These days, doctors may need to know about more than just medicine to begin their careers.

The myriad challenges of running a practice, managing insurance costs and ensuring drug safety may require some business acumen as well.

To fill that need, the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management and College of Medicine will team up to offer a five-year, dual medical doctorate and business management degree program beginning next year.

For the university’s MD-MBA program, students will spend the first two years of medical school focusing on medicine but then shift to business training in finance, marketing, accounting and leadership development for Year 3 of their schooling.

In their fourth year, students will begin clinical rotations. In their fifth and final year in the program, they will take a mix of business courses and complete their clinical training.

Combining the disciplines will allow medical students to complete their coursework in five years, instead of the six years normally allotted for medical school.

“Each year, physicians contact us about pursuing an MBA education,” said Brent Chrite, associate dean and director of the Eller MBA program. “The problem they have is juggling a rigorous MBA course load with an already busy medical practice.”

The Eller School already offers similar business management training for students in the university’s pharmacy, law, engineering, optical sciences, international management, finance and science programs.

Start-up costs for even a small primary care practice can run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the magazine Medical Economics, which covers the business of medicine. The costs of insuring the business and for malpractice insurance for doctors can be exorbitant as well.

Administrative rules, regulations and other matters only add to the confusion doctors can face when they strike out on their own.

Adding business training into medical school coursework may seem to make sense, but it’s not easy, according to Philip Malan, vice dean of academic affairs at the College of Medicine.

“The challenge for any medical school is finding time to incorporate business skills into a curriculum that places so many demands on medical students,” Malan said.

The new MD-MBA program, which is open only to second- or third-year medical students, will include business field training and the opportunity for an independent study of health-related issues or health care entrepreneurship projects.

“Modern medicine is run like a business, so communication and leadership are crucial,” said Dr. Francisco Arabia, an Eller alum and surgical director of the heart transplant program of the Mayo Clinic Arizona in Phoenix. “The MBA has not only helped me to read a financial statement and understand it, it has also enabled me to understand the needs of other health care providers.”


WHAT: New dual-degree program for medical students offered by University of Arizona’s Eller School of Management and College of Medicine

DETAILS: The five-year program equips students with medical and business degrees. The first two years focus on medical work, the third year focuses exclusively on business training, the fourth year involves clinical rotations, and the final year combines business elective and remaining medical work.



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