MDs Back in Class to Get MBAs

Article excerpt

Byline: Renee Knight Medill News Service

As hospitals and physician practices become more complex, bigger businesses, the people who run them have to be capable managers as well as health care professionals.

To master the arts of balancing budgets, managing large workforces, working with other business leaders and making financial and marketing decisions, some physicians are going back to school to specialized MBA programs designed just for them.

Dr. Edward Diamond, president of Elk Grove Village-based Suburban Lung Associates SC, went through the University of Tennessee's Physician Executive MBA program to fine tune his business skills. Diamond has served as practice president for 23 years, but said getting the MBA degree a few years ago helped him become a better leader and negotiator. Suburban Lung Associates' practice serves the suburbs through five hospitals and has five outpatient facilities.

As practice president, Diamond deals with insurance companies and two hospital systems that use the practice's pulmonary function lab. With his management training, he said, he can relate to business people better and can tell that they afford him more respect.

"It's absolutely crucial," Diamond said of how important it is for health care executives to have a business background. "Physicians just do not understand how to think like an organization. When physicians hear the word business, they think of someone who has money as a primary value. That's not what business means."

It's difficult for physicians to understand how systems operate and that money "fuels things forward," Diamond said. …