Enter the Health-Care MBA

PROGRAMS ATTRACT EVERYONE FROM DOCTORS AND NURSES TO ACTUARIES AND MARKETERS IN HEALTH CARE

The variety of students typically includes mid-career professionals: doctors, nurses, clinician leaders, physical therapists, actuaries for health insurers, health-care marketers, corporate officers from health organizations, and life-sciences professionals. “These are people earmarked for advancement. A lot are on their way to the C suite,” Milligan says. Most continue working full-time while earning their MBAs, and a number receive promotions or other job offers before they’ve finished, according to Forman.

Some organizations assemble small teams of their professionals and sponsor them in the programs. Rafael Barrera, M.D., director of surgical critical care at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, has enrolled in the Tuck program along with a group including a hospital administrator, a nurse, and another physician. “I wanted to understand how efficiently I can deliver care on a micro and macro level,” says Barrera, who already has an undergraduate degree in economics in addition to his M.D. As someone who has to discuss end-of-life decisions with patients’ relatives, he’s finding the ethics course particularly helpful. “It’s a medical, financial, and ethical dilemma,” he explains. “You’re approaching a family when it’s in despair. And you have religious and philosophical differences among the family members. In ethics class we discuss how to do this, to be soft  or blunt for always honest.”

THE TOP PROGRAMS AREN’T CHEAP

Milligan estimates that 60 to 70 percent of Tuck’s MBA students receive some sponsorship from employers. For those who don’t, it costs $90,000 for tuition and fees plus $5,000 for housing and food for the program, which consists of several weeks of on-campus learning over an 18-month period; the rest of the coursework can be done from home. The Yale MBA for Executives will run $149,100 for students who matriculate by the end of 2012 (it goes up to $152,500 in 2013), and includes tuition, books, lodging, meals, and laptops; the program takes 22 months to complete and also requires several weeks on campus.

Notable competitors in the health-care MBA space include Brown University’s Executive Master of Healthcare Leadership and the Duke MBA Health Sector Management program. Milligan also mentioned Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions, which offers similar content more geared toward undergraduates. (For medical doctors specifically, there’s also the option of an MD/MBA joint program offered by Yale and a few dozen other universities.)

Class size tends to be small. “There were 22 of us in the program, and I stay in close contact with at least 10 of them,” says Romano, who has gone on to a job as executive director of Healthright International, a Manhattan nonprofit that helps set up health and humanitarian aid systems in countries with marginalized populations.

Students also have occasion to study alongside an enrollee or two from outside traditional health-care operations roles. Michael Gregory, an investment manager with Highland Capital Management in Dallas, began the Yale program in 2006 at the same time he launched a health-care-focused investment fund.  A Wharton graduate, he praises the Yale program for fusing together science,  public policy, and finance and for its high-caliber participants: “I met people who were the architects of health-care policy advancement.” A network of contacts that should pay dividends for life.

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