Cornell’s New Dual-Degree Healthcare Option

Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

In the nearly four years that Beta Mannix has led Executive MBA programs at Cornell’s Johnson School, she has had her eye on an unmistakeable trend. Just about every year, the contingent of students who are physicans and health care professionals seems to grow. They come from private practices, hospital systems, pharma companies, surgical device makers, and consulting firms specializing in healthcare.

“We seem to get more and more every year,” says Mannix, associate dean for EMBA programs. “They’re all looking for a background in business. They really want to have a seat at the table.”

Enter a new, unique offering from Cornell University: a two-year Executive MBA/M.S. Healthcare Leadership program that will enroll its first class in August with some 45 expected students. Each of them will not only get an MBA from Johnson, but also a Master of Science degree from the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences. The program will focus on health care throughout the United States, in particular health care systems that are experiencing vast changes in structure, payment and regulatory requirements.


It won’t be cheap. The initial price tag is $148,696, though other existing Ivy League options aren’t all that inexpensive, either. Yale University’s School of Management has a healthcare focused Executive MBA program which brings in experts from Yale’s School of Medicine and the School of Public Health, also with a capstone course structured around major healthcare challenges. It costs more at $167,000. Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business and The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice has an 18-month hybrid program that grants a master of Health Care Delivery Science, requiring 15 hours a week of online study. The cost: Roughly $103,000.

What makes the Cornell program unique is that the program confers two degrees, not just one. The program will kick off in New York City, where Cornell is expected to open its new campus on Roosevelt Island next year. Class sessions in New York will largely take place in the Belcher Building on the Upper East Side at 69th and York, where Weill Cornell Medicine has a facility. Over a period of 20 months, on alternating Saturdays and Sundays, students will gather at Weill to learn the business basics and how they converge—in good and sometimes bad ways—on the healthcare industry. The program also will feature four residential sessions that range in length from a full week to four days. Two of them will be hosted on Cornell’s main campus in Ithaca, N.Y., with two in New York City.

The big challenge: How to squeeze two master’s degrees into an every other weekend program? The schools are rearranged some courses and adding customer coursework as well. “Both programs have core classes that we were committed to keeping,” explains Mannix. “The way we made a little bit of move is to take a course such as negotiation—which is core to the Johnson EMBA program—and make it an elective. You will have to work pretty hard, but it is still the same number of hours in our EMBA program.”


Mannix says a recently hired faculty member with both an MD and a PhD is developing a healthcare leadership and strategy course, while a project-related capstone course also will allow students to work on a healthcare challenge with a faculty advisor. The capstone project is a six-month intensive team engagement with a health care organization facing specific management challenges. At the conclusion of the engagement, the student teams will provide the organizations with a detailed plan recommending strategies for resolving their challenges. A short menu of electives also will be available from both Johnson and Weill.

“It’s been a great partnership,” adds Mannix. “Weill was pretty excited about doing this and they have a strong interest in building the program. Many of the people in their programs on helthcare policy and infomatics were interested in business degrees. So the partnership went along fairly smoothly.”

Mark Nelson, newly installed as the new dean at Johnson, sees the program as yet another offering in an expanding menu of options from Cornell in New York. “I see this as another way to build our presence in New York in a way that benefits all of our programs,” says Nelson. “We’ve got the Cornell Tech MBA program in New York and we soon will have space on Roosevelt Island that we can use for other things.”

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