The benefits run both ways: Chandler says that earning an M.D. may help make business-minded people more careful and compassionate. Businesses who hire M.D./M.B.A.s tell her that these graduates are “ethical businessmen” who use the medical creed to influence their actions in the business world.
Unlike medicine, where applying for jobs can be a slow and methodical process, the business world can present unexpected opportunities. In his second year of residency, Jain got a phone call asking him to work at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As he worked to improve nationwide policy and implement the Affordable Care and HITECH Acts, said Jain, “my M.B.A. was used every day we were building new organizations, hiring new talent, and thinking about strategy.” Now that he’s the first chief medical information and innovation officer at Merck, Jain still sees patients at the Boston VA medical center and is a lecturer of health policy at HMS, is affiliated with the research institute at HBS. He also launched a journal focused on healthcare delivery and innovation.
Chandler, too, says leadership opportunities have appeared for her at every turn. She found herself launching the new M.D./M.B.A. program at UC Irvine in 1997—which started with one student—when she inquired about how to encourage medical students to pursue the school’s M.B.A. degree. In addition, Chandler oversees nine nonprofit clinics in Los Angeles County.
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Practicing medicine requires passing through a series of sequential gates: medical school, board certification exams, residency, fellowships, and re-certification. Many successful M.D./M.B.A.s warn against straying from this path. “Clinical credibility matters,” said Jain. “A lot of folks will get off the path, do the M.D./M.B.A., leave, and don’t do residencies. I think it’s a huge mistake. Having completed a clinical residency has enabled me to practice clinical medicine, which is so important and so relevant to my ability to understand what the systemic problems are in the delivery of healthcare that need solutions.”
According to a study published in June 2014 that surveyed Wharton M.D./M.B.A. graduates from 1981 to 2010, 29 of 148 respondents (about 20 percent of respondents) did not enter residency. The same study showed that recent graduates of the program have entered residency at slightly lower rates than older alumni.
Fisayo Ositelu, who works on consumer health insights at NerdWallet, decided not to do a clinical residency when he graduated with his M.D./M.B.A. from Stanford. “I’ve always wanted to work on a large scale versus a one-on-one basis. I think there’s a lot that can be done on a systemic level,” he said. Currently, NerdWallet’s health arm is focused on helping consumers reduce their medical bills.
Evan Rachlin, currently working in healthcare venture capital at Bain Capital Ventures, chose not to do a clinical residency when he graduated from Harvard’s joint degree program. When the time came to apply, he felt that there was little point in practicing at a hospital for just a few years and then leaving the clinical setting altogether. “It forced my decision between clinical care and business earlier, because I knew I didn’t want to leave clinical medicine right after doing a residency,” he said. In the end, he decided to go straight into the business world. He worked at McKinsey as a healthcare consultant, calling the experience “in many ways a business residency. They have an enormous number of doctors. My first case there, everyone on the team was either a Ph.D. or an M.D.” Now, at Bain, Rachlin and his team talk to 500 healthcare startups a year to determine where to place multimillion dollar investments.