Mentor: Nii-Daako Darko
Hometown: Irvington, NJ
College: Lehigh University
Medical School: Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences – College of Osteopathic Medicine
Business School: Rockhurst University – Helzberg School of Management
Residency: Morehouse School of Medicine – General Surgery
Current Position: Attending, Trauma/Emergency General Surgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center – Altoona Hospital
>> Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?
Nii: Officially that decision was made 10 years ago! A lot of things have changed since then. Let’s see, I was just in my first year in medical school and really worried mostly about doing well. I wasn’t aware that physicians could be employees of hospitals, so setting up a private practice was the end all be all for me. I always had an interest in learning more about business, finances, economics (you name it..I wanted to learn it!). My thoughts were, well if I can understand the language of business, then I would be more empowered dealing with the financial aspect of my practice.
>> In your opinion, what are the greatest advantages of having dual degrees?
Nii: I think there a numerous advantages to getting a dual degree especially if the additional degree is in something that you’re passionate about. For example, if you’ve got strong interests in public health initiatives such as understanding how vaccinations affect a population’s health status then a masters in public health (MPH) may be right for you. Participating in studies to find cures for diseases will lead you down the track of a doctor of philosophy (PhD). Can you see yourself eventually running a hospital or being a consultant to a health insurance company? Then a masters in health administration (MHA), where you’ll learn to manage healthcare related organizations, may be more your speed.
Hospital and other healthcare administrators will look to you to champion special projects because of your unique skill sets. Distinguishing yourself from others may give you leverage in negotiating things such as salary, hours working in a clinical setting, patient population, and even lifestyle.
>> What was difficult about pursuing both degrees? Did they interfere with each other? Did they compliment each other?
Nii: When the opportunity to apply for the program came up, I was hesitant because I was truly concerned that my business studies would interfere with medical school. It looks bad for a medical school to lose students because they can’t pass classes, but it’s even worse when they fail because the rigors of a sponsored program by the medical school causes them to fail. Almost all programs have this in mind and have built in a schedule that allows students to focus on one or the other but usually both at the same time. My school’s program is unique from most other dual degree MBA programs in that we graduate with both degrees in 4 years. The majority of my coursework was during the first three summers of medical school with some online courses during my fourth year. This schedule allowed me to do well in both medical school and business school without negatively impacting my grades.
My business classes helped me to understand the nuances of healthcare economics throughout my last two years of school. As I went through my business classes and clinical rotations, I began to see medicine with more than just a clinical eye. I had a little more insight than other medical students regarding the business side of medicine and how it can impact patient care.
>> How has it helped you in your current clinical practice?
Nii: That’s a loaded question. I think physicians are at a disadvantage to not understand the finances of their own practices or even the basics of “entitlement programs” like Medicare and Medicaid. Now don’t me wrong, I’m not saying that you need an MBA to have an understanding of this, but having an MBA has helped me to have a better understanding much earlier in my career.
>> What kinds of expenses are associated with a dual degree pathway?
Nii: Typically a second degree does have associated tuition and fees. One dual degree that is offered tuition-free is MD/PhD or DO/PhD programs. Remember, you can always apply for scholarships to cover the costs of a second degree.
>> How do I decide if a dual-degree is right for me?
Nii: Dual degrees are not for everyone. Only if you truly have an interest in incorporating other fields of industry into your medical career, should you consider a dual degree. A dual degree should not simply be used to give yourself an extra credential (and potentially extra costs) that you will never use. Also, if you already have some experience in a particular industry, you may not actually need a dual degree. Let’s say that you are a non-traditional student whose previous career was in business; you may not need to pursue an MBA. If you do choose to do it, have a solid reason.