BACKGROUND: Higher economic, legislative, legal, and administrative constraints in health-care services in the United States have led to an increase in physician dissatisfaction and a decrease in physician morale. In this study, we attempted to understand the motivation for a physician to enroll in a business school, and to discover the utility of the Master of Business Administration degree and how it changed the career path for the practicing clinician. METHOD: We conducted a retrospective study in which a twenty-seven-question survey was distributed by the United States Postal Service and by e-mail to 161 physician graduates of three East Coast business schools. The results were evaluated, and a statistical analysis was performed. RESULTS: Eighty-seven physicians (54%) responded. Eight surveys were discarded because of incomplete data or stray marks, leaving seventy-nine surveys. The average age of the respondents was 41.4 years. The major motivations for going back to school included learning the business aspects of the health-care system (fifty-three respondents; 67%) and obtaining a more interesting job (forty-one respondents; 52%). The time that the respondents allocated for health-care-related activities before and after obtaining the degree was 58.3% and 31.8%, respectively, for patient care (p < 0.001); 8.5% and 3.68% for teaching (p < 0.001); 4.57% and 1.46% for basic-science research (p = 0.11); 4.23% and 4.55% for clinical research (p = 0.90); and 11.8% and 33.5% for administrative responsibilities (p < 0.001). The physicians stated that the most pertinent skills they had acquired were those related to evaluating systems operations and implementing improvements (thirty-nine respondents; 49%), learning how to be an effective leader (thirty-five; 44%), comprehending financial principles (thirty-three; 42%), working within a team (twenty-seven; 34%), and negotiating effectively (twenty-five; 32%). Sixty-four physicians (81%) believed that their business degree had been very useful or essential in the advancement of their careers. CONCLUSIONS: Many physicians decide to acquire a Master of Business Administration degree to understand the business of medicine. After they complete the degree program, their practice patterns substantially change, which is reflected particularly by an increase in time spent on administrative responsibilities. In order for physicians to overcome the multifaceted challenges of the evolving health-care system, it is essential to continue educating a proportion of physicians in both medicine and business.
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