The Atlantic

The Rise of the M.D./M.B.A. Degree

At a time when many of healthcare's greatest challenges are business problems, more and more doctors are adding three extra letters after their names.
Source: Regis Duvignau / Reuters

For David Gellis, the spark came during a class in college on health policy in America. He had known he wanted to become a doctor, but he was looking for a way to contribute to systemic change in healthcare. His professor at the time was Donald Berwick, who later headed the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services and made a bid this year to be the Democratic candidate for governor of Massachusetts on a platform that includes single payer healthcare. Berwick’s class inspired Gellis to think more about the business skills needed in healthcare.

Gellis decided he wanted to apply business skills specifically to primary care, and he applied to Harvard Medical School and Harvard Business School simultaneously. By the time he began his residency in internal medicine, he’d completed both degrees and had caught the attention of Iora Health, an innovative primary care practice that was planning to start up in a few cities around the country. When he finished his residency three years later, the company hired him as a primary care provider. Half a year later, he is helping to lead their Brooklyn practice.

“I have an actual management title and responsibilities, which is pretty crazy six months out of residency,” said Gellis.

According to Maria Chandler, who is president of the Association of M.D./M.B.A. Programs and herself a recipient of both degrees, the degree combination “fast tracks” graduates up the career ladder. The current nominee for surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, holds both degrees, has multiple organizations, and is only 36 years old.

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