didn’t know if being a financial journalist let me feel like I was doing that,” she told me.

The change hit her immediately. “In medical school I was very interested in the subject, and it was the goal I really wanted.”

Life did not stop during medical school and residency. Beberman lost her younger sister to cancer, got married between her second and third years, and had a baby during one residency. “Being a resident is brutal, and I didn’t know if this was for me,” she says. “There were times I was ready to quit. I couldn’t take it. I missed my newborn son. I said, ‘What am I doing, this is crazy.’”

But she pushed herself. “I almost quit, but this was my goal. I knew the pain was temporary, and in 20 years I’d look back and ask, ‘Why did I quit?’ Now I can say I’m so happy doing what I’m doing.”

There are many factors that go into loving your work. Yet you just don’t snap your fingers and have the job you love. The career equation is not that simple, but it can be solved. Here are two lessons from my book that have helped me, and others, on the career road.

Lesson 1: Find out who you are

In order to love your job, you need to understand yourself. That is easier said than done, but many times, we don’t put in the time and effort to know who we are. And that leads to us not being happy with the choices we make.

Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder’s VP of Human Resources, said, “Believe it or not, most people don’t take time to sit and think about what they want to do. We’re very much programmed to take a job to have a job. A paycheck to have a paycheck.”

The advice is to take the time and put in the effort to analyze who you are and how that ties in to your job goals.

Here are a few important questions to ask during your self-actualization process:

  • When it comes to work, what do I naturally enjoy doing?
  • What am I naturally good at?
  • What energizes me?
  • What stresses me?
  • What motivates me?
  • What annoys me?

Once you have the answers to those questions, the next step is to examine the big picture of your work environment. The answers to these questions will help shape your environmental choices:

  • Do I want to go solo, or be part of a small or big group?
  • Do I want a rural location, the suburbs or the city?
  • What type of patients do I want to work with: wealthy, middle class or those in financial need?
  • Do I want to see a high volume of patients in shorter bursts? Or work with a smaller number of patients for a longer duration?
  • What type of physician-patient culture do I want to be a part of?
  • What type of peer culture do I want to be a part of?

The more data points you can have, the better educated your decisions will be. Learn from the experiences of others. Find a physician more experienced than you. Buy him or her coffee or lunch, explain your goals, and ask for their career advice. Their stories and input will be of great benefit.


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Taking care of yourself through stressful times

By PracticeLink Staff | Web Exclusive


A lawsuit it the most professionally stressful experience physicians can encounter.

But how are you supposed to manage that stress when your lawyers tell you to talk about the case to no one, even though you desperately need to unload the anxiety?

Peter Moskowitz, M.D., is a professor of radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine, a certified coach, and founder of the Center for Professional & Personal Renewal inPalo Alto, Calif.

In PracticeLink Magazine’s article, “Surviving the Malpractice Storm,” Moskowitz says that physicians facing lawsuits need to make self-care theirprimary goal.

His advice on how to begin that is provided in this short video.


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Putting Out the Fires of Discontent

Preventing staff burnout improves morale, reduces employee turnover, and boosts the bottom line. What you must know.

By Karen Childress | Feature Articles | Summer 2009


Dr. Richard Lander values positive working relationships with his staff. Lander owns a four-physician pediatric practice in Livingston, New Jersey

Dr. Richard Lander values positive working relationships with his staff. Lander owns a four-physician pediatric practice in Livingston, New Jersey

Everyone has the occasional bad day at work. We might feel stressed about having too much to accomplish in too short a time or simply feel unmotivated to do what is right in front of us. Frustration about situations or office policies over which we have little control is common. And who hasn’t become annoyed with their co-workers from time to time? But there is a significant difference between the everyday stresses that come with the territory in any job and the syndrome known as burnout.

According to Christina Maslach, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of California Berkeley and author of several books on career burnout, the terms stress and burnout are often used interchangeably. Burnout, however, is a syndrome that consists of a unique set of three factors: exhaustion, cynicism, and negative feelings toward oneself. more »


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Five Tips to Help Your Practice Flourish

Keeping your practice healthy in rocky economic times requires more than simple money management.

By Judy Capko | Financial Fitness | January/February 2009


Growing a healthy patient base that flourishes year after year is second nature to some physicians. They just have the touch. Just as the saying goes, when the going gets tough, economically, it becomes harder to keep the practice growing.

Patients often leave a practice because of their insurance plan or now—with patients paying more of the cost for their medical care with high deductibles—they may be going to the doctor less, contributing to a sinking bottom line for some physicians.

A healthy practice depends on a steady stream of patients, but it also requires physicians to be more efficient with their resources: improving productivity and making wise investments in the practice. Lets look at some of the things you can do to keep your practice in tip-top shape. more »


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Hail to the Chief

Young physicians who lead their medical staffs sometimes fall into the role and others seek it. Regardless, they juggle clinical and administrative tasks and grow as they serve their colleagues and hospitals.

By Anayat Durrani | Feature Articles | September/October 2008


Ramsey Hasan, MD, at 37, is the youngest chief of staff in the history of Hawaii-based Castle Medical Center. "For younger physicians it's a very challenging role," he says. "As chief of staff you are expected to be the glue between the different departments and to become a great communicator."

Ramsey Hasan, MD, at 37, is the youngest chief of staff in the history of Hawaii-based Castle Medical Center. "For younger physicians it's a very challenging role," he says. "As chief of staff you are expected to be the glue between the different departments and to become a great communicator."

Throughout his career Ramsey Hasan, MD, has often been told he looked too young to be a physician. While he’s no Doogie Howser, Hasan holds an early accomplishment that would probably get a professional nod from the child prodigy doctor. Lining the halls of Hawaii-based Castle Medical Center are photographs of all the chiefs of staff who have served the hospital. Standing out among the gray-haired former chiefs is a boyish Hasan, the current—and youngest—chief of staff in the history of the hospital.

The role of chief of staff is one many doctors aspire to later in their professional careers, but anecdotally it seems doctors are stepping into it before they reach the age of 40. For Hasan, who specializes in emergency medicine, becoming chief at the age of 37 was never really on the agenda. He sort of fell into it.

“No. Never thought about it,” says Hasan. “Somebody recommended me as a nominee, and I said yes. I had no plans to run.”

There were multiple people in the running for chief at Castle in 2004, and along the way some people dropped out. In the end it was down to Hasan and a surgeon in his 50s. Once elected, Hasan served the customary two years as vice chief of staff, during which time he “learned the ropes” and then began his two-year term as chief of staff in January 2007.

“It’s at times a popularity contest, but it’s also ability and experience,” says Hasan of the election process. more »


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Leading the Way

Leadership does not necessarily come naturally; these key points will help anyone's ability

By Judy Capko | Practical Management | September/October 2008


Being an effective leader is critical for physicians as well as managers. This includes employed physicians as well as physician owners. Staff looks to the physicians for support and guidance. It’s a fact—and it affects whether staff is motivated, productive, and happy on the job!

I was recently brought into a practice where there was dissention among the employees and turnover was at an all-time high. There were a number of reasons for this, but one pointed directly at a physician that joined this three physician practice two years earlier.

Dr. Clueless had a lot to learn about dealing with staff and understanding how important it was for him to set an example. Here are just a few of the things he did that quickly demoralized this staff: more »