Why MDs Get MBAs

August 23, 2021

// By Jane Weber Brubaker //

Jane Weber BrubakerA 2014 article in The Atlantic begins, “At a time when many of health care’s greatest challenges are business problems, more and more doctors are adding three extra letters after their names.” Those three letters are M-B-A.

When asked in an interview with StartUp Health founders earlier this year if he thought more physicians would pursue business training along with their medical training, Toby Cosgrove, MD, executive advisor and former CEO and president of Cleveland Clinic, said, “Well, I hope so, because health care has become a very big business, and I am delighted to see more physicians be interested in business.” He went on to say that the skills learned in business school, had he had them, “would have been very helpful in leadership and health care.”

James Whitfill, MD, chief digital transformation officer, Honor Health

James Whitfill, MD, chief digital transformation officer, Honor Health

That idea intrigued us, and when we spotted a recent LinkedIn post from James Whitfill, MD, Honor Health chief digital transformation officer, announcing his enrollment in Wharton’s executive MBA program in San Francisco, we got in touch with him to find out more.

Whitfill has had extensive experience as a clinician, internal medicine faculty member, technologist, and entrepreneur. But, he says, “I felt like the one piece that might be missing is formal business training.” He hopes that the formal education in standard business school subjects like accounting and economics will give him the necessary grounding to “be a better executive within my company.”

As importantly, he sees the value of learning from leaders in other industries. “I think that if we’re going to solve the problems that we have in health care, we have to continue to look outside of health care for inspiration,” he says.


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