Why are More Hospital Executives Pursuing M-degrees?

Karen M. Cheung , October 23, 2009

After earning his MD from Case Western Reserve and receiving certification as a physician executive from ACPE, Burroughs went on to earn his MBA business degree from Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts. Altogether, Burroughs has been in school for 10 years for clinical and management education (four years of medical school, four years of internship and residency, and two years at business school).

When asked if money was a motivating factor to hit the books again, Burroughs said, "Believe it or not, I did not purse it for money."

"Physicians generally make more money practicing clinical medicine than they ever will at any management position … I wanted to dispel that illusion that if you get an MBA, you make more money," he said.

Although there were no golden handcuffs for some physicians pulling them toward business school, the Cejka Search survey indicated that physician executives with advanced degrees does, in fact, correlate to a better salary.

With an average salary of $288,000, physician executives earn more based on their degrees. For example, they earned the following amounts compared to those who didn't have a post-graduate degree:

  • An average of 11% more with an MBA

  • An average of 10% more with an MHA

  • An average of 8% more with a MMM

Talking the talk
That extra salary acts as compensation to physician executives who possess business and management skills.

Physicians who possess duel degrees can act as a liaison among physicians, the medical staff administration, and the board who all communicate very differently—some in clinical terms, some in business terms.

"Having this financial background enables you to become bilingual," to speak "the language of the spreadsheet," as Burroughs called it.

Fixing healthcare in America

Although it varies by individual, most physicians ultimately take on the task of the M-degree because they see it as a way to fix healthcare, according to Barry Silbaugh, MD, MS, CPE, FACPE, and CEO of the ACPE.

"Everyone is aware of the deficiencies in our healthcare system and what needs to be done about it," he said.

Silbaugh said the extra work can be onerous, but rewarding.

"It's a lot of extra work and a lot of extra schooling, but it's worth it. Those of us that decide to do this is because we see a system that is dysfunctional in many ways, and we want to heal a system, just like when we heal patients," he said.

Karen M. Cheung is associate editor at HCPro, Inc., contributing writer for HealthLeaders Media, and blogger for HospitalistLeadership.com. She can be contacted at kcheung@hcpro.com.

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