Docs, dentists adding La Sierra MBA to credentials

July 2, 2012

By Darla Martin Tucker

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( With a healthcare system focused on bottom line results and federal reform mandates poised on the horizon many health professionals and students are seeking a better grasp of the business side of medicine.

An American Medical News article published in April reports that total enrollment nationwide in programs that combine a medical degree with a degree in business, law, or a doctoral program has increased from 3,921 in 2002 to 5,349 in 2011. Additionally, the Association of MD/MBA Programs states that 65 or more medical schools currently offer MD/MBA programs, a jump up from 33 programs available in 2001. Just six such programs were offered in 1993, the article states.

La Sierra University’s Master of Business Administration degrees, one designed for doctors and dentists and another for health care professionals, address the surge of interest in business education among healthcare providers. Rolled out in 2010 and offered by the Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business, the two programs, modified from a former MBA program, are streamlined for professionals’ busy schedules with classes held once a week. A first group of four doctors and a dentist enrolled in a pilot of the re-designed MBA and most have completed the program. A second cohort began the program on June 25 and the MBA specialty for healthcare professionals will start in September.

The specialized MBAs include regular business courses that are geared toward dealing with health care issues along with classes such as health care management, health care operations, health care entrepreneurship, and negotiation and conflict resolution in health care settings.

Two years ago Robert Steele, then head of the general emergency medicine division at Loma Linda University approached La Sierra’s business school about merging an MBA program tailored to doctors with an emergency medicine fellowship program. The goal is to help bridge the gap between the physician’s world and the world of business, Steele said during a March recruitment event for the La Sierra program. “For years the two disciplines really didn’t talk,” he remarked. Steele, one of the first graduates of the restructured MBA, is now employed with the Stanford University School of Medicine. He plans to continue working with the La Sierra business school program.

John Thomas, dean of the Zapara School of Business likened the physician business graduates to entrepreneurs and applauded their efforts. “It’s very easy to work in your areas of expertise or comfort zone. But it takes a risk-taker to learn a new discipline and to apply it into areas that require solutions. We need creative innovators to lead us through the challenges of the health care debate,” he said.

“Healthcare is coming to a crisis in America, both from an efficiency as well as a financial perspective,” said Daniel Chang, an assistant professor in the Loma Linda University Department of Emergency Medicine and among La Sierra’s first physician MBA graduates. “We need to have physician leaders who understand the business.” The MBA program provided him with tools by which he can better analyze business operations and finances, he said. While some doctors possess business acumen, an MBA “adds an element of credibility” and is one of the reasons he joined the program, Chang said.

Greg Mitchell, a dentist and director of clinical management systems at the Loma Linda University School of Dentistry will complete the MBA program after taking classes in conflict resolution and healthcare management. Mitchell attended La Sierra between 1977-80 and is a former business management major who switched to dentistry. He was in private practice for 23 years before selling his firm five years ago.

“I have a lot of experience running a small business, but this program helped me” in understanding how to deal with the processes of a much larger organization and its budget, Mitchell said. He recommends dental students receive business training as such know-how can often determine the success or failure of a private practice, he said. “It’s crucial,” Mitchell said. “It’s a necessary combination. So much of medicine and dentistry is run by business.”

Jeff Grange, a physician, is president of Symons Ambulance in San Bernardino and emergency medical services director at Loma Linda University Medical Center. He heard about the La Sierra MBA program from Steele. The business training provided a better understanding of marketing and financial practices related to his ambulance company, Grange said. Symons Ambulance provides 9-1-1 critical care transport, event and air ambulance services along with telemedicine and first aid station services for major events such as the Baja 1000 in Mexico and NASCAR races. Grange and his staff most recently provided emergency medical services for the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas June 8-10, a multiple concert event visited by roughly 115,000 people a day.

“Clearly healthcare is changing at a rapid pace,” Grange said. “To move forward with medicine you have to understand the business side. It’s more and more critical.”

Graydon Skeoch, emergency room medical director at Fallbrook Hospital signed up for La Sierra’s MBA for doctors and started classes June 25. He is an alumnus of La Sierra’s biology program and of the Loma Linda University School of Medicine. As medical director he deals with business issues and works with hospital administration. He wants to acquire additional knowledge. “There is no business training in medical school,” Skeoch said. “I learned on the job.”

He is inspired by one of his friends, an emergency room doctor who enrolled in an MBA program at the University of Southern California. “He told me how it has helped him,” Skeoch said. “Having an MBA after my name is going to open up doors for me.”

For information about the MBA program for dentists, doctors and health care professionals contact Jodi Cahill at 951-785-2509.


PR Contact: Larry Becker

Executive Director of University Relations

La Sierra University

Riverside, California

951.785.2460 (voice)

  • Last update on  September 10, 2012