Sunday, February 13, 2011

Some Insights on being an MD/MBA Graduate Part 3: I've graduated and matched, now what?

Author: Riley Alexander, MD, MBA

I made sure and titled this "graduated and matched" because if you didn't go through the match, you've most likely made the decision to go the non-clinical route and this post will have much less relevance to you. (Dr. Kim has already addressed multiple pathways involved in that route so just peruse the blog for some great material on that, if you're interested).

As a first year resident, I think the initial time after graduation and starting residency has been one of the more difficult parts of being an MD/MBA grads--especially if you were like me and weighted most of your MBA courses towards the end of your MD/MBA training. Why is this? Well, I think the primary reason is that you've just completed this rather unique training and you're now faced with 3 or more years of residency/fellowship...3-more years where you have this fear that you will "lose everything" from your MBA training. Residency is, after all, a rigorous training environment that doesn't allow for a lot of extra-curricular activities and certainly not another full-time job.

So how have I addressed this? One of the best things I did was take advantage of the time I had off between graduation and residency. This will likely be the last time you have 2 months in a row off for the next 25 years so choosing to work during this time is not an easy one. But, if you're really interested in "getting your feet wet" in a non-clinical setting, this may be your best time. I was fortunate enough to get hired by a local healthcare consulting firm on a full-time basis during this time. This experience was invaluable. Working full-time allows you get a much better sense of how actually working in a non-clinical setting is and if you'll like it. It also allows you to learn how the business setting you're in much better than if you were just exposed on a part-time or after-hours basis. I know something like this may not be easy to find with the limited time-frame, but if you're really interested in doing it, try asking around and put some feelers out there and remember it will only be for two months--don't let what you get paid influence you too much. Many employers would be thrilled to have a recently minted MD/MBA on for a couple of months who is more interested in learning than making money. It may even provide for some part-time or non-clinical moonlighting opportunities during residency.

Starting residency provides its own obstacles. One of the great problems with medical education, in medical school, is how shielded we are from the business aspects of medicine...and probably one of the reasons many of us MD/MBAs decided to pursue the joint degree. Unfortunately, residency doesn't improve on this much at all. This will vary from program to program, but my experience with colleagues is that this variation is mostly from none to marginal. Even my residency, pathology, which requires some laboratory management training, pushes it to the side as much as possible. This is where I have found that personal initiative is once again of greatest importance.

You may think that your staff knows that you're the MD/MBA of the group and the "business type," but once you start, you'll most likely just be intern/resident X and almost no one will know you completed an MBA without you telling them. Considering most residencies are in an academic setting, many staff still won't care, but it will pay to find those that do. Approach your staff that have a leadership position within the program and inquire about doing business/management related projects with them or getting involved with the process. If you're the first MD/MBA your program has had, many in this position will probably be delighted to have someone interested in something that consumes a large part of their time...and surprised that a resident has approached them about it. Depending on what residency you're in, time may be very limited, but at least trying to get involved will help you stave off that fear that you're "wasting" your MBA education.

Other ways to stay active are getting involved in societies and local business meetings. Your local business school will likely sponsor open meetings and if you're training at your home program, you'll have alumni privileges.

As a first-year resident, this section of my posts is still one that I'm not an expert on addressing so forgive it's lack of breadth and completeness. If any more senior MD/MBAs have comments to contribute to this topic, they would be much appreciated (especially by me).

I hope to keep you all up to date on ways I find to apply the MBA during residency in my training and am always looking for new avenues to explore so suggestions are definitely welcome. If I'm lucky, "Part 4" of this topic on "being an MD/MBA in residency" will be more like "parts 4.1, 4.2, etc" so I can provide some experiences along the way.

About the author:

Dr. Riley Alexander is a pathology resident at Indiana University School of Medicine, blog "addict" and avid follower of technology. His primary interests revolve around how technology, especially mobile, will create increased efficiency, enhanced physician education and better delivery of care in the medical field. Dr. Alexander is a graduate of Indiana University School of Medicine with a combined MD/MBA, in partnership with IU's Kelley School of Business. Due to this, he is also very interested in management, healthcare policy and non-clinical aspects of the medical field and enjoys exploring non-clinical opportunities for medical students, residents and physicians. He completed his undergraduate education at IU-Bloomington.


  1. Great advice Dr. Alexander! As an MD/MBA student just finishing up my full-time year in business school and getting ready to begin my clinical clerkships, it's definitely helpful to get insight into the years ahead.

  2. Really glad to hear you enjoyed the posts, Mike. Best of luck to you on your clinical clerkships!