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MBA Programs

From Indiana, an MBA Prescribed for Doctors

From Indiana, an MBA Prescribed for Doctors

Photograph by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

When it comes to the health-care industry, Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business is trying to innovate with a new MBA aimed at midcareer physicians. One goal: Help doctors figure out how to curb their industry’s soaring costs.

“Government and employers are noticing that we can’t sustain the cost of health care,” says Vicki Smith-Daniels, faculty chair of graduate business programs in medicine at Kelley.

The idea behind the program, which starts in September, is that doctors can no longer leave the business aspect of their jobs to the finance guys while maintaining their integrity as healers. “For health care to be better, doctors must lead the change. Nobody else can,” says Anthony Sabatino, an MD who specializes in interventional spine medicine in Carmel, Ind., and plans to enroll in the program. “But we must also remain patient advocates.”

Unlike most MD-MBA programs, in which aspiring doctors take classes in the university’s medical and business schools, the Business of Medicine MBA is only for currently practicing doctors who are around 40 to 55 years old and are taking on greater accountability for patient outcomes and costs. Some doctors who would be right for this program include those moving into senior leadership roles or those dealing with governance in a hospital, such as serving on a committee to evaluate medical technologies, says Smith-Daniels.

The school will conduct half the program online and half the program on campus. Face time will happen one weekend per month in Indianapolis. For now, about 30 students will join the program, but the school will never have more than 40 enrolled at a time, Smith-Daniels says. To create the curriculum, the school consulted more than 76 health-care insiders to find out what leaders in the industry need to know.

Because all the students are physicians, the entire curriculum is specific to their work. The first course of the program lays out policy changes as a result of the Affordable Care Act and the different models for delivering care. There are three required courses that will have teams of physicians competing to devise solutions for an actual problem an organization in the industry is facing.

Even MBA core courses will have a medical bent. For example, the accounting course will expose doctors to how other industries measure the cost of products and services, because most industry insiders griped that the cost of patient care is not well defined in the health-care industry, says Smith-Daniels. The goal, she adds, is to help physicians come up with plans for providing better, yet more affordable, care to patients.

Still, tuition is skyrocketing just about as much as health-care costs, so the price tag for this education was also a consideration when planning the program, Smith-Daniels explains. The two-year program is $58,395 and priced below the University of Tennessee’s one-year Physician Executive MBA program, an industry model for this kind of doctor-only business school program, which costs $74,000. Executive MBA programs, which are targeted at more senior executives and are in many cases paid for by the executives’ companies, typically cost more than standard MBAs.

The Kelley School is planning to offer graduate certificate programs for people other than physicians and will address the changes in health care that are still to come, says Smith-Daniels.

Meantime, doctors planning to participate in the Business of Medicine MBA are gearing up for the fall. Sabatino says he sees this degree as the first step in keeping his patients a top priority amid all the changes transforming the health-care industry.

“Patient advocacy goes further than the clinical doctor/patient relationship,” he says. “We have to be able to educate our patients and help them go through the big ball of wax, for lack of a better term, presented to them.”

Join the discussion on the Bloomberg Businessweek Business School Forum, visit us on Facebook, and follow @BWbschools on Twitter.

Di Meglio is a reporter for in Fort Lee, N.J.

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