I would not have pictured myself in an MBA program 10 years ago.

As an undergraduate chemistry major, I chose to develop my understanding of the world through the lens of science, aspiring to apply that science to the betterment of human life. This naturally led me to explore a career in medicine, which I ultimately pursued, but not before an experience with Teach For America permanently transformed the tint of my science-colored lens.

As I witnessed and tried to combat the effect of socioeconomics in education, I realized that the health care industry is similarly held hostage by multiple systemic factors. With my own family having limited resources during my upbringing and bemoaning the cost of care in the States, I became passionate about tackling systems-level challenges and knew that I needed to make them a career priority.

A Desire to Go Beyond Medical School

In the first year of medical school, I quickly realized that the traditional medical curriculum would unlikely develop me into the sophisticated and skilled systems leader that I aspired to become. Wanting to become better equipped at handling the challenges most meaningful to me, I considered multiple ‘add-on’ master’s degree programs: business administration (MBA), public health (MPH), public policy (MPP), and health administration (MHA).

After seeking mentorship from alumni of the respective programs, I decided to pursue the MBA for my desires to implement rather than generate research, to make higher-volume changes over shorter time courses, and to have the opportunity to transcend industry boundaries. I applied to Fuqua, was accepted, and my four-year MD program thus evolved into a five-year MD/MBA dual degree.

The Breeden Hall exterior, one of the home bases for students in the MD/MBA joint degree program
Fuqua’s Breeden Hall

The MBA Experience

My experience at Fuqua was phenomenal. I gained ‘hard skills’ previously foreign to me through classes in accounting, finance, strategy, and operations. I sharpened my ‘soft skills’ in leadership, public speaking, and thinking on my feet through numerous avenues, including a hilarious managerial improvisation elective, a semester-long public speaking core experience, and as president of the Health Provider Association, working to bring the Duke medical and business schools closer together. The health care classes at Fuqua, such as Health Care Markets and the HSM Bootcamp, were incredibly enriching, even for an MD student who had been living in the clinical realm day-to-day. As the cherry on top, I also gained access to an extraordinary network of both peers and alumni, which has opened my eyes to the boundless opportunities available to an MD that are far beyond the confines of any hospital.

The skills I developed at Fuqua prepared me for a summer internship at HCA. They also empowered me to navigate health system politics and undertake a major accounting (TDABC) research project in 2016 and 2017, the findings of which were published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in February 2018. As someone who has decided to try to bridge the long-divided worlds of business and medicine, I saw this publication as a small victory: it’s not every day that MBA-type work is published in a major medical journal. To me, this is an encouraging sign that health care leaders are seeing the inescapable interdependence of the two fields in navigating the health care cost crisis.

What’s Next?

I graduate from medical school in May 2018 and will thereafter be attending the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics program with my Fuqua colleague Marc Toledo to study business ethics through the lens of World War II and the Holocaust. In June, I will begin training at a three-year emergency medicine residency. The specialty choice is another story, but you can be sure that my administrative interests played a key role! I see a future in corporate health system administration, health care startups, venture capital, or some amalgam of these. I also miss my past life as a teacher and may like to hold an academic affiliation so that I can teach students on the side.